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When Austrian writer Elfriede Jelinek’s play Die Schutzbefohlenen premiered in 2014 in Mannheim, Germany, it prompted debate about the representation of refugees in European theater. Jelinek’s text, loosely based on Aeschylus’ The Suppliants, features an undefined “we” telling of flight across the sea, and in the Mannheim production, German actors were joined by a chorus of actual refugees. While critics discussed the production’s political and ethical implications, the Vienna-based translation collective Versatorium responded by translating Jelinek’s monolingual play into nine languages, including Pashto, English, and Urdu. Versatorium, which consists of students, refugees, and professional translators, has also performed dramatic readings of this translation, titled Die, Should Sea Be Fallen In. By staging translation as a multidirectional process of encounter, Versatorium speaks back to models of advocacy that position refugees as mute victims while also extending the polyvocal potential of Jelinek’s text

Robin Ellis is a Visiting Assistant Professor of German Studies at Davidson College. She received her Ph.D. in German Studies from the University of California, Berkeley with a dissertation titled “Making Translation Visible: Interpreters in European Film and Literature.” Her research focuses on questions of transnational mobility and intercultural communication, and her publications include articles on Joe May’s 1921 film The Indian Tomb and Feridun Zaimoglu’s 1998 mock-ethnography Headstuff.

Moderation: RICHARD LANGSTON  |  UNC Chapel Hill, Department of Germanic & Slavic Languages & Literatures

This event is part of the NC German Studies Seminar & Workshop Series.

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