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Shakespeare as German Author

Reception, Translation Theory, and Cultural Transfer

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Edited by John A. McCarthy

Shakespeare as German Author, edited by John McCarthy, revisits in particular the formative phase of German Shakespeare reception 1760-1830. Following a detailed introduction to the historical and theoretical parameters of an era in search of its own literary voice, six case studies examine Shakespeare’s catalytic role in reshaping German aesthetics and stage production. They illuminate what German speakers found so appealing (or off-putting) about Shakespeare’s spirit, consider how translating it nurtured new linguistic and aesthetic sensibilities, and reflect on its relationship to German Geist through translation and cultural transfer theory. In the process, they shed new light, e.g., on the rise of Hamlet to canonical status, the role of women translators, and why Titus Andronicus proved so influential in twentieth-century theater performance.

Contributors are: Lisa Beesley, Astrid Dröse, Johanna Hörnig, Till Kinzel, John A. McCarthy, Curtis L. Maughan, Monika Nenon, Christine Nilsson.
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Curtis L. Maughan

Abstract

For more than a decade, Gerhart Hauptmann dedicated himself to a scholarly and artistic engagement with Shakespeare and his works, Hamlet in particular. The essays, addresses, adaptations, drama, and autobiographical novel that resulted from Hauptmann’s avid pursuit of the Hamlet mythology constitute a multimedia act of cultural transfer that signals a progressive, pan-European impulse within the history of German Shakespeare reception. At the center of Hauptmann’s reconstruction of the Danish Prince lies the image of an unfinished Torso, which, like the statue in Johann Joachim Winckelmann’s Beschreibung des Torso im Belvedere zu Rom, cries out to its audience to be made whole again.

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Lisa Beesley

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German intellectuals rediscovered the works of William Shakespeare in the late eighteenth century, giving rise to some of the most enduring German translations, some of which are still considered the best foreign language renditions of Shakespeare’s works today. Two of the most famous of these are translations of A Midsummer Night’s Dream: Christoph Martin Wieland’sEin St. Johannis Nachts-Traum (1766) and August Wilhelm Schlegel’sEin Sommernachtstraum (1797). This article compares the strategies that Wieland and Schlegel employed in order to address some of the most difficult portions of the text, such as specific cultural references not immediately accessible to Germans, and instances of wordplay that resist simple translations. These two texts are situated in the Enlightenment discourse of the dynamic process of dialogue and intellectual exchange, focusing on progress acheived not through ordo ordinatus (order of the ordered, completed order), but ordo ordinans (active, incomplete ordering). Schlegel built on Wieland’s translation in the spirit of this discourse, while inviting future translators to make further improvements and continue the conversation.

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Astrid Dröse

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Using paradigms of more recent research on cultural transfer, this study examines Schiller’s Shakespeare-reception in the context of the “saddle” period of “Shakespeare-mania.” The focus here is on Schiller’s reworking of Macbeth which sought to demonstrate the compatibility and confluence of the Ancients and the Moderns in what can be called a “poetics of hybridity”; that is, the mastering and ennobling of Shakespeare through the process of making the tragedy more like that of the Ancients. This process of transformation was, in fact, a programmatic trait of the Classical Schiller, for which his Macbeth-adaptation provides a paradigmatic example. Especially relevant are Schiller’s reworking of the witches’ szenes, to which contemporary critics immediately reacted. His reworking of the scenes deviated markedly from previous German versions by Chr. M.Wieland, G.A. Bürger, and J.J. Eschenburg in terms of choreography, costumes, form and content. The detailed analysis of these transformations here underscores the poetological-aesthetic signficance of Schiller’s adaptation.

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Christine M. Nilsson

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Since the beginning of the Shakespeare reception in German in the mid-eighteenth century, the original works of the great British dramatist were not only linguistically transferred into another language but also formally transformed according to the needs of the audience of the time. After the horrors of World War ii, Friedrich Dürrenmatt turned Shakespeare’s Titus Andronicus into a “comedy” to demonstrate the absurdity of human existence. In 1987, Heiner Müller wrote anatomie titus. fall of rome: a shakespeare commentary on the violent mechanics of the empires not of antiquity but of our own era. This article focuses on Schändung (2005), another Titus-rewriting, by Botho Strauss. As the paratext “Übermalung” (overpainting) indicates, this adaptation emphasizes the visual dimension of a stage. Normally, the analysis of a dramatic text is the subject of literary studies, whereas elements of mis-en-scène – such as sets, costumes, props, acting style, sound, and movement – are the prerogatives of performance studies. My approach, however, is interdisciplinary. It draws on literary, drama, and performance theory in an effort to expose dramaturgical aspects of adaptation. Analogous to close reading, I employ “close looking” to examine the major hand-motif that is mentioned around eighty times in Shakespeare’s original play. My dramaturgically informed reading of Schändung elucidates the transfer of literary tropes to the theatrical semiotics of the modern stage. In the process, adaptation appears as a new form of theater text, which recontextualizes Shakespeare’s early tragedy within the aesthetics of modern German “Regietheater” (Director’s Theater).

