[zuerst erschienen in: Wolfgang Funk u.a. (Hg.) The Aesthetics of Authenticity, Representing Self and Other in Literature and Culture, Bielefeld 2012, S. 207–235]
In this day and age, there is a great demand for everything to be authentic: food, clothing, politicians, works of art. Authenticity is the desire for the natural, the real, the original (cf. Lethen 229). The very opposite of authenticity is the extremely artificial.
This paper will examine two episodes of one of Germany’s most successful popular entertainment shows, the Fest der Volksmusik (›festival of folkmusic‹) hosted by Florian Silbereisen. This example is interesting because, in contrast to similar broadcasts, this folk music show appears, at first sight, to be anything but authentic. It will be argued, however, that the show’s amazing success can be explained by its generation of an aesthetics of authenticity.
This article examines how the production of the artificial and kitschy can appear to be authentic to a particular target group. It will be shown that the producers of the show use certain strategies in order to cater for the visual preferences and habits of the target group. I contend that there are structural similarities in the concepts of authenticity, popular culture and dilettantism. These three concepts are not identical, but, as all three overlap with each other, they form a web of meanings and concepts.
Dilettantism, popular culture, and authenticity provide the audience with strategies of identification. Authenticity and popular culture seem to compensate for a reality that is perceived as being unreal and artificial. Furthermore, both are accorded particular significance in postmodern discourse. Reference to the history and the notion of the concept ›dilettantism‹ will provide further insights into how authenticity is evoked in popular culture. In order to illuminate specific and distinct similarities within this web of meanings and concepts, I shall use the concepts of personalization, exaggeration, redundancy, consistency, and extraordinariness along with the notion of the desire to be a genuine, natural, and authentic person, i.e. a notion of a ›unified person.‹
Christian Huck and Carsten Zorn have argued that pop or popular culture is a provocation against Niklas Luhmann’s system theory, arguing that it appears to be the only system of communication that goes beyond the ›social systems‹ as Luhmann understands them, insofar as the popular is a structure that transcends the functional differentiation of society.
Luhmann describes the structure of modern society as functionally differentiated, i.e. the systems of society consist of autonomously functioning subsystems such as economy, science, justice, religion, politics, education, love, and arts (cf. Luhmann Gesellschaft). Each system is defined by its mode of operation within which it employs a binary code in order to be able to decide whether an event or a piece of information is of importance for the subsystem or not (cf. Jahraus 285-87). Economy for instance works strictly within the binary code of money/no money, politics with power/no power.
Our everyday experience, however, does not follow this strict binary division since, for example, politicians are elected because of appearance and character (e.g. when they are perceived as being very authentic), women are less well paid in the economy than men and people consume and buy things just for fun instead of for purely economic purposes (cf. Huck and Zorn 7).
In Huck and Zorn’s argumentation, the popular is characterized by personalization, by bringing together various distinguished discourses and by transcending all differentiated social systems. It is one of the very few phenomena that does not obey the requirements of the functional differentiation of (post)modern society, but focuses on the »inadequate functioning and blurring of codes, media, forms and system’s logic« (Huck and Zorn 10; my translation). Popular modes of communication can be described as a blurring of codes through the semantics of personalization (cf. 10-12).
In my opinion, the transcendence of social systems is something that popular culture and authenticity have in common. Both provide the audience with strategies of identification, for example through personalization: stars, politicians, investment bankers become popular, trustworthy, and authentic people by portraying themselves as private individuals. Hence, the codes are blurred and the differentiated social system is transcended as the politician becomes a powerful and trustworthy person in the political social system precisely by being presented and staged as authentic and genuine. These aspects are alien to the code of the political social system and therefore, theoretically, to be ignored (cf. Huck and Zorn 7).
If we define authenticity as an aesthetic phenomenon that the spectator ascribes to objects, there is a striking similarity to Huck and Zorn’s effect of personalization: both authenticity and the popular challenge the functional differentiation of society. As Roland Barthes has shown, the effet de réel is caused by dysfunctionality. But as this dysfunctionality results in an effet de réel, it can be said, taking this idea further, that it then becomes a functional element (cf. Martínez and Scheffel 117). The paradoxical phenomenon of a functional dysfunctionality can therefore be described as a core aspect of the concept of authenticity.
Let us take one step back for a moment: what causes the blurring of the codes and leads to this process we have called personalization? This is one point at which dilettantism and authenticity come together. Dilettantes tend to exaggeration and subjectivism and it is their non-professional approach that undermines the functional differentiation of the social system, that blurs the codes and that is therefore, on a first level, dysfunctional within the social system. But on a second level the dilettantes’ dysfunctionality results in authenticity as a functional effect.
Hence, by analyzing authenticity using the concepts of dilettantism and popular culture, I shall discern three layers:
- Authenticity and dilettantism: the desire to be an authentic person, which is a core aspect of both dilettantism and authenticity. It is important to underline here that this is a desire, as the dilettante has been divided from being an authentic person (›unified person‹), i.e. from his or her genuine nature, by culture. Historically, ›culture‹ and ›civilization‹ have been used in contrast to nature and barbarism (cf. Hejl 357), an antagonism that will be explained in more detail later. In reference to authenticity, this is an aspect of authenticity of the subject.
- Dilettantism and popular culture: the genuine and authentic person, in the quest and the desire for authenticity, and the dilettante, in order to deal with reality and/or nature, tend to exaggeration by focusing on the self, as well as to the production of the extremely artificial, personal, campy, and kitschy. Within the social systems this results in a dysfunctionality which blurs the codes of the differentiated social systems; this is a phenomenon that corresponds with the above description of popular culture.
- Popular culture, the artificial, and authenticity: If the dysfunctional becomes functional, on another level, even the most artificial can be described as authentic.
Authenticity – Dilettantism
The history of the term and concept of authenticity goes back to the Greek origin of authentikos, which refers to the author and creator as well as the agent or perpetrator. Nowadays, the concept of authenticity implies the notion of being natural, real, genuine, original as well as being immediate or presented in an immediate manner.
This paper understands authenticity not as an ontological category, but a phenomenon or an aesthetics that is ascribed to objects or people by spectators (cf. Weixler). Therefore, it is argued that authenticity is generated by certain narrative strategies in order to meet the viewers’ expectations of what constitutes the authentic.
