Exiles, Eccentrics, Activists
Women in Contemporary German Theater
The first book-length critical appraisal of the work of Marieluise Fleisser, Elfriede Jelinek, Erika Mann, Else Lasker-Schuler, Kerstin Specht, and Ginka Steinwachs
Exiles, Eccentrics, Activists accomplishes a long overdue task of supplementing the history of twentieth-century German theater by including the most important, popular, and controversial women's voices. Along the way, Katrin Sieg also critically reevaluates the dominant cultural discourses of modern Germany, offering bold outlines of the "hidden" side of contemporary German culture and politics.
German artists and theorists have furnished many of the groundbreaking models of political theater whose critical, and sometimes revolutionary, potential continues to keep theater alive. German women's dramatic work reflects their active participation in major movements for social change, yet their plays have rarely reached the main stage or the accounts of theater history. Sieg's study investigates how gender, central to these artists' works yet missing from the language of dramatic criticism, influenced women's use of politically powerful models and prompted their invention of new dramatic forms and performance styles.
Exiles, Eccentrics, Activists breaks new ground in examining one of the twentieth century's most important forms of artistic activism. A lucidly written cultural history, it will appeal not only to experts in German theater and feminist criticism but also the general educated reader.
Praise / Awards
"This feminist study deserves the attention of all interested in European theater. Though women have been title figures in nearly as many German plays as men, the work of women as playwrights, directors, and dramaturges has been completely ignored. . . . Sieg's study initiates a critical debate about German theater history. Her writing is best in the clear synopses of the playwrights' works, in her fighting misconceptions, and in her detailed biographical sketches. . . . Sieg's work rightly challenges all, including those who reject [Marxism, literary deconstructionism, and militant feminist scholarship] but approach her study with an open mind."
"I think that the ideas contained in this book will turn up in feminist writing about performance in many different guises--not just extending and developing the interpretation of these German writers but also framed as critical questions to be brought to non-German feminist writing about what is politically efficacious and artistically satisfying for a feminist performance aesthetic at the end of this century."
—Janelle Reinelt, German Quarterly
"Sieg's book is an exciting, necessary, and long overdue feminist rewriting of modern German theatre history. It is the first book-length investigation, in either German or English, of 20th-century plays written by German-speaking women. . . . Negotiating between critical theory, social and theatre history, and performance reconstruction, her project is not just to re-write the erasure of women from German theatre, but also to give 'a history of women's theatre contiguous to and engaging with the dominant tale.' Exiles is thus a challenge to dominant cultural history, which has not adequately included most of these German women dramatists. . . . Exiles, Eccentrics, Activists is an important book for scholars and students of theatre and literature. This interdisciplinary, historical work challenges not only the significant absence of women in German theatre history, but it also refutes the notion of stable, hegemonic German identity. Sieg's project challenges the standing male histories, bringing these women out of exile and out of the margins of history to where they rightfully belong."
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