Interweaving Performance Cultures
Gitta Honegger is Professor of Theatre at Arizona State University. Previously, she was Professor of Dramaturgy and Dramatic Criticism at the Yale School of Drama and served as resident dramaturg at the Yale Repertory Theatre, where as its first woman director she also directed several productions. In Washington D.C., she was Chair of the Theatre Department of the Catholic University of America and Executive Producer of the Hartke Theatre. Translations from German include plays by Elfriede Jelinek, Thomas Bernhard, Peter Handke, Peter Turrini, Marieluise Fleißer, Elias Canetti and others. She is a Contributing Editor of Yale Theater Magazine. Her articles and reviews have appeared amongst others in TDR Drama Review, Modern Austrian Literature, Performing Arts Journal and Theater der Zeit. She is currently completing a cultural biography of Helene Weigel, to be published by Yale University Press. Her work has been supported by several grants, including a Guggenheim and a Fulbright/IFK Fellowship.
During my residency at the International Research Center: Interweaving Performance Cultures, I will be working on two interrelated projects: 1. Elfriede Jelinek: How to Receive the Nobel Prize Without Really Trying (a cultural biography for Yale University Press) in conjunction with: 2. The translation into English of Elfriede Jelinek’s Die Kinder der Toten, also for Yale University Press.
The book on Jelinek will be the first comprehensive study in English of Jelinek’s Gesamtwerk in the context of the self-construction of Austrian identity after World War II. It focuses on Jelinek’s provocative ‘performative’ interaction with her culture and the difficulties of translating the social/political dynamics of this relationship into another linguistic/cultural context.
The study on Jelinek will be informed by the translation of The Children of the Dead, as it will serve as a practical experiment of translating the performance of culture. Though not a text for performance, the novel, like all her late works, radically deconstructs language in performance. With her sharp musical ear for the pitch and rhythm of Austrian idioms, she interweaves indigenous and appropriated speech patterns. As they modify each other in the process, their interaction constitutes the ‘real’ action of her texts. It reveals how social, political and gender realities are being established and maintained through the performative function of language, which is no longer a localized provincial but a ‘planetary’ issue in Gayatri Chakravorti Spivak’s sense of the term.
Bernhard, T.: The Making of an Austrian, New Haven: Yale University Press, 2001.