Two different notions of authenticity will be used in the following. On the one hand, one traditional meaning of authenticity is connected to the subject. Luhmann argues that the concept of individuality developed alongside the evolution of social differentiation: whereas in former modes of social differentiation, i.e. in segmentation and stratification, the individual was defined by inclusion, in the current functional differentiation of modern society, the individual is determined by exclusion (cf. Gesellschaft 618-34). In a segmented, i.e. a primitive and archaic society the individual is defined by belonging to a family. In the hierarchical differentiation between nobility and common people of a stratificated society, e.g. the medieval estates of the realm or the Indian caste system, the individual is defined by its status (cf. 613). In a functionally differentiated society, however, the individual is taking part in each subsystem by, for instance, consuming within the economic subsystem, voting in the political system, appealing to a court in the judicial system, and by choosing to believe in a certain religion or not (cf. 625). As Luhmann states, »the individual cannot live in a functional system alone« (Gesellschaftsstruktur 158; my translation). The individual is functionally differentiated, hence the originally authentic person (›unified person‹) is divided.
On the other hand, the second understanding of authenticity used in this article is related to how Luhmann describes authenticity as a synonym for reality from the position of »first-order observer« (Mass Media 4; »Beobachter erster Ordnung« Massenmedien 13; cf. Knaller and Müller 9). »However, we can speak of the reality of the mass media in another sense, that is, in the sense of what appears to them, or through them to others, to be reality« (Luhmann Mass Media 4; emphasis in the original). Hence, a product of mass media needs to meet the expectations and visual habits of the target group in order to appear to be as real and as original as their everyday life. Authenticity in this sense has the connotation of consistency with the normal and the genuine. Again, the narrative strategies analyzed with reference to popular entertainment shows deliberately generate an amateurish, normal, average or, as will be explained in more detail below, dilettantish aesthetic.
Apart from its colloquial use, the concept of dilettantism is often overlooked and has not been a major part of art or theory discourse since World War I. The current meaning and significance of dilettantism has been reduced to a minimum and is mostly used in a pejorative sense. Today we perceive dilettantes to be amateurs, dabblers, laypersons, triflers, as the unaccomplished, shallow, ungifted, and uninitiated. Historically, both the scope and the valency of the concept have varied considerably over the centuries.
Therefore, most scholars agree that the extensiveness of the different and diverse concepts of dilettantism throughout the decades makes it nearly impossible to catch and define this phrase (cf. Vaget 18; Wieler 14-15). Generally, dilettantism has been the subject of broad discussions at times when the concept of art was under question and about to be redefined (cf. Vaget 131; Wirth 25). In light of this observation dilettantism can be seen as a core feature of aesthetic discourse and different aspects of dilettantism are still relevant in the concept of the autonomy of art, the concept of the artwork, the concept of art, and the social stance of the artist.
In Germany, discussions about dilettantism have usually mediated between ideals of individualism and debates solely focusing on the work of art. Above all, and contrary to the current notion of dilettantism as a formal insufficiency, the historical concept of dilettantism was rather an aspect of existence, even though insecure, weak, and unnatural (cf. Wieler 30). In general, it has been suggested that dilettantism should be defined as an attempt to become a genuine, natural, and authentic person through the practice of art (cf. Wieler 30-31). This broad definition of dilettantism is appealing in its similarity with one basic notion of authenticity.
In the German language, the term and concept Dilettantismus was given distinction by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe and Friedrich Schiller. Schiller first dealt with the concept in his 1784 work »Ueber das Gegenwärtige Teutsche Theater,« stating that in acting the dilettante is to be preferred to the professional actor, as the former is not only acting and pretending to have certain feelings, but is actually having them (cf. 85). This changed around 1800, most markedly with Schiller’s move to a negative notion of dilettantism, when the concept came to differentiate between the high and low, the good and the bad practice of art. In May 1799, Schiller and Goethe began to work together on a broad and categorical theory of arts for the journal Propyläen called »Über den Dilettantismus«, a project that they both failed to finish and that, if it had been completed, would have become, as Hans Rudolf Vaget argues, the main document of Weimar Classicism (cf. 10).
Schiller and Goethe wanted to draft a categorical and polemic statement on what they perceived as being wrong and dangerous developments in the arts (which therefore jeopardized their perception of art). »Über den Dilettantismus« was, therefore, intended not only to reject any forms of dilettantism in various manifestations or in media, but also to point to their theory of arts. With the growth of the bourgeoisie and middle class, and with the emancipation of the artist from his or her dependency on the upper nobility, church, and academia, art lost its former context as well as its practical and theoretical grounds. Therefore, Schiller and Goethe put a great deal of effort into filling this theoretical vacuum with the concept of the aesthetics of genius (Genieästhetik) and the autonomy of art (Kunstautonomie) (cf. Vaget 214). Both concepts are a defense against the spreading and contemporary development of what they called dilettantism.
As in Schiller’s thoughts on the actor, the dominant differentiation prevails between the professional as artist versus the dilettante as the non-professional and thus non-artist. The dilettante is »an enthusiast of the arts, who does not only want to watch and enjoy but also to take part in its execution« (Goethe and Schiller, »Dilettantismus« 780-81; my translation). The dilettante is not an artist (Künstler), he or she is an enthusiast (Liebhaber). Furthermore, the dilettante takes his or her passive, but thoroughly sensitive reception (rezeptive Empfindungsfähigkeit) as a sign for his or her capability for production (produktive Bildungskraft).
»Because the dilettante’s urge to create derives solely from the effect which works of art have on him, he confuses this effect with objective causes and motives. And so he now believes it possible to use the emotional state into which he has been transported as a means of being productive – which is tantamount to trying to produce flowers by means of its fragrance.« (Goethe and Schiller, »On Dilettantism« 214)
The dilettante and the enthusiast ignore the gap between reception and production. The artist and the genius, however, exercise their talent through hard courses of study and hence develop the capability of converting the reception of emotions and impressions into the production of a piece of art. Uwe Wirth concludes in his analysis of the dilettante: »[T]oo much feeling, too little opus« (»zu viel Gefühl, zu wenig Werk« 30; my translation). While in the Italian Renaissance, dilettantism was a core of an ideal of education, Goethe and Schiller made clear that exercising art is only for artists, and that the bourgeois would never be able to reach an ideal of education (Bildung) and would persist in being dilettantish in art and in life (cf. Wieler 31).
