Dramatische Palimpseste: Klassikeradaptationen im zeitgenössischen deutschen und US-amerikanischen Theater
Richter-Nilsson, Christine Michaela
At the beginning of the 21st century, new adaptations of classical plays appear to serve as a means of cultural criticism for minority writers in Germany as well as in the US. In contrast to other scholars who have defined adaptation as a mere change from one genre or medium to another, this interdisciplinary and comparative study shows that the new dramatic palimpsests engage in transtextual conversations in order to recontextualize canonical works within contemporary discourses on ethnicity, race, and gender. First, in his “Überschreibung” (Overwriting) of Othello, the Turkish-German author Feridun Zaimoglu overwrites standard translation German with a multilingual German hybrid to underscore the discursive power of racist ascriptions. With its cast of three black actresses, Korean-born Young Jean Lee’s Lear represents another overwriting of a Shakespeare classic with the “tragedy of the black body.” Gendered representations are central to the feminist “Umschrift / Umschreibung” (Rescription / Circumscription) of classical myths. This second category compares the motif of female writing in Eurydice by American playwright Sarah Ruhl and Schatten (Eurydike sagt) (Shadow [Eurydice says]) by Austrian writer Elfriede Jelinek. Thirdly, “Überschreitungen” (Transgressions) mark the transtextual method to constitute a new play that includes parts of another play. Verrücktes Blut (Crazy Blood) by Nurkan Erpulat uses large passages of Friedrich Schiller‘s dramas Die Räuber (The Robbers) and Kabale und Liebe (Love and Intrigue) to represent transcultural identities on stage and to comment critically on minority discourses in Germany. In a similar vein, African-American playwright Branden Jacobs-Jenkins establishes in An Octoroon a meta-melodrama that features almost the complete text of The Octoroon, Dion Boucicault’s 19th century play, to raise critical questions of the portrayal of race in American theater and society. By situating the selected adaptations in an expanded theoretical context, the dramatic palimpsests reveal a mutual new aesthetics of theater adaptation informed by German and American theater traditions and cultural discourses.