The Classroom as a “Total Work of Art”: Pedagogy, Performance and ‘Gesamtkunstwerk’

By Margaret Eleanor Menninger.

Published by Ubiquitous Learning: An International Journal

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The expectation that art should instruct as well as inspire is deeply rooted in modern Western culture and identity. Perhaps it may also be argued that instruction should inform and inspire and also be considered a “total work of art.” University students, ever more accustomed to studying while texting and listening to music, are demanding that their classes also embrace and utilize multiple media. (This is also true of university administrators who labor to provide us with “smart” classrooms.) Given the new demands and possibilities that the “high-tech” classroom offers, now seems an opportune moment to consider what the term Gesamtkunstwerk might have to offer the instructor who inhabits the 21st Century classroom. This paper takes a closer look at how we might profitably reconsider the concept of Gesamtkunstwerk in the context of teaching and offers up some preliminary speculations.

Keywords: Teaching as Performance, Gesamtkunstwerk, Total Work of Art, Classroom Performance Space

Ubiquitous Learning: An International Journal, Volume 3, Issue 3, pp.97-104. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 742.328KB).

Dr. Margaret Eleanor Menninger

Associate Professor, Department of History, Texas State University -- San Marcos, San Marcos, TX, USA

Menninger received her A.B. with honors from Harvard-Radcliffe Colleges in 1986 and her A.M. and Ph.D. from Harvard University in 1991 and 1998 respectively. Her research has been supported by the German Academic Exchange Service and the German Historical Institute in Washington, D.C. Menninger has presented papers at conferences in Canada, England, Germany and the United States. Her current project, entitled Performing Civil Society: Cultural Philanthropy in Nineteenth-century Germany, is a study of the origins of arts funding and its relationship to civil society, regional identity and bourgeois culture in Saxony. Menninger also has additional interests in the social history of music, cultural diplomacy and the history of Scandinavia, particularly Iceland.