Further ideas about dilettantism, although hardly explicit, can be traced in Schiller’s aesthetic writings. In »Ueber Naive und Sentimentalische Dichtung« Schiller develops his theory of art by discussing the relationship between nature and culture, and between reality and art. Hence, the modern human-being has been divided from nature by culture: »It is because with us nature has disappeared among men« (Schiller, »On Naive« 555). Naïve in this sense means that in former pre-cultural times thinking, sensing, and reflecting as well as the moral, the intellect (das Geistige), and the physical body formed an unconscious – that is a naïve – entity/unity. Within the contemporary human being, however, feeling and perception form an antagonistic dichotomy (cf. Wieler 107).
The sentimental (das Sentimentalische), from Schiller’s point of view, is the desire to be naïve, i.e. to be a genuine, authentic person (›unified person‹). What the sentimental and the dilettantish have in common, according to Wieler, is the discrepancy between the natural, naturally unconscious (i.e. naïve) way of life and the perception of reality. He describes Schiller’s notion of dilettantism as one, admittedly extreme, example of the sentimental (cf. 106). The sentimental dilettante, Schiller continues, thinks that one might reach and realize the ideal – i.e. to be naïve or an authentic person (›unified person‹) – through making art. In this respect the dilettante is mistaken: the creation of art cannot be the means to reach this ideal. In fact, it cannot be attained at all, only the initiated genius is capable of producing ideal art in a naïve way.
Furthermore, dilettantes feel the need to let their imagination, which they often misleadingly perceive as being ideal, become reality in a work of art. But again, in creating a piece of art, the dilettante is not able to carry out this realization according to the natural, real, or once again, naïve circumstances. The sentimental is dilettantish in perception and production. And because dilettantes want to fulfill their ideal by transforming their imagination into a piece of art/reality, they also devalue trivial reality (cf. Wieler 105-11). As a result, in failing to produce a naïve and authentic aesthetic or work of art respectively, the dilettante leans towards exaggeration, sentimentalism, and subjectivism.
Dilettantism – Popular Culture
The discourse of dilettantism arose again a hundred years later, around 1900. Again, the discussion was intertwined with negotiations about the relationship between reality and art which was challenged by what has been described as major changes in perception during that time: the dilettante was an alternative way of perceiving, sensing, and thinking.
Therefore, a shift to a more positive conception of dilettantism can be identified. Alongside the décadent, the dandy, and the snob – which all served as synonyms at that time – the dilettante became a possible prototype for the artist of the fin de siècle and the avant-garde. The exaggeration of reflection and selfishness of the décadent leads to new connotations within the concept of dilettantism: Too much reflection entails a lack of will and indecisiveness (cf. Leistner 81).
In addition, one specificity of this indecisiveness results in an obsession with bringing together the unrelated (Sammlerwut), an aspect Goethe and Schiller criticized quite profoundly about their contemporaries (cf. Leistner 65-69). The fusion of the dilettante and the dandy, however, is often described as a certain way of transcending reality by means of the completely artificial (cf. Leistner 86).
The concept of and discourse on dilettantism was abandoned around the time of the First World War, and largely replaced, according to Michael Wieler, by the evolving concept of kitsch. Yet dilettantism has always been not only an aspect of aesthetics, but a state of mind and an idea of existence, whereas kitsch is a rather concrete aspect of style and form (cf. 30). What kitsch and dilettantism have in common is, once again, the exaggeration of subjectivity and the desire for increasing impressions and stimuli. Wieler concludes that the dilettante produces kitsch, whereas the kitsch-consumer perceives in a dilettantish way (cf. 32).
Generally, the labeling of something as kitsch devalues a piece of work, seeing it not as true art, but excessive, flamboyant, and artificial. In this view of kitsch as flippant work made by ungifted, uninitiated dabblers or laypersons, some elements of today’s understanding of dilettantism can be traced. Kitsch is appealing through overstated emotions or an exaggerated display of harmony, e.g. idyllic ambiences. Critics state that kitsch is a mass production of false emotions and false feelings of security and that this falsity cannot be observed by the target group (cf. Volkmann 318-19).
In my opinion, a consistent development can be seen from the dandy and dilettante of the 1900s through the kitsch-discourse and finally to what Susan Sontag called the aesthetics of ›Camp‹ in the 1960s. Sontag describes the essence of Camp as a sensibility and »its love of the unnatural: of artifice and exaggeration. […] Many examples of Camp are things which, from a ›serious‹ point of view, are either bad art or kitsch. […] Nothing in nature can be campy« (Sontag 105-8).
Several aspects of this depiction of Camp are of interest for the following examination of a popular entertainment show. With »Notes on Camp,« Sontag not only presents one of the first examples of a non-elitist perception of popular culture – Camp is about »a good taste of bad taste« (118) – but also combines this perspective with the aforementioned aspects of dilettantism. It can be seen as resuming Schiller’s thoughts on the dilettante when Sontag argues: »One must distinguish between naïve and deliberate Camp. Pure Camp is always naïve.« (110) Deliberate Camp, therefore, is a dilettantish Camp.
But Camp, as Sontag describes it, is quite the opposite of what is usually described as being ›authentic‹: it is the love of the unnatural and the artificial. »In naïve, or pure, Camp, the essential element is seriousness, a seriousness that fails.« (112) An authentic aesthetic is the product of a genuine artist who wants to express something in a serious manner. Here, again, Sontag continues Schiller and Goethe’s thoughts, as seriousness that fails is the dilettante’s way of producing art. But contrary to dilettantism as Schiller and Goethe saw it, pure Camp is perceived as being a positive aesthetic and style.
Popular Culture/The Artificial – Authenticity
In order not to prejudge the popular entertainment show to be examined here, we must take the taste of a particular target group into account. A cultural studies perspective is applied in analyzing Herbstfest and Frühlingsfest der Volksmusik so as to avoid describing these shows in an elitist manner, which would only result in dismissive bemusement. Such a condescending perspective would identify Florian Silbereisen’s show as kitschy and the very opposite of authentic. This article aims, however, to explore the authenticity of the extremely artificial, arguing that the show’s success can be explained through its creation of an aesthetic of authenticity for its target group.
In his theory of a hermeneutical visual sociology of knowledge, Jürgen Raab generates the concept of visual community (»Sehgemeinschaft« 196; my translation). Within our visual culture, Raab differentiates between aesthetic fields of perception and action that are relatively stable, lasting and separate, respectively (cf. 306-16). Thus, visual communities are formed, stabilized, affirmed, and closed (to the inside and outside) by visual regimes and aesthetic rules.
Referring to Georg Simmel, Raab analyzes the mediation of the visual as an aspect of society, concluding that there are distinct visual communities as social sub-groups generating exclusion and inclusion via aesthetic artefacts. This is why – taking the socio-structural differentiation of visual communities into account – a popular entertainment show needs to be produced according to the visual habits and expectations of the anticipated spectators, an aspect Raab calls »recipient design« (242).
According to Raab, such recipient design needs to aim for an easy intersubjective understanding by using a narrow repertoire of styles, only standardized and traditional cutting, and by applying concepts of repetition, redundancy, and affirmation (cf. 199-206, 243, 306-27). One of Raab’s subsequent conclusions is that such visual patterns can even be described as what Émile Durkheim has called ›elementary forms‹ (formes élémentaires), i.e. the basic and most primitive forms that constitute a culture (or respectively a religion in the context of Durkheim’s research) (cf. Raab 320).
Although Jürgen Raab explores patterns in editing and visual (recipient) design used by amateurs in producing amateur films, some of his findings can be applied to the analysis of professionally produced popular entertainment shows. Most specifically, Raab’s examination of the production of transparency via consistency and redundancy (cf. 202-03) as well as the production of transcendence by extraordinariness (cf. 240-45) will be considered.
With this in mind, I shall differentiate three structural layers and – by applying Raab’s concepts – three conceptional patterns. The action happening on stage will be analyzed as an aspect of the a) ›event.‹ The different events are combined and contextualized to a b) ›story,‹ while the ways in which a) and b) are combined will be considered as the aspect of c) ›discourse.‹
The ›event‹ layer will provide a closer insight into what is actually presented in our example of a popular entertainment show. The aspect of story is somewhat surprising for a TV show that is supposedly about showing not telling, which therefore distinguishes it from other shows. The aspect of discourse will investigate how the story and events are presented.
The first two conceptional patterns, event and story, ensure that the show can be easily understood and consumed by the target group: In order to avoid fraction, fragmentation, or postmodern aggravations such as contingency, a great deal of effort is made to produce A) ›consistency.‹ This conceptional layer is intertwined with the story-aspect, whereas the following phenomena are aspects of the discourse. In watching Florian Silbereisen’s show, a pronounced B) ›redundancy‹ can be observed. Last but not least, four aspects of the phenomenon of C) ›extraordinariness‹ shall be considered.
I) There is a quest for exceptionality in constantly presenting the songs and actions on the show as special and unique. II) This show endeavors to be more extraordinary than others by being even more emotional. III) Extraordinariness in the sense of a contrast to everyday life is achieved by presenting special events and celebrations. IV) Aspects of a ritual can be traced in the show. Aspects II) to IV) also refer to the title of the show.
The show that Florian Silbereisen presents is, first and foremost, a Fest, i.e. a celebration and festivity. This is in distinction to other German folkloric, popular entertainment programmes in which the festival character is evident but not central as they are presented more like stage shows and do not aim to create an aesthetic of extraordinariness.
In the following examination of two episodes of Fest der Volksmusik, it will be shown that the aesthetic of the show can be explained along the central aspects of dilettantism as sketched above. The dilettante narrative strategies of the show will then be analyzed using Raab’s concepts of consistency, redundancy and extraordinariness. Whereas consistency and redundancy succeed in creating a natural, genuine, and naïve atmosphere, extraordinariness creates a special and intense experience. These aspects combined result in an aesthetic the spectators perceive as being more authentic than any other popular entertainment show.
The Naïve Quest for the Naïve
The two German popular entertainment shows under examination here are two episodes of the Fest der Volksmusik, in particular the Herbstfest der Volksmusik and the Frühlingsfest der Volksmusik, aired by national TV-broadcaster ARD on the prestigious Saturday night prime-time slots on October 16, 2010 and April 9, 2011, respectively. The first show was watched by 6.07 million spectators in total, which amounted to 19.4 percent market share; the second show had 6.41 million viewers in total and 22.4 percent share. The show is therefore one of the most successful in German television. It has been on air since 1994 and was given a further boost when Florian Silbereisen took over the show as host in 2004.
Firstly, a closer look at the ›events‹ presented on the show reveals that each edition presents up to twenty bands and/or songs and five to nine show acts in a total broadcast of approximately three hours. What is striking at first sight is the diversity of a broadcast that is called a music show. In fact, every Fest der Volksmusik ends with a stunt act by the host Florian Silbereisen, making an action show act the climax of the programme. This aspect is highlighted further by the fact that every show begins with a sequence summarizing all the final stunt acts of the previous shows. Therefore, music, although filling a lion’s share of the total show time, seems not to be the only important part of this so-called festival of music.
All entertainment shows, in order to be successful and to attract spectators from various sub-groups of society, are obliged to present a vast diversity of acts and elements, but the breadth seen here is beyond comparison: we are shown, for example, folding napkins, ironing, gun shooting, magic tricks, walking over burning coal, stunt acts with monster trucks, as well as classical pieces of art. Such an exaggerated bringing together of the unrelated as a result of indecisiveness is one example of the show’s dilettantish character.
Furthermore, the two shows present an astonishingly high number of children and animals on stage. Contrary to W.C. Fields’ famous statement never to work with animals or children, having both on stage seems to guarantee success in the context of such popular entertainment shows. The reason for this can also be traced in what has been explained as the relationship between authenticity and dilettantism. Children and animals are perceived as being the epitome of authentic, because they are both genuinely dilettantish and non-dilettantish.
On the one hand, in contrast to the professional adults, children and animals are per se dilettantish, natural and therefore authentic; they simply do not have the ability and experience to be professional. In fact, children and animals are a perfect symbol for the authentic non-professional. On the other hand, with Schiller’s division of the naïve and the sentimental it has been argued that the dilettante is separated from the naïve unity with nature by culture. Therefore, children and animals symbolize a pre-dilettantish status where the naïve unity with oneself and nature still prevails. It is in this very aspect that children and animals are ascribed a notion of ›innocence.‹ To be more precise, children and animals symbolize the desire of the dilettante for such a pre-dilettantish status that has been described as the desire to be a genuine, authentic, and unified person.
Scanning the two shows reveals that 35 to 45 percent of the show acts are accompanied by children and/or animals. The Herbstfest of October 2010 was co-hosted by a little boy, while the co-host in the Frühlingsfest of April 2011 was a small dog. Employing two different denotations of the concept dilettante, it can be explained why children and animals are perceived as being highly authentic. It becomes clear, however, that this itself is a dilettantish perspective on the naïve nature of children and animals. In other words: it is a naïve – in today’s meaning of the word – way of producing Schiller’s unity with nature (das Naive).
The ›story‹ that is told by the events of the show and, more explicitly, by the lyrics of the songs is that of a harmonious life and world, of love, friendship, family, and mastered strokes of fate. However, it is fairly surprising for a programme that is branded as a folk music show that, firstly, folk music does not play a major role. In fact, most of the music acts are examples of a German popular music genre called Schlager. Secondly, and in contrast to other comparable folk music shows, home (the German concept of Heimat), the Alps, and Christian beliefs only play a minor role in the songs in the Feste der Volksmusik. Instead, what the singers constantly include in their lyrics are more secular forms of the metaphysical: angels, fairies and other magical phenomenons.
It is remarkable that storytelling should be an important facet of this show at all. Whereas the narratological aspect ›story‹ is defined by the concept of telling, one would expect a TV-show to be rather about showing. The show examined here, however, is doing both, telling and showing. Moreover, this is a pivotal aspect in distinction to all other comparable popular entertainment shows. In the Feste der Volksmusik episodes not one single act is presented with the sole purpose to play music, but is integrated into a narrative in order to produce consistency.
Before any singer or band mounts the stage, the host explains exactly why they are on the show tonight. In contrast to other music shows, where such explanations usually introduce a new album, new tour, or new movie, Florian Silbereisen’s explanations always construct some kind of story. Most of the lyrics are part of that narrative, thus most of the songs are specially written for that particular show. In the few cases when the lyrics are not part of the constructed narrative, the singers do still take part in a further show act after the song. The storytelling succeeds in producing a consistency making the shows easy to understand, hence avoiding fractions, fragmentations, and contingency.
Last but not least, consistency is not only produced within the successive acts of the broadcast, but also in relation to other programmes aired on the channel. For example, in the Herbstfest der Volksmusik of October 2010, ARD news-anchorman Tom Buhrow appeared on the show asking the audience for help choosing new glasses. In every show, there is a switch to the news show Tagesthemen presented in a frame within frame style. This not only produces consistency in order to keep the audience watching the next TV programme, which is quite common in today’s television, but consistency is also constructed here so that one may value this popular entertainment show as equally valuable and useful as other programmes broadcast on television.
When ARD executive Volker Herres visited the Herbstfest show, he did not take part in the show, but sat in the middle of the audience, suggesting that he, too, is an average spectator. Throughout the 180-minutes broadcast, he was shown six times. Hence, in a show presenting a harmonious pre-modern world, hierarchy is still in power. On the Frühlingsfest show Empress ›Sissy’s‹ great-grandson was introduced with all his aristocratic titles. All these examples are evidence for a strategy that is deliberately producing consistency with the outside world. It is a strategy of adding a certain value to the show in order to make it count as normal and ›real‹ TV as much as other broadcasts.
Moreover, in a show presenting a harmonious world of love and friendship, the strategy of consistency, most notably with the news show, succeeds in producing an effet de réel making the show (seemingly) belong to the non-fictional part of the TV schedule. The non-fragmented world of harmony, the naïve – in today’s meaning of the word – desire for a genuine, real, and authentic life is not only a sentimental and dilettantish quest, but a consistent part of the spectrum of TV programmes beyond this specific show.
The Dilettantish Production of Dilettatism
Let us now have a closer look at how the show is presented and produced, the aspect I have referred to as discourse. The shots, camera angles, and cutting are – just like the range of tunes and rhythms of the songs – conventional and even more explicitly non-experimental. The camera focus, for example, is never too wide nor too close, mostly presenting the images in a so-called ›American shot,‹ the most conventional shot angle of Hollywood movies (cf. Kandorfer 78).
Most TV entertainment shows use a rather similar set of shots and cutting, making the few variations that do occur even more significant. Whereas other popular entertainment shows sometimes use fast cutting and panning in order to match the aesthetics of the show with contemporary state-of-the-art movies, the Feste der Volksmusik diverge from the conventional style less often. Too much variation would jeopardize the show’s consistency and therefore its authenticity.
If the image does depart from the conventional style, it is not an attempt to be experimental, but only to produce an image even more amateurish than the common style. The show begins with letters flying into the screen similar to a rather dilettante Powerpoint presentation or amateur home videos. In one song about Polaroid picture taking, the image is occasionally frozen as a still image, generating rather dilettantish snapshots of the band. In addition, the focus of the cameras is constantly on spaces beyond the stage – in many scenes you can see the backstage area, the lights, or the ceiling of the arena. Concerning this point, it is important to keep in mind that these shows are produced with a large amount of money and professional equipment and effort.
The constant failure to produce professional and perfect images suggests that this show aims to generate authenticity with a ›discourse‹ strategy that produces an aesthetic of dilettantism. What can be observed is a very professionally produced aesthetics of non-professional and dilettantish-looking images. This might be something quite specific to this very entertainment show Fest der Volksmusik, whereas American entertainment shows in general, as well as other German examples, e.g. Willkommen bei Carmen Nebel or Musikantenstadel, are perfectly made and staged.
In my opinion, this indicates that the shows Herbstfest and Frühlingsfest der Volksmusik are produced in order to meet the expectations and everyday visual habits of its specific visual community. What is unique about this very show is that it successfully meets Raab’s idea of recipient design by generating a dilettantish and campy aesthetic, an aesthetic that the target group perceives as being authentic.
The next aspect under examination, redundancy, is also something that contributes to the consistency of the show, making it easy to watch and understand. In almost every music act, the lyrics are also displayed on stage by background actors. What is sung and can be heard is also shown and can be seen. Redundancy here is generated by the doubling of sound and image. Most of the time, the sound is not only doubling the image or vice versa, but the host even explicitly explains what can be seen at that moment. This aspect is also very unique to this particular show and cannot be perceived in comparable German entertainment shows.
Moreover, redundancy is also produced through repetition. For example, in the Frühlingsfest der Volksmusik the host begins the show by announcing that the popular band Die Flippers will end their career on this very show. This announcement is repeated several times throughout the broadcast. Finally, the very last performance is announced by stating that this will be the band’s last appearance on stage, followed by the host asking the band members, for rhetorical emphasis, if it will really be their last appearance.
