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Ludwig Tieck’s "Puss-in-Boots" and Theater of the Absurd

A Commentated Bilingual Edition


Gerald Gillespie

Johann Ludwig Tieck (1773-1853) was one of the most formative influences of the romantic movement, inspiring such major figures as Novalis and Hoffmann. Not only did his tales and novels shape the course of German romantic fiction; as a translator he helped to naturalize Shakespeare and Cervantes; as an editor he was among the first to recognize Kleist.
Tieck’s precocious invention of ironic-fantastic comedy quickly found resonance among fellow romantics, who worked under the parallel influence of the Goethean revolution in drama exhibited in Faust. Yet Tieck’s play Puss-in-Boots (1797) had to wait a full century before its impulses were transmitted, by Pirandello, to modern anti-theater and theater of the absurd.
The Tieckian direction anticipates the metaphysical strains both of symbolist and of existentialist theater and the beneficent absurdism of Wilder and Ionesco. As the boundary between stage and audience completely dissolves in Puss-in-Boots, we experience the transcendent delight of pure theater and unsettling doubts about our own roles on the world’s stage.


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Selected Bibliography


Readers should consult the extensive, categorized bibliography in Stockinger and Scherer’s Tieck lexicon (2011) for detailed information on editions of Tieck’s works and critical literature pertinent to his life, writings, sources, influence, and reception. Primary Literature Bulgakov, Mikhail Afanasievich. The Master and Margarita. Transl. by Michael Glenny. New York: Harper & Row, 1967. Dorst, Tankred. Ludwig Tieck/Tankred Dorst: Der gestiefelte Kater oder wie man das Spiel spielt. Collection Theater, 15. Köln: Kiepenheu- er & Witsch, 1963. Dorst, Tankred. Der gestiefelte Kater oder wie man das Spiel spielt. [opera libretto based on 1963 rewrite of Tieck’s play, music by Günter Bialas; premiere in Schwetzingen, Germany, 1975; produced at Ham- burg Opera House under the direction of Günther Rennert, sets by Jörg Zimmermann.] Tieck, Ludwig. Der gestiefelte Kater. In: Volksmärchen herausgeg- eben von Peter Lebrecht. Zweiter Band. Berlin: Carl August Nicolai, 1797. [Harvard University, Houghton Library, signature GC8/T 4406/B 797] __________. Der gestiefelte Kater: Puss-in-Boots. Trans. and ed. by Gerald Gillespie. Edinburgh Bilingual Library, 8. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 1974. __________. Puss-in-Boots. Trans. by Lillie Winter. The German Classics of the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries, 4. New York: German Publications Society, 1914. __________. The Land of Upside Down. Trans. by Oscar Mandel, with Maria Kelsen Feder. Rutherford, NJ: Fairleigh Dickinson Universi- ty Press, 1978. __________. Dichter über ihre Dichtungen. Bd. 9 (3 Teile). Ed. by Uwe Schweikert. München: Heimeran, 1971. __________. Ausgewählte kritische Schriften. Ed. By Gerhart Wun- berg, with introd. by Ernst Ribbat. Tübingen: Max Niemeyer Verlag, 1975. [cited as...

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