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  • Heiner Müller: Contexts and History—a Collection of Essays from the Sydney German Studies Symposium 1994, and: Drama Contemporary: Germany
  • Steve Earnest
Heiner Müller: Contexts and History—a Collection of Essays from the Sydney German Studies Symposium 1994. Edited by Gerhard Fischer. Studies in Contemporary German Literature, Volume 2. Tübingen: Stauffenburg Verlag, 1995; pp. viii + 273. $26.00.
Drama Contemporary: Germany. Edited by Carl Weber. PAJ Books. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1996; pp. xi + 275. $45.00 cloth, $16.95 paper.

Two recent collections in the area of German theatre provide readers with expansive views of their topics. Gerhard Fischer’s Heiner Müller: ConTEXTS and HISTORY presents a collection of papers delivered at the 1994 Sydney German Studies Symposium, a bi-annual event sponsored by the University of New South Wales. Drama Contemporary: Germany, edited by noted German scholar Carl Weber, includes seven plays in English translation for the first time. Both texts fill important gaps in their respective areas of inquiry.

A useful text for established Müller scholars as well as those less familiar with his work, the collection of twenty essays is divided into four sections. Following an introductory chapter by Fischer, the first essay, entitled “Historical ConTEXTS: GDR,” considers social, political, and artistic influences on Müller’s work. Karl Heinz Schoep’s assessment of one of Müller’s most important plays, Der Löhndrucker, is particularly noteworthy. Citing 1956 and 1988 productions, Schoep discusses the plays’ significance in early, late, and post-GDR Germany, noting that the play “comprises the development of the GDR in its totality, marking its beginning and its end” (44). Helen Fehervary’s article, “Anna Seghers’ ‘Gothic Realism’” unearths several sources of Müller’s play Die Umsiedlerin and acknowledges Müller’s well-known debt to the GDR novelist Seghers. Mark Silberman’s “Family Troubles” details certain aspects of Müller’s [End Page 132] epic style—self-reflexive remembering, anti-naturalistic representation, and exaggeration—and the adoption of these techniques by GDR playwrights Georg Seidel, Holger Teschke, and Jo Fabian. Erk Grimm chronicles Müller’s legacy as an underground GDR poet and the considerable influence he had on emerging socialist writers.

Part 2, “ConTEXTS and Traditions” explores ideological aspects of Müller’s work. Hans-Thies Lehmann’s article “Heiner Müller’s Spectres” compares Müller’s dramaturgy with Greek tragedy and Japanese Noh, citing themes such as “the burden of history,” and “weight of the dead around one’s neck” (92). Two subsequent chapters by David Roberts and Gerd Gemünden explore the demise of authorship in Müller’s work, using the play Quartet and the author’s 1992 autobiography Krieg Ohne Schlacht as examples. Both discuss Müller’s tendency to “obfuscate authorial persona,” in his texts, whether through momentary disguise or a process of complete disappearance (121). Citing examples from Der Auftrag and Anatomie Titus Fall of Rome, Herzinger details the historical-revolutionary spirit of Müller’s work, which “continually displays the decline of western culture and the rise of third world counter culture” (109). Herzinger’s article foreshadows part 3, “Con/InterTEXTualizations,” which focuses on intercultural and intertextual connotations in Müller’s texts. One of the edition’s most interesting articles is Gerhard Fischer’s exploration of The Mudrooroo/Müller Project, an adaptation of Der Auftrag by Australian playwright Mudrooroo, where Fischer demonstrates the viability of Müller’s revolutionary spirit in the Third World. Florian Vaßen analyzes image/word relationships in Müller’s Bildbeschreibung, detailing the “historical interrelationship between literature and the visual arts” (167). In a similar vein, Barnard Turner’s essay “Müller and Postmodern Classicism” draws comparison between Müller’s stage “constructions” and architecture. The two final essays of this section explore Müller’s collaborative work with performance artist Robert Wilson. Andrzej Wirth describes the performance style utilized by Wilson to support Müller’s “synthetic fragments” and the resultant influence on Müller’s later directing efforts. Edward Scheer’s essay “Under the Sun of Torture,” defines Wilson’s staging of Hamletmachine as an ideal example of Artaud’s Theatre of Cruelty...

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