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The Doppelgänger

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Edited By Deborah Ascher Barnstone

The Doppelgänger – the double, twin, mirror image or alter ego of someone else – is an ancient and universal theme that can be traced at least as far back as Greek and Roman mythology, but is particularly associated with two areas of study: psychology, and German literature and culture since the Romantic movement. Although German language literature has been a nexus for writing on the Doppelgänger, there is a paucity of scholarly work treating a broader selection of cultural products from the German-speaking world. The essays in this volume explore the phenomenon of the double in multiple aspects of German visual culture, from traditional art forms like painting and classical ballet to more contemporary ones like film, photography and material culture, and even puppet theatre. New ways of understanding the Doppelgänger emerge from analyses of various media and time periods, such as the theme of the double in a series of portraits by Egon Schiele, the doubling of silk by rayon in Weimar Germany and its implications for class distinctions in Germany, and the use of the x-ray as a form of double in Thomas Mann’s Magic Mountain and Christoph Schlingensief’s performance art.
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Deborah Ascher Barnstone - 4 Seeing Double: The Doppelgänger in Two Interpretations of the Ballet Classic The Nutcracker, by John Neumeier and Marco Goecke

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DEBORAH ASCHER BARNSTONE

4 Seeing Double: The Doppelgänger in Two Interpretations of the Ballet Classic The Nutcracker, by John Neumeier and Marco Goecke

Two contemporary versions of the ballet The Nutcracker, one by John Neumeier and the other by Marco Goecke, offer very different interpretