Self-Reflexivity in Swiss Secular Plays of the Early Modern Period. A Cognitive Narratological Approach


With the detailed study of secular plays from sixteenth-century Switzerland, I aim to develop a new methodological terminology based on both cognitive narratology and a cultural approach to literary texts.

Historical performance texts form a rich legacy of historical culture. Performances in urban spaces, which included a big part of the citizens, tell us about how these citizens dealt with political, social and religious questions. Yet, the analysis of the performances poses a long known problem: usually, we do not have enough information about how the performances were carried out.

In my study, I would like to establish an approach that departs from a close look at the texts themselves and at the way they structure their narrative, the stories that are told and performed. My theoretical starting point will be the notion that narratives are a cognitive way of giving meaning to the world, of structuring everyday live happenings and processing social knowledge.

The theoretical background for my study is a cultural perspective; it relies on the notion that meaning is not something that is found outside human beings and language. Rather, meaning and meaningful structures are something that human beings create and construct by performing actions and using language. Historical performance texts are a unique source for the analysis of this use of language and performative actions.

16th century Swiss secular plays lend themselves well to such a study, since they offer a wide source of material for discussion, around such topics as constructing and subverting boundaries (?carnival? activities) and addressing a wide audience during times of political instability (Reformation and Counter-Reformation). The close study of these texts and the discourses that leave their traces in the staged stories will help us to understand how society in different regions of sixteenth-century Switzerland reflected on itself.


Chapter in book

  • P Hanenberg, E Huwiler, F Clara(2012): Aufbrüche pp. 22 - 35 , Würzburg
  • E. Huwiler, Ch. Moser, C. Dauven-van Knippenberg, D. Wendt(2013): Texturen des Barbarischen pp. 49 - 66 , Heidelberg
  • E. Huwiler(2015): Räumliche Darstellung kultureller Begegnungen pp. 67 - 87 , Heidelberg
  • E. Huwiler(2015): Das Theater des Spätmittelalters und der Frühen Neuzeit pp. 9 - 28 , Heidelberg

Scientific article

  • E. Huwiler(2011): Die kämpferische Ehefrau? Aspekte von Genderidentitäten im frühneuzeitlichen Schweizer Theater Estudios Filológicos Alemanes pp. 53 - 70 ISSN: 1578-9438.
  • E. Huwiler(2012): Drama als gesellschaftspolitisches Instrument Estudios Filológicos Alemanes pp. 309 - 320

Professional publication

  • E Huwiler(2011): Positionsbestimmungen in der Fastnachtspielforschung pp. 269 - 278
  • E. Huwiler(2012): De openbaring: Elke Huwiler herleest Bakhtin pp. 10

Publications for the general public

  • E Huwiler(2010): Performative Ausdrucksformen städtischer Identitätsformung
  • E Huwiler(2010): Gender-Identitäten im frühneuzeitlichen Theater
  • E Huwiler(2010): Making Identities
  • E Huwiler(2011): Lachkultur als Gegenkultur und der katholische Barbar
  • E Huwiler(2011): Schauspiel und Reformation: Theaterkultur im frühneuzeitlichen Zürich
  • E Huwiler(2011): Exchanging Ideas through Theater
  • E Huwiler(2011): Storytelling in Performances: A Historical Perspective
  • E Huwiler(2012): Theaterraum - Lebensraum. Theater und Schauspiel in der frühneuzeitlichen Schweiz
  • E Huwiler(2012): Early Modern Theatre in Europe: Various Perspectives
  • E. Huwiler(2012): Theater und Institution in der Frühen Neuzeit
  • E. Huwiler(2013): Das frühneuzeitliche Theater in Zürich: Konsolidierung und Bedrohung der städtischen Ordnung
  • E. Huwiler(2013): Das Theater des Spätmittelalters und der Frühen Neuzeit
  • (2013): Medieval Traditions and Protestant Thoughts
  • E. Huwiler(2014): Emotional Affects and Political Thoughts: Swiss Plays of the Sixteenth Century
  • E. Huwiler(2015): Das Theater des Spätmittelalters und der Frühen Neuzeit


Project number


Main applicant

Dr. E. Huwiler

Affiliated with

Universiteit van Amsterdam, Amsterdam School for Cultural Analysis (ASCA)

Team members

Dr. E. Huwiler


01/09/2008 to 17/12/2013