This strategy of redundancy by repetition can even be traced throughout the different editions of the show. In the Herbstfest der Volksmusik, the host Florian Silbereisen asked the band Brunner & Brunner, who were also ending their career on that very show, the same question in exactly the same manner and wording. Moreover, Die Flippers performed the very same song with the very same background show in both broadcasts under examination here. Repetition and redundancy, therefore, not only add to the consistency of the show, but also generate a sphere of recognition, so that one feels at home and at ease.
Completing my examination of Florian Silbereisen’s popular entertainment show, I shall now analyze four different aspects of deliberately staged extraordinariness. Firstly, the host presents the singers, bands, and show acts as being something rather exceptional. Throughout the whole show a great deal of effort is put into portraying the participants as stars. ›Star‹ is probably the word used most frequently and throughout the whole show, although, in using a popular scale for valuing stars, these singers would hardly be categorized as higher than C-list stars.
But this effort has two effects: on the one hand, since high-profile international stars or celebrities appear on the show only very rarely, these shows have to create stars of their own. Hence, this sub-genre of popular music consists of stars known only to a specific social sub-group, i.e. the target group of the show. Thus, as there is nothing exceptional about them, the exceptionality has to be constructed by the context and the storytelling surrounding the performances. In fact, not a single music or show act is announced and presented without the use of exaggeration and superlatives (e.g. ›the most successful,‹ ›the best-selling,‹ ›the first appearance since,‹ ›the very last show of their career‹). As most of the performances are not unique since they are repeated (redundancy) on almost every single edition of the show exceptionality has to be created by the discourse of the presentation.
At the same time, the presentation of the singers and bands as exceptional stars is done precisely in order to be able to demonstrate how normal, average, natural, and authentic they have remained. Therefore their dilettantism is quite helpful and a necessity in the show. These performers are not necessarily good musicians, and they by no means reach the standards of professional musicians whether of the opera, classical, or the international pop music spheres. Instead, they appear like the boy or girl next door, making music as an enthusiast, not an artist. Yet the participants are very professional in what they are doing: in deliberately appearing not professional but dilettantish.
I have shown above that dilettantism was considered a pejorative by Schiller and Goethe because of its high degree of subjectivity, whereas culture and true works of art were considered to be objective. In this entertainment show, subjectivity and the personality of the singers and participants are more important than their actual performances. For this reason the audience does not really care that the singers perform with recorded backing tracks or that some of them even fail to move their lips at the right time to the backing music. The subject as a person is more important than art.
Hence the performers on such entertainment shows must refrain from having private lives, indeed they must reveal far more about their personal lives than high-profile ›stars‹ usually do. In the majority of the music acts, the narrated context, the performed songs, and the subsequent interview are about aspects of the artists’ private lives, such as a new love, a planned wedding, birthday celebrations, overcome illnesses. In fact, it often appears as if the reason for a singer or band to perform on that very edition was in order to reveal something private.
There are four conclusions to be drawn here. Firstly, the show is exceptional because it presents many stars. Secondly, the exceptionality of a star appearing on the show is enhanced by revealing something private and personal, which the stars would only reveal on this kind of show. Thirdly, because the stars can reveal both the public side of their personality (being a star) and their personal side, they – in contrast to the untouchable stars of international pop music – appear to be genuine, natural, and authentic people. This very aspect of personalization relates to how the popular has been described above and displays how both the popular and authenticity blur the codes of distinct social systems. Fourthly, since these stars can only appear in their ostensibly authentic and genuine nature on this show, the show itself is, in fact, more original, genuine, and more authentic than other shows.
Some of the aforementioned facets also play a role in the next layer of producing extraordinariness whereby the show is made more emotional than others. The Feste der Volksmusik are more emotional because the stars constantly reveal very personal feelings and news – sometimes this is presented in such a kitschy way that it might be hard for somebody outside the target group to relate to.
Michael Hirte, winner of 2008 Das Supertalent, is introduced in the following highly emotive way: he was once a lorry driver, who was blinded in his right eye by an awful accident, spent two months in coma, lost his job, had to work on the streets. Then he found Jesus and became a Christian, became a superstar, has now found his love and written a love song for his beloved, and today is the first time his beloved girl is presented to the public and the first time this love song is performed.
A similar effect of emphasizing the emotional aspect of the show is linked to the use of exaggeration and superlatives (e.g. ›the first appearance on stage after a long illness,‹ ›the very last show in their career,‹ etc.), a strategy which appeals to the audience and often results in standing ovations. Overstated emotion and exaggerated displays of love, harmony and idyllic ambiences – all aspects of kitsch as explained above – are further illustrations of the show’s dilettantism.
All the aforementioned findings culminate in the performance of an extraordinariness that contrasts with everyday life. The Herbstfest and Frühlingsfest der Volksmusik are branded as genuine festivals and celebrations, not regular TV-shows that can be watched on a daily basis. The festival is something distinct from everyday life, it is special and extraordinary. This aspect not only appears by chance in the title of the show, but is something that is constantly referred to within the broadcast and the setting of the show.
One might question whether the artificial and unnatural scenery of the show can generate authenticity at all. However, the amateurish look of the setting looks like a village hall set up for a celebration, a place where friends come together. At the same time, the scenery corresponds perfectly with the above depiction of kitsch and Camp. It is intriguing, however, that the scenery of both shows – in the Herbstfest autumn leaves, in the Frühlingsfest blooming plants – displays campy and kitschy motifs of nature. »Nothing in nature can be campy,« but in its dilettantish exaggeration of idyllic ambiences, nature is in fact presented here as kitschy and campy.
Both shows examined here present several different celebrations: as part of the usage of superlatives in generating exceptionality, there are jubilees and anniversaries to be celebrated on stage, e.g. a 15-year-long career, a celebration to mark the end of a band’s career, and, on each episode, the celebration of a star’s birthday. The extraordinariness of these birthday celebrations, in both cases, is even enhanced by personalization, showing private pictures and presenting family and friends. Hence, these celebrations combine the aforementioned performative aspects of exceptionality and emotionality to an even more exceptional and emotional highlight of the show.
