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Weltbühne Wien / World Stage Vienna

A research project at the University of Vienna / funded by the Austrian Research Council

Weltbühne Wien / World Stage Vienna:
The Reception of Anglophone Plays on Viennese Stages of the 20th Century

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With the help of various cultural studies approaches and methods, this interdisciplinary research project will explore processes of cultural transfer and the reception of anglophone plays on Vienna's stages of the 20th century. The perspective of reception history will be extended and complemented by appropriate methods and approaches to investigate the relationships between the cultures involved: the project will focus on questions relating to cultures in contact and cultural transfer, to circulation and blockage of (foreign) cultural elements, to play selection and censorship, to the role of national stereotypes within the reception process, and to translation and adaptation. Further focal points will be the historical role of individual theatres and theatre directors, agents, cultural officers, and other important figures in Vienna's theatre scene.

The period chosen, the 20th century, will allow us to examine these transfer processes with regard to consecutive historical periods (the last years of the Habsburg monarchy 1900–1918, the First Austrian Republic 1918–1938, the time of the 'Anschluß', i.e., Austria's incorporation into the Third Reich 1938–1945, the time of occupation 1945–1955, and finally the time of the Second Austrian Republic – 1955 up to the present), and describe and compare phenomena of transfer processes in different political and economic contexts. The inclusion of British and American plays extends the repertoire and leads to the investigation of three cultures which are in simultaneous contact with each other. The consideration of classics – Shakespeare as well as modern British and American classics such as Beckett, Pinter, Miller, Williams, or Albee – will allow investigations of how a classic is made, which metamorphoses a classic undergoes under the influence of changing political, economic, and social factors, and how even the process of canonization may serve the purpose of blockage.

All in all, we will analyse the phenomenon of the transference of plays from their source culture into a foreign target culture and attempts at – or resistance against – their 'naturalization'. The transfer of the originally anglophone play constitutes a form of cultural contact or intercultural exchange between Austria and Terranglia, the changing quality of which is to be explored in the context of individual historical periods. A number of hypotheses regarding the interculturality of drama and the role of foreign cultures in constructions of national identities will be put to a practical-analytical test. The project undertakes to examine, reconsider and, eventually, adapt and refine such hypotheses. In our context, this implies an investigation of the effects and repercussions of an increased contact with anglophone plays in terms of Austrian cultural as well as national identity in the twentieth century, a century of conflicts and crises. Ultimately, by investigating the transfer and reception of anglophone plays, the project will make an important contribution to the analysis of the processes of cultural transfer and to the history of Viennese theatre and culture.

Weltbühne Wien/World Stage Vienna Performance Database

Publications, Conference Papers & Lectures:

Ewald Mengel, Ludwig Schnauder und Rudolf Weiss, Hgg.:
Weltbühne Wien/World-Stage Vienna, Vol. 1.: Approaches to Cultural Transfer. Trier: WVT, 2010.
Weltbühne Wien, Vol. 2.: Die Rezeption anglophoner Dramen auf Wiener Bühnen des 20. Jahrhunderts. Trier: WVT, 2010.

Ewald Mengel und Margarete Rubik: "Cultural Transfer, Translation and Reception of Anglophone Drama on Viennese Stages in the 20th Century: The Example of Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf." Adaptations – Performing across Media and Genres. Contemporary Drama in English 16, ed. Monika Pietrzak-Franger and Eckart Voigts-Virchow. Trier: WVT, 2009. 253-270.

Ewald Mengel und Margarete Rubik, "Cultural Transfer, Translation and Reception of Anglophone Drama on Viennese Stages in the 20th Century: The Example of Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf." CDE Siegen / Biggesee 1-4 May 2008.

Ewald Mengel, "Drama und Kulturtransfer: Wiener Stücke in London, Londoner Stücke in Wien" (15.10.2008), Ringvorlesung "Literatur im Kontext" Universitat Wien WS 2008/9.

Ewald Mengel, "'Weltbühne Wien' - The Reception of English-Speaking Plays on Vienna Stages of the 20th Century", AAUTE-Jahrestagung Salzburg, 21.05.2005.

Rudolf Weiss, "Das Gotische im Kontakt der Kulturen: Der Freischütz und das englische Melodrama der Romantik." Symposion Salzburg August 2007 Die 'Schaubühne' in der Epoche des Freischütz: Theater und Musiktheater der Romantik. Publication forthcoming in conference proceedings.

