Theatre as Heterotopia. Contemporary Comparative Perspectives on Shakespeare
Verlag: Wissenschaftlicher Verlag Trier
Herausgeber: Kai Wiegandt, Melanie Lörke, Yakobo J. K. Mutiti, Jonathan Furaha Tchai, Jennifer Wawrzinek, Russell West-Pavlov
Autor der Rezension: Michael Heinze
Umfang / Preis: 126 pages / € 16,50
Theatre as Heterotopia. Contemporary Perspectives on Shakespeare comes as a bit of a surprise as the title might hint at a voluminous study or collection but actually belongs to a slim volume of only 125 pages, none of which is wasted, though. A second surprise might be that none of the contributors appears as editor, but that the volume has six authors, all stated on the cover. Russell West-Pavlov’s ‘guiding hand’ can be made out clearly, though, as he not only introduces the volume to the reader but also contributes two essays. The cover itself deserves being mentioned (and is also explained in West-Pavlov’s introduction). It comprises of a picture of Alexanderplatz in Berlin, superimposed with a multiplied picture of the street sign of Shakespeare Platz in Charlottenburg. The link of the authors with Berlin and its Freie Universität is thus established already through the cover art. A team of German, expat Australian and African authors is behind the volume. West-Pavlov’s introduction is very concise, introducing the reader not only to the authors, the concept of the volume and the interconnectedness of the essays but also to the theoretical basis of the umbrella topic of heterotopias. The conciseness of the introduction is reflective of the conciseness of the book as a whole. It already hints at the neatness of the publication.
The reconstruction of Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre on Bankside, Southwark, London has been a battle ground for proponents and opponents of the scheme ever since it was announced. Russel West-Pavlov examines both positions in his opening article “Cultural Catachresis and Cultural Memory at London’s New Globe Theatre.” He convincingly argues that the reconstruction of the Globe should be analysed under neither one of the positions, i.e. the rhetoric of nostalgia or the demand for authenticity, but can only be understood as a substantiation of catachresis, the taking of a historical element and relocation of same in an (inappropriate) new context. West-Pavlov’s argument is stringent and fascinating. The last paragraph of his essay focuses the catachrestic process on the constant re-invention of British (cultural) identity and the unavoidable fluidity of this self-definition. One of the surprising and refreshing aspects of this volume is the different approaches across genres and media. Melanie Lörke examines heterotopias and simulacra and the employment of Shakespeare in the science-fiction TV programme Star Trek. The title of her essay also hints at the most thrilling aspect of her contribution: “A Heterotopia in a Heterotopia in a Utopia: Shakespeare at the Final Frontier.” The author discusses the different levels of reality in Star Trek, focussing largely on the so-called holodeck technology, and intersperses her text with references to Shakespeare in the programme. Star Trek started in the 1960s, and Lörke thematises the original programme in passing, but the focus of the article is on the 1980/90s’ sequel programme Star Trek. The Next Generation. Starring Patrick Stewart as Captain Jean-Luc Picard, the programme is riddled with Shakespearean allusions, stagings, quotations etc. Although the author does acknowledge Sir Patrick’s well-known status as a prominent Shakespearean actor (who has now after many years in television and film by and large returned to the stage), her emphasis on the strong presence of Shakespearean metatext and subtext is never linked to the person of the actor, which to the present reviewer is essential. The self-reflective irony of many scenes is only understandable when one is aware of Stewart’s person. The essay is perceptive and well-written, the argument consistent and pertinent. Unfortunately, the text suffers under too-long and detailed descriptions that occasionally come across as rather pedestrian. A structural flaw is the fact that the general discussion of the heterotopic state of Star Trek is alternated with passages about Shakespearean references and allusions. The linkage is not always elegant. But Lörke’s essay is an important contribution, also to the field of television studies. Although Star Trek has had academic attention, more should be done in this field to explore a television phenomenon that has – through many interlinked programmes and spin-offs – drawn large television audiences for nearly fifty years now.
Shakespeare certainly never shied away from graphically depicting physical violence on stage, but Titus Andronicus must undoubtedly be considered one of his ‘bloodiest’ plays. Jennifer Wawrzinek follows the employment and depiction of violence in the play in her essay “Dis/rupting the Law: Violence and Anomie in Two Versions of Titus Andronicus.” The two versions mentioned are Julie Taymor’s 1994 off-Broadway staging of the play and her subsequent 2000 film adaptation under the title of Titus. At 29 pages, this is the longest article in the book, and one should not miss the fact that it constitutes about a quarter of the volume. But the number of pages is well used by the author, indeed. Her analysis switches back and forth between Shakespeare’s text, the stage version and the film, although it has to be said that the stage version is overall treated with less detail. The main forte of Wawrzinek’s essay is her discussion of the significance and signification of violence and anomie in relation to the law and traditions of succession and continuity, not only in Shakespeare’s historic context but also in our day and age, which signifies violence so differently from the Bard’s times. Wawrzinek’s essay is thought-provoking and thorough; the only minor flaw in this otherwise fascinating text is the sometimes rather stealthy and overly stylised language. But this diminishes the pleasure of reading this concise article by no means.
The next essay, by Kai Wiegandt, is a very hands-on approach to the theme of heterotopias. Wiegandt looks at Nadeem Aslam’s novel Maps for Lost Lovers (2004), the story of a young Muslim Pakistani woman who moves in with the Hindu boy she loves although she is still married to a husband from Pakistan – an arranged marriage. Wiegandt bases his article on the novel as an adaptation of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, looking in detail at the adaptation technique, the ‘political remapping’ (cf. p. 88) of the play’s plot, as he calls it, and eventually compares the novel to the writing of Monica Ali and Zadie Smith, establishing it as a powerful negation of British multiculturalism. Wiegandt’s essay intrigues through its thought-provoking analysis of topics most relevant to 21st-century British society, and through its readability. “Shakespeare’s Intertextualities in Africa: Julius K. Nyerere’s Interpretation & Translation of The Merchant of Venice & Julius Caesar in the Context of ‘Ujamaa’ Socialism in Tanzania” is the title of the following essay by Yakobo J.K. Muititi and Jonathan Furaha Tchai. The great forte of the article is the detailed background given, as the topic must be considered very specific. The authors succeed in introducing this topic in a very comprehensive way and elucidating their findings to a reader with little (or even no) background in East African literature and politics. An illuminating look into African politics and philosophy is the satisfying result. In the last essay of the volume, Russell West-Pavlov examines the changing definition of space and employment of spatial metaphor in Tom Stoppard’s play Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead. West-Pavlov’s article is the ideal finish to the book as it brings the discussion of heterotopia back to space itself and brings the arguments of the essays full circle. It is in itself a metaphor for the volume, which succeeds in collecting a large variety of different aspects of “theatre as heterotopia” on a very small number of pages. The volume is all in all a fascinating collection which in spite of its large variety of topics and paradigms succeeds in producing an overall congruity. It not only leaves the reader with many worthwhile insights but also with plenty of food for thought. Probably a side effect of the volume is that it underlines how modern Shakespeare studies should work. Not the work of the Bard himself is the focus but the influence this ubiquitous writer has on 21st-century culture – not only in England or Britain, but across the world, across genres and media. This is modern Shakespeare studies par excellence.
Diese Nachricht wurde redaktionell betreut von Jo Jonas.
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