Finally, one aspect of the performed extraordinariness can be seen in the fact that just like religious or family celebrations, this show-festival is staged rather like a ritual act. One of the very first shots of each show establishing the scenery and the stage is shot from over one spectator’s shoulder. Such a ›subjective camera shot,‹ from the very beginning crosses the line of the imaginary axis of the classical ›180-degree rule‹ of movie-making. What is of interest here is that just like in a ritual act, in which everybody is part of the (religious) community and participates in the action, the audience does not only play a passive role watching the show. This broadcast is presented in a way that pretends that the audience is actively taking part.
In fact, a wide range of possible audience participation is used in the two episodes: call-ins, interviewing spectators, viewers interviewing the stars, votings, etc. This aspect may apply to many popular entertainment shows, but it is adopted more frequently, more explicitly and, in my opinion, more deliberately in the Feste der Volksmusik than in similar shows. Likewise, by presenting the stars in the aforementioned way – with striking similarities to the classical concept of dilettantism, they are more equal to the spectators than high-profile stars would be.
In conclusion, all the explored facets of extraordinariness contribute to an effect of transcendence of the everyday to the extraordinary. The celebration of a festival as something special and extraordinary is enhanced by presenting the show in a more emotional and more exceptional way. At the same time, the ritual aspect gives the show an inclusive element.
As we saw at the start of this article, Luhmann argues that everyday life in modern society is functionally differentiated. Since celebrations like the ones seen in the show are extraordinary and distinct from the everyday, they are therefore also distinct from Luhmann’s functional differentiation. The show generates a strategy of how a modern individual can gain comprehensive inclusion, thereby challenging Luhmann’s idea of functional differentiation. Such inclusion makes it possible for the modern spectator to become a genuine, natural, and authentic person, something which Luhmann says is only possible for the pre-modern individual of stratified society.
In producing this extraordinariness by using aspects and facets of dilettantism, as has been shown in this article, the show succeeds in presenting extraordinariness through the everyday aesthetics of an amateur or dilettante. As a result, the dilettantish, ordinary everyday life of the spectator is in turn transcended to extraordinariness. In meeting the expectations and dilettantish visual habits of the visual community, the two shows under examination here succeed in generating an aesthetic of authenticity precisely through their presentation of the extremely kitschy, camp, and artificial.
 Each broadcast of this show has its particular name related to the season in which it is aired. There is a Frühlingsfest (spring festival), a Sommerfest (summer festival), a Herbstfest (autumn festival) and a Winterfest der Volksmusik (winter festival of folkmusic). In some years, there additional broadcasts like an Adventsfest der Volksmusik (Advent festival of folkmusic). In this article, there a two episodes of the show under scrutiny, the Herbstfest der Volksmusik and the Frühlingsfest der Volkmusik aired by national TV-broadcaster ARD on October 16, 2010 and April 9, 2011, respectively.
 Historically, the development of the concept of authenticity is closely related to developments and changes in the concepts of subjectivity and individuality. For a thorough examination on this link see Susanne Knaller’s Ein Wort aus der Fremde. Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s philosophy can be seen as the paradigm for the concept of a genuine, natural, and authentic person (›unified person‹). Jean Starobinski has argued that in Rousseau’s concept (and in his texts), a direct and ontological reference between the writer and the work of art can be applied. From this point of view, a work of art is a direct, immediate, and authentic personalization of the personality of the artist (cf. Starobinski 295-98). This notion ceases to be valid in modern discourse when identity and the ›I‹ comes under question and a literary text is no longer perceived as the emanation of a writer’s personality but the narrator is the one who writes a text. In art, an ontological, referencial authenticity between the artist and a work of art cannot be assumed any more. Rousseau’s concept, however, is still in use when applying the label ›authentic‹ to ›primitive‹ cultures, in contrast to modern society (cf. Lethen 210).
 »Fehlfunktionen und Überlagungen von Codes, Medien, Formen und Systemlogiken.«
 It has been argued that authenticity can best be explained »by a paradoxical definition« (»in einer paradoxen Begriffsbestimmung« Knaller and Müller, »Einleitung« 11; cf. cf Müller 62-63). In Aesthetic Theory, Theodor Adorno has produced a whole range of paradoxes in order to describe the multidimensional aspects of authenticity, e.g. »expression of the expressionless« (154), »the realization of the unirealizable« (140), »determination of the indeterminate« (165). Finally: »But the function of art in the totally functional world is its functionlessness« (404, »Aber die Funktion der Kunst in der gänzlich funktionalen Welt ist ihre Funktionslosigkeit« Adorno, Ästhetische Theorie 475).
 Susanne Knaller has proposed a heuristic differentiation of authenticity of the subject and authenticity of the object on one level, and a differentiation of authenticity of reference, art and subject on a second level (Wort 21-25; Genealogie 17-35). Besides this, she also gives a broad discussion and overview of the intertwined development of authenticity and the concept of subjectivity (Wort 141-53). In addition, it has been argued that there is a strong connection between authenticity, subjectivity, and the genre of Bildungsroman (if not the genre of the novel in general) (cf. Wieler 7-8) and autobiography (cf. Kramer).
 For comprehensive overviews of the history of the concept of authenticity, cf. Kalisch 31-44.; Knaller Wort 10-21; Knaller Genealogie 17-35; Martínez 9-10.
 An aspect Susanne Knaller refers to as subject authenticity (»Subjektauthentizität« Knaller Genealogie 21); cf. Knaller Wort 22.
 »Die Einzelperson kann nicht in einem Funktionssystem allein leben.« Cf. also: »The individual cannot be defined by inclusion any longer but only by exclusion.« (»Das Individuum kann nicht mehr durch Inklusion, sondern nur durch Exklusion definiert werden.« Gesellschaftsstruktur 158; my translation).
 »Man kann aber noch in einem zweiten Sinne von der Realität der Massenmedien sprechen, nämlich im Sinne dessen, was für sie oder durch sie für andere als Realität erscheint.« (Massenmedien 12; emphasis in the original).
 Wieler is able to show that Heinrich Mann replaces ›dilettantism‹ with synonyms when he revised his 1894 text In einer Familie in 1914 (Wieler 30).
 »ein[…] Liebhaber der Künste, der nicht allein betrachten und genießen, sondern auch an ihrer Ausübung Teil nehmen will.«
 »Weil der Dilettant seinen Beruf zum Selbstproduzieren erst aus den Wirkungen der Kunstwerke auf sich empfängt, so verwechselt er diese Wirkungen mit den objektiven Ursachen und Motiven, und meint nun den Empfindungszustand, in den er versetzt ist, auch produktiv und praktisch zu machen, wie wenn man mit dem Geruch einer Blume die Blume selbst hervorzubringen gedächte.« (Goethe and Schiller, »Dilettantismus« 778).
