AIDS in German Literature, Theatre, and Film. The Cultural Dramaturgy of Disorder

Schappach, Beate (20 July 2014). AIDS in German Literature, Theatre, and Film. The Cultural Dramaturgy of Disorder. In: 20th International AIDS Conference „Stepping Up the Pace“. Melbourne, Australien. 20.-25.07.2014.

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The paper sheds light on the development of the cultural representation of HIV/AIDS in Germany, Austria and Switzerland from the 1980ies until present. It analyses the contribution of literature, theatre, and film to the public discourse about HIV/AIDS and characterises the rhetorical and iconographic strategies used to construct, represent, and discuss the disease and deal with it. The presentation shows which functions literature, theatre and film have performed within the HIV/AIDS discourse during the last 30 years in German speaking countries.

Having a background in Cultural Studies, Theatre Studies and German Studies the study uses methods from these disciplines to analyse the reception of aesthetic strategies – the ‘what’ and ‘how’ – of literary, theatrical and cinematic representations of HIV/AIDS on a micro level. On a macro level interdiscourse analysis (Jürgen Link) and sociological systems theory (Niklas Luhmann) are applied to describe the dramaturgical development of the HIV/AIDS discourse in German speaking countries.

The public HIV/AIDS discourse in German speaking countries can be divided into seven stages characterised by different dominant modes of representing HIV/AIDS: exclusion and blame, prevention, integration, refuse of integration, apocalyptic scenarios, thrill, and normalisation. The dramaturgy of the HIV/AIDS discourse is initialised by the occurrence of the new disease in the 1980ies. In the first years it followed the pattern of historical epidemic discourses (plague, leprosy, syphilis). Since then, two major plotpoints have changed the structure of the discourse altogether: the discovery of the HI-Virus and the introduction of combined antiretroviral therapy. In the 21st century HIV/AIDS starts to become normalised. Nevertheless discrimination patterns known from the HIV/AIDS discourse of the 1980ies can be found again in medial representations.

The paper discusses the complex relationship between cultural and medical communication in the face of HIV/AIDS. Literature, theatre, and film perform different functions dealing with the disease:
1. feeding rhetorical and iconographic representations into the public discourse
2. observing and documenting the discourse about HIV/AIDS in the mass media
3. intervening in the public discourse through criticism or alternative interpretations
4. offering coping / passing strategies and strategies of assigning meaning to the disease.

Item Type:

Conference or Workshop Item (Abstract)


06 Faculty of Humanities > Department of Art and Cultural Studies > Institute of Theater Studies

UniBE Contributor:

Schappach, Beate


300 Social sciences, sociology & anthropology
700 Arts > 790 Sports, games & entertainment
800 Literature, rhetoric & criticism
900 History
900 History > 940 History of Europe


[800] Aids in Literatur, Theater uns Film. Zur kulturellen Dramaturgie eines Störfalls




Beate Schappach

Date Deposited:

15 May 2017 08:53

Last Modified:

16 May 2017 09:39

Uncontrolled Keywords:

Aids, Medizingeschichte, Literaturwissenschaft, Germanistik, Kulturwissenschaft, Filmwissenschaft, Sozialgeschichte, History of Medicine, German Literature, Film Studies, Social History, Cultural Studies




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