1st Edition

Staging Blackness and Performing Whiteness in Eighteenth-Century German Drama

By Wendy Sutherland Copyright 2016
    280 Pages
    by Routledge

    272 Pages
    by Routledge

    Focusing on eighteenth-century cultural productions, Wendy Sutherland examines how representations of race in philosophy, anthropology, aesthetics, drama, and court painting influenced the construction of a white bourgeois German self. Sutherland positions her work within the framework of the transatlantic slave trade, showing that slavery, colonialism, and the triangular trade between Europe, West Africa, and the Caribbean function as the global stage on which German bourgeois dramas by Friedrich Wilhelm Ziegler, Ernst Lorenz Rathlef, and Theodor Körner (and a novella by Heinrich von Kleist on which Körner's play was based) were performed against a backdrop of philosophical and anthropological influences. Plays had an important role in educating the rising bourgeois class in morality, Sutherland argues, with fathers and daughters offered as exemplary moral figures in contrast to the depraved aristocracy. At the same time, black female protagonists in nontraditional dramas represent the boundaries of physical beauty and marriage eligibility while also complicating ideas of moral beauty embodied in the concept of the beautiful soul. Her book offers convincing evidence that the eighteenth-century German stage grappled with the representation of blackness during the Age of Goethe, even though the German states were neither colonial powers nor direct participants in the slave trade.

    Contents: Prologue; Introduction; Race in 18th-century Germany; Slavery, colonialism, and the 18th-century global stage; ’Looking at the overlooked’: stage properties and the table in Karl Lessing’s Die Mätresse (1780) excursus: the Court Moor and 18th-century court painting; The construction of whiteness in 18th-century bourgeois drama; Race, doubles, and foils: staging blackness in Friedrich Wilhelm Ziegler’s Die Mohrinn (1801); Race, homosocial desire, and the black in Ernst Lorenz Rathlef’s Die Mohrinn zu Hamburg (1775); Reading in the dark? Racial hierarchy and miscegenation in Heinrich von Kleist’s 'Die Verlobung in St. Domingo' (1811) and Theodor Körner’s Toni (1812); Epilogue; Bibliography; Index.


    Wendy Sutherland is Associate Professor of German at New College of Florida, USA.

    ‘A sophisticated and perceptive investigation of a significant yet somewhat neglected body of German literature that brings to light racial tensions and colonial issues implied in the seemingly closed world of "domestic" middle-class works.’

    Karl S. Guthke, Harvard University, USA