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Till Kinzel

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The Brunswick (Braunschweig) professor of literature and philosophy, Johann Joachim Eschenburg (1743–1820), occupies an important place in the history of the German reception of Shakespeare. His work as a translator, taking up the task of completing Wieland’s project of translating all of Shakespeare’s plays, is supplemented by his keen theoretical interest in aesthetic and poetological questions. Influenced by friends like Lessing, Eschenburg took up a critical position towards Gottschedian as well as Voltairian classicism while moderately pushing towards a late enlightenment conception of literary aesthetics that would accomodate a more nuanced appreciation of alleged errors in Shakespeare’s plays. Eschenburg’s participation in the polemical battles fought about the evaluation of Shakespeare and the correct principles of literary criticism presents a fascinating case study of eighteenth-century critical practices. In this chapter, Eschenburg’s philological views concerning Shakespeare’s genius and his errors and his penchant for a polemical defense of Shakespeare against his detractors will be considered on the basis of his 1787 book Ueber W. Shakspeare, the first scholarly monograph on the poet written in German, as well as of some essays Eschenburg appended to his translations.

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John A. McCarthy

Abstract

There has been no dearth of writing on Shakespeare reception in Germany. This introduction acknowledges the richness of scholarship while simultaneously suggesting how the making of the German Shakespeare can be read anew and fruitfully by drawing more emphatically than has been the case on aspects of book history, on the development of translation theory and practice in the eighteenth century, and on thinking about the mechanisms of cultural transfer. Combining these perspectives offers a fuller response to the guiding question here: how could the Briton so rapidly become a mainstay of the German literary canon and be seen as a German writer alongside Goethe and Schiller in full accord with the German spirit? Moreover, critiques of Shakespeare’s spirit central to his “naturalization” have been ignored or drastically underrepresented in previous research, e.g., Chr.M. Wieland’s early seminal essay, “Der Geist Shakespeares” (1773), J.J. Eschenburg’s monograph, On W. Shakespeare (1787), and G.G. Gervinus’ multivolume study, Shakespeare (1849–50). All three are considered here as primary markers of the Bard’s induction into German culture. This introduction also establishes the broader historical and theoretical framework for the individual case studies that follow.

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Johanna Hörnig

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This essay explores the question of how Dorothea Tieck’s translation of Macbeth, unloved by researchers, yet nonetheless regarded as canonical, contributed uniquely to the phenomenon of cultural transfer in the early nineteenth century. How far can a text deviate from the original without risking the loss of authenticity in negotiating the linguistic and value systems of two cultures? Through the critical examination of three key scenes in Macbeth, this analysis reveals how the play’s original meaning was altered via the translation process. Of particular interest is Dorothea Tieck’s Catholic background that led her to include religious connotations not necessarily found in Shakespeare’s text. Moreover, the potential impact on the translation process of her experiences as a woman is highlighted. By focusing on nuanced linguistic meaning, this study demonstrates how disambiguation occurs in Dorothea Tieck’s translation, thereby illuminating more precisely its value as an instance of cultural transfer.

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Monika Nenon

Abstrakt

In dieser Arbeit soll am Beispiel Hamlets gezeigt werden, dass Wielands Shakespeareübersetzung nicht nur für die Leserrezeption wirksam wird, sondern auch für die Reform des Theaters und der Schauspielkunst von entscheidender Bedeutung ist. Im Vergleich von Wielands Hamletübersetzung mit den ersten deutschsprachigen Bühnenadaptionen von Franz von Heufeld und Friedrich Ludwig Schröder wird erkennbar, in welchem Maβe diese Übersetzung als Grundlage für beide Adaptionen dient und in welcher Weise Wielands Übersetzungsvorgaben richtungsweisend werden. Dabei ist auffallend, dass Wielands Übersetzung in eine Reformzeit des Theaters und der Schauspielkunst fällt, in deren Zentrum das Interesse an der Natur des Individuums steht. Korrespondierend dazu zeigt sich, dass in den auf Wielands Übersetzung beruhenden Adaptionen von Heufeld und Schröder der Charakter Hamlets und weniger Hauptprotagonisten in den Mittelpunkt gerückt werden, was sich innovativ auf das Theater auswirkt.

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