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Tyrol or Not Tyrol

Theatre as History in Südtirol/Alto Adige


Nóra de Buiteléir

On 19 June 1992 Austria and Italy declared the official resolution of the South Tyrol question – the dispute that had dominated relations between the two countries since the end of the First World War. While this bilingual province is today held up as a triumph of minority rights protection and a model for post-conflict societies across the world, the story of the South Tyrol since its amalgamation into the Italian state in 1919 has been a complex and often turbulent one.
This book investigates the political role of the theatre in reflecting, shaping and subverting patterns of cultural identity among the German-speaking South Tyrolese. Taking as its starting point the representation of history in a series of ambitious theatrical productions from the 1970s to the present, this study offers close readings of texts and performances and an examination of the belated development of professional theatre in the province. The role of theatre is analysed in terms of the broader historical and sociocultural factors at play in the shaping of South Tyrolese identity.


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A Note on Language


It might be argued that the status of language is complicated enough in the South Tyrol without adding an entirely alien Anglo-Saxon hybrid to the brew. While writing about the South Tyrol in English certainly has its advantages – a heightened degree of objectivity, one might hope, being one – the introduction of a third language inevitably raises some practical dif ficulties. Every town in the South Tyrol has two of ficial names, three in the case of the Ladin valleys. Commentators writing in German obvi- ously use the German names; those writing in Italian logically use the Italian ones. But how can an English-language writer walk this delicate tightrope? English travel guides tend to list place names in Italian only. Antony Evelyn Alcock’s 1970 History of the South Tyrol Question does the same, while his 1990 pamphlet on the same subject opts instead for Bolzano/Bozen (the location of his own academic institution, on the other hand, remains a staunch Londonderry). Mary de Rachewiltz, daughter of Ezra Pound and the South Tyrol’s most famous native English speaker (or indeed, the English language’s most famous native South Tyrolese) meanders in her memoirs between Bozen and Bolzano, Bruneck and Brunico, Brixen and Bressanone without every quite being able to settle on one or the other. In writing this study I wished to remain consistent. I did not, however, want to come down on one side or the other; nor did I wish to assault the reader with a barrage of strokes and/or parentheses as...

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