Sandra Mayer und Barbara Pfeifer. "The Reception of Oscar Wilde and Bernard Shaw in the Light of Early Twentieth-Century Austrian Censorship." Platform 2.2 (2007): 59-75.

Barbara Pfeifer, "A Dramatist for All Seasons: Bernard Shaw in Vienna, 1933-1945", "Sesquicentennial Shaw", International Shaw Society Conference, Brown University (Rhode Island), 8-11 June 2006. Published in SHAW: The Annual of Bernard Shaw Studies 27 (2007): 105-117.

Sandra Mayer, "'They actually succeed in spelling his name right': The Viennese Fin-de-Siècle Image of Oscar Wilde", conference "Century's End: Re-Evaluating Literature, Art and Culture at the Fin de Siècle (1880-1914)", 12-13 September 2008, Queen's University Belfast.

Sandra Mayer, "When Critics Disagree the Artist Survives. Oscar Wilde: An All-Time Favourite of the Viennese Stage in the Twentieth Century." Conference "The Reception of Oscar Wilde in Europe", 8-9 March 2008, Trinity College, Oxford
To be published in Stefano-Maria Evangelista (ed.), The Reception of Oscar Wilde in Europe. London: Continuum.

Ludwig Schnauder, "A Haunted Stage: Shylock and his Ghosts at Vienna’s Burgtheater in the 20th century." 4th British Shakespeare Association Conference, King's College London, 2009.

Ludwig Schnauder, "Was the poor man wronged? Transformationen der Shylock-Figur auf der Bühne des Burgtheaters im 20. Jahrhundert," Shylock nach 1945: Inszenierungen und Diskurse um Shakespeares Kaufmann von Venedig, Wien 2009.

Ludwig Schnauder, "The Bard and the Burg: Der Wiener Shakespeare-Zyklus." Shakespeare-Tage Wien, 24-27 April 2008, Frühjahrstagung der Deutschen Shakespeare-Gesellschaft in cooperation with the Burgtheater & the University of Vienna.

Ludwig Schnauder, "Much Ado About Nothing? Current Appropriations of Shakespeare at Vienna's Burgtheater." Conference of the British Shakespeare Association, 31 August-2 September 2007, University of Warwick.

Ludwig Schnauder, "Austro-Shakespeare: Current Appropriations of the Bard at Vienna's Burgtheater." "Shakespeare and Europe: Nation(s) and Boundaries," University of Iasi, Romania, 14-17 November 2007. To be published in Conference Proceedings, 2009.

Work in Progress:

Sandra Mayer, Pleasing and Teasing the Audience. Oscar Wilde: An All-Time Favourite on Vienna's Stages in the Twentieth Century (Dissertation project)

Barbara Pfeifer, A Dramatist for All Seasons: George Bernard Shaw in Vienna (Dissertation project)

Ludwig Schnauder, The Bard and the Burgtheater: Transforming Shakespeare on the Stage of Austria's National Theatre in the 20th and 21st Centuries (Postdoc project)


Ewald Mengel, "Shakespeare's Festive Comedies" (SoSe 2010, Seminar)

Ludwig Schnauder, "The Elizabethan Age and its Legacy" (SoSe 2010, Proseminar)

Ewald Mengel, "Vienna Plays for London, London Plays for Vienna" (WS 2008/09).

Margarete Rubik, American Drama on Vienna Stages (WS 2008/9, Workshop).

Rudolf Weiss, "Coward & Co: English Inter-War Plays on the Viennese Stage" (WS 2008/9, Workshop).

Rudolf Weiss, "New English Plays on the Viennese Stage" (SoSe 2008, Staff Seminar English Department, Charles University Prague).

Ludwig Schnauder, "The Bard Re-loaded: Shakespeare and Adaptation" (SoSe 2008, Proseminar).

Rudolf Weiss, "Weltbühne Wien: Stoppard, Ravenhill & Co" (SoSe 2008, Workshop).

Rudolf Weiss & Ludwig Schnauder, "Weltbühne Wien" (WS 2007/8, Staff Seminar).

Werner Huber, "Shakespeare Season at the 'Burgtheater'" (SoSe 2007).

Ewald Mengel, "Weltbühne Wien": Modern British Classics on Vienna's Stages in the 20th Century (SoSe 2006).

Rudolf Weiss, "Rediscovering Theatrical Hits of the Inter-War Years" (WS 05/06).

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