 »weil die Natur bey uns aus der Menschheit verschwunden ist« (Schiller, »Dichtung« 430).
 »If man enters upon the path of civilization, if art begins to mould him, the harmony of the senses ceases, and he can only aspire at moral unity, and manifest himself as such. The agreement between his sensations and thoughts which was a reality during his sensual state, now only exists in idea […]« (Schiller, »On Naive« 557; emphasis in original) (»Ist der Mensch in den Stand der Kultur getreten, und hat die Kunst ihre Hand an ihn gelegt, so ist jene sinnliche Harmonie in ihm aufgehoben, und er kann nur noch als moralische Einheit, d.h. nach Einheit strebend, sich äußern. Die Übereinstimmung zwischen seinem Empfinden und Denken, die in dem ersten Zustande wirklich statt fand, existirt jetzt bloß idealisch […]« Schiller, »Dichtung« 437).
 It is agreed that Albert Einstein’s theory of relativity, Max Planck’s quantum physics and Sigmund Freud’s psychoanalysis along with increased urbanization all led the way for a major change in perception of the individual and the world. This is a phenomenon Georg Simmel examines in »Die Großstädte und das Geistesleben« and Walter Benjamin in Das Kunstwerk im Zeitalter seiner technischen Reproduzierbarkeit. Silvio Vietta most notably refers to all these developments as resulting in a »Ichdissoziierung« (»Dissociation of the I« Vietta 30; my translation). Cf. also Stahl 30.
 »Many dilettantes have large collections. We might even say that all large collections owe their existence to dilettantism.« (Goethe and Schiller, »On Dilettantism« 213; »Man trifft viele Dilettanten mit großen Sammlungen an, ja man könnte behaupten, alle großen Sammlungen sind vom Dilettantism entstanden.« »Dilettantismus« 747).
 It must be noted here that Sontag’s notion of Camp is usually described as an urban phenomenon but is being extended here and applied to the rather rural aesthetic of the German Volksmusik popular entertainment shows.
 Generally and historically, privileging a high culture meant that popular, low culture was not perceived as being a part of culture at all. In fact, Schiller’s »Ueber Naive und Sentimentalische Dichtung,« as well as Goethe and Schiller’s »Über Dilettantismus,« are an elaborate framework for dividing good/high culture from what they thought were wrong and dangerous developments and bad/low art. The Birmingham School of Cultural Studies with, amongst others, Raymond Williams tried to overcome the elitist understanding of culture by developing a neutral perception of popular culture (cf. Sommer 27-42). Adorno in his aesthetic theory – which has been described by Harro Müller as a theory of authenticity (cf. 55-67) – denies that popular culture is authentic at all.
 Raab argues that in one of his examined examples, wedding movies, the visual community could be described as low and lower middle class with a medium or low level of education, a milieu that Gerhard Schulze has also referred to as the harmony milieu and the entertainment milieu (cf. Raab 242).
 ›Event,‹ ›story,‹ and ›discourse‹ are used according to Seymour Chatman (cf. Martínez and Scheffel 26).
 In his study The Craft of Fiction Percy Lubbock has introduced the concepts of telling and showing in order to distinguish a narrative (telling) from a dramatic (showing) mode (cf. 62).
 A comparison with other German popular entertainment shows like Carmen Nebel or Musikantenstadel will be presented in more detail later in this article.
 The author was able to interview a member of the production team of this show. While reluctant to reveal concrete figures, it was said that the show is produced by 150 staff in total, making it probably not only one of the most successful but also one of the most costly entertainment shows on German TV.
 This genre of shows presenting folk popular music is one of the very few examples of TV broadcasts in which all the German-speaking European countries take part.
 The show is produced by the Mitteldeutscher Rundfunk (MDR) for the German national TV broadcaster ARD. The MDR is the TV station for Saxony-Anhalt, Saxony and Thuringia, hence three federal states in eastern Germany. As the GDR was a secular state, Christianity and religion still only play a minor role in people’s lives in the five eastern federal states today.
 Roger Whittaker’s birthday, for example, which is celebrated on the Frühlingsfest 2011, provides the context for several acts. His wife is introduced before Whittaker’s performance, his daughter and grandchild afterwards. A children’s dancing group presents a birthday cake. In between all of this, the Dorfrocker’s performance of a song, that has nothing to do with the context of Whittaker’s birthday, is integrated by stating that they will sing their song only for this occasion. Hence consistency is constructed through context, even when the actual song has nothing directly to do with the story.
 In the Frühlingsfest it is explicitly announced that Marianne & Michael will present a song specially composed for that very show.
 Lethen discusses consistency as an aspect of authenticity (cf. 229).
 Even a song that does not consist of real words and can hardly be displayed on the stage is doubled in a redundant way. The Dorfrocker’s song in the Frühlingsfest consisting of the lyrics »jiha jiha jiha ho, jiha jiha jiha ho« is accompanied by girls showing posters displaying this text.
 On the Frühlingsfest-episode there is one musical singer performing a song. She is professional and stands out from the other performances. Most notably, this very music act is presented with a completely different aesthetic, i.e. without any form of redundancy, storytelling, or extraordinariness, which in turn underlines the relevance of my examination of the dilettantish performances.
 The German version of Britain’s Got Talent.
 Michael Hirte’s girlfriend Jenny was sitting in the middle of the audience when she was surprised with this love song. In the way it was presented it could have been anyone of the spectators of the target group having a ›star‹ singing a song only for them.
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Frühlingsfest der Volksmusik. ARD (MDR). 9 Apr. 2011.
Herbstfest der Volksmusik. ARD (MDR). 10 Oct. 2010.
Combining aspects of authenticity and popular culture with the example of Herbstfest der Volksmusik has been the subject of discussion of a postgraduate seminar led by Prof. Matías Martínez in Summer 2010 at the Bergische University Wuppertal. The author is very grateful to the participants of the seminar. Further special thanks go to Tara Windsor and Lukas Werner.
Abdruck mit freundlicher Genehmigung des Transcript Verlags.
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Antonius Weixler ist wissenschaftlicher Mitarbeiter an der germanistischen Abteilung der Universität Wuppertal.