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DRAMANET Report Summary

Project ID: 246603
Funded under: FP7-IDEAS-ERC
Country: Germany

Final Report Summary - DRAMANET (Early Modern European Drama and the Cultural Net)

The DramaNet project hosted at Freie Universität Berlin was dedicated to developing an innovative approach to cultural production by recourse to the metaphor of a virtual cultural network. The focus was on Early Modern European drama, while also taking into consideration developments ascertainable in earlier script cultures, in classical antiquity, the Middle Ages, as well as the twentieth century and dissemination into other parts of the world. Analyzed drama texts from England, France, Italy, Spain, Germany, Russia, India and Slovenia were complemented by additional texts written in further vernaculars in view of a verification of the theses derived from the main corpus.

The project involved 16 junior researchers, the Principal Investigator, and two guest researchers/ scientific advisors. DramaNet hosted five international conferences. Project outcome records include four volumes of conference proceedings, some dozen scholarly articles, and seven monographs; five more monographs are being finalized.

The starting hypothesis for the research was questioning one of the ‘standard’ approaches of literary studies (and the humanities in general). Namely: that cultural production mainly takes place within ‘national’ circuits defined by the use of language (in the sense of vernaculars). Would this approach remain true when looking at the relevant material without being biased by parameters developed in European Romanticism (on the basis of Johann Gottfried Herder’s thoughts, primarily)? The DramaNet project proposes a new line of thought: Cultural production, and especially literary production, may be conceptualized as taking place within a framework best described as a virtual cultural network; such networks spread beyond linguistic (and other cultural) borders and are not tied to any specific period of time. The main infrastructure is the human mind; before the era of manuscript cultures, print, or electronic/digital mediation, the most important device of circulating cultural material are travelling or migrating humans such as merchants, spouses (married off to foreign rulers), artists or servants ; these travelers may (but need not) be conscious cultural mediators. The cultural material they transport (as ‘finite works’, or as parts of a finite work, or as abstract patterns) may be made use of (‘extracted from the cultural net’) by anyone who comes in touch with it and then be re-employed in order to create ‘new’ (literary) works. The novelty of ‘new’ works results from a process of ‘assembling’ viz. ‘re-assembling’ such extracted material to contents and forms already at hand in the place where the ‘new’ creation takes place. The hypothesis was investigated by analyzing (mostly well-known) drama texts. The main result, on an abstract level, may be seen in the thorough questioning of the concept of ‘national culture’. Literary culture (as well as culture at large) may rather be conceptualized as a constant process of re-assembling patterns relating to both content and form whose exact origin, in terms of belonging to any ‘national’ background actually often proves to be unidentifiable.

More specific questions addressed within the project’s work were, e.g., the problem of the relevance of language (vernacular) for a given literary work, its message, but also its aesthetic specificity; the problem of how present-day theoretical continuations of the Romantic concept of culture, such as Post-colonialism, might be assessed from the perspective outlined; the question of how the material circulating within the cultural net is affected by parameters like ‘control’ and ‘demand’; the question of how the emergence of a virtual cultural net amongst early humans might be speculatively described, to just name the most important ones.

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