Purdue University Graduate School
JInsong Diss July 31.pdf (1.57 MB)


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posted on 2020-07-31, 19:14 authored by Jinsong ChenJinsong Chen

As a representative of the Viennese classical music tradition, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791) embodies not only an artistic inspiration but also an aesthetic, social, and national expression for musicians, writers, and scholars from diverse fields over the past two and a half centuries. The legend of this genius, together with his timeless music, remains a popular subject in the fields of contemporary textuality, including drama.

Thomas Bernhard (1931-1989) and Elfriede Jelinek (1946-), two controversial and highly acclaimed writers in the German-speaking world, have much in common. Both, similar to Mozart, have a love-hate relationship with their home country, both offer poeticized provocations of the media and postwar political discussions, and both are critical of Austria’s involvement with National Socialism that positions their literary work as anti-Heimat literature, strengthening their reputation as “Nestbeschmutzer/in” as well as enfants terribles. But most importantly, both had a comprehensive musical education and demonstrate their aesthetic approaches by referring not only to musical form but also to musical personae in their literary creations.

In their postmodernist dramas Der Ignorant und der Wahnsinnige (1972) and Raststätte oder Sie machens alle(1994), Bernhard and Jelinek deliberately refer to Mozart and his respective representative operas buffa Cosi fan tutte (1790) and Singspiel Die Zauberflöte (1971). As intertext, Mozart’s opera tends neither toward a certain musicality nor a musical discourse; instead, the playwrights engage the idea of “the presence of the past” to encode the Enlightenment mode of gender discourse within a (post)modern context. The postmodernist approach to intertextuality subsequently leads us to question how writers return to language and use linguistic and rhetorical devices to (de)construct the gender related issues.

The current research, located in the social, political and historical context of Austrian postmodernism, aims to examine how both playwrights subversively reconfigure the enlightened binary models of gender differences, embedded in Mozart’s operas, in new cultural contexts. It focuses on the gendered alterity that is determined by external sources (i.e., within certain spatio-temporal contexts) as well as framed by interior facts (e.g., language). For a multidimensional analysis, I employ discourse theory and critical linguistics, combining a psychoanalytical reading and a deconstructive reading, to identify Bernhard’s and Jelinek’s specific agendas under the meta-historical category of the Enlightenment while disclosing their postmodernist poetology.


Degree Type

  • Doctor of Philosophy


  • Languages and Cultures

Campus location

  • West Lafayette

Advisor/Supervisor/Committee Chair

Dr. Jennifer William

Additional Committee Member 2

Dr. Beate Allert

Additional Committee Member 3

Dr. Jeffrey Turco

Additional Committee Member 4

Dr. Lynn Hooker

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