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The Noomechanics of Theater: Brecht and Tret’iakov

General Programming

dateSeptember 29, 2022 timeThursday, 4:00pm EDT location Deutches Haus, Columbia University
  • The Society of Fellows and Heyman Center for the Humanities
  • Department of Germanic Languages
email address [email protected]
  • Free and open to the public
  • Registration required. See details.
B&W photo of El Lissitzky Working on a Stage Design of Sergei Tretyakov's Play "I Want a Baby" in the Meyerhold Theater

In addition to the famous biomechanical theater of the avant-garde, there was a second path that opened after the collapse of naturalistic drama: a noomechanical theater of collective thinking. This talk reconstructs the communicative architectures that the playwrights Bertolt Brecht and Sergei Tret’iakov developed in the 1920s to organize the thought of their performers and to induce acts of mass cognition. Informed by contemporaneous research in the fields of reflexology and sociology, their work sought to discover the laws that structure processes of group learning. These experiments, which looked back to the theories of the Soviet organizational scientists in Proletkul’t, also looked forward to the cybernetic theater of the postwar period.


Devin Fore is Professor of German and Affiliate Faculty in the departments of Slavic Languages and Literatures and of Comparative Literature at Princeton University. His first book Realism After Modernism: The Rehumanization of Art and Literature (MIT Press, 2012), which considers the return of mimetic figuration in German cultural production of the late 1920s, was awarded the Modern Language Association’s Aldo and Jeanne Scaglione Prize for the best work in German Studies. His second book All the Graphs is forthcoming from the University of Chicago Press. He also serves as an editor of the journals New German Critique and October.