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Back to the Future

Tradition and Innovation in German Studies


Edited By Marc Silberman

In the course of the 1970s, interdisciplinary German studies emerged in North America, breaking with what many in the field saw as a suffocating and politically tainted tradition of canon-based philology by broadening both the corpus of texts and the framing concept of culture. In the meantime the innovative impulses that characterized this response to the legacy of Germanistik have themselves become traditions. The essays in this volume critically examine a selection of those past attempts at renewal to gauge where we are now and how we move into the future: exile and forced migration, race and identity, humanism and utopian thought, solidarity and global inequality. A younger generation of scholars demonstrates how reviving and refining the questions of yore leads to new insights into literary and theatrical texts, fundamental philosophical and political ideas, and the structure of memory in ethnographic performance and photography. Looking back into the future is a self-reflexive gesture that asks how tradition inspires innovation, and it displays compelling evidence for the importance of historically informed cultural research in the field of German studies.

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7 Brecht and Turkish Political Theater: Sermet Çağan’s Savaş Oyunu (1964) (Ela Gezen)


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7 Brecht and Turkish Political Theater: Sermet Çağan’s Savaş Oyunu (1964)


In the 1960s, Turkey witnessed the liberalization of governmental censorship, which led to the translation and publication of foundational texts of Marxism appearing in translation alongside Bertolt Brecht’s theoretical and literary work. The reception of these two bodies of thought prompted the adaptation of Brecht’s work for the Turkish stage as well as a broader engagement with his writings on theater. A crucial forum for the Turkish encounter with Brecht’s work was the International Student Theater Festival in Erlangen, Germany (1949–68). Journalist, playwright, and stage designer Sermet Çağan, a vital participant in debates on the politics of culture and the role of theater in society, was invited to Erlangen in 1964 and 1965 with two of his plays. This essay examines Çağan’s use of Brechtian elements and his materialist-dialectical approach to history in War Game/Play (Savaş Oyunu), lauded as the most successful and significant play of the 1965 festival.

In an interview with the Turkish theater journal Oyun Turkish dramatist and actor Genco Erkal stated definitively: “When it comes to Brecht – he is our writer, the writer of the scientific age.”1 Director Güner Sümer went even one step further to proclaim that “Brecht is more valid in our country [Turkey] than his own country Germany. Because in our country the social disparity is much worse than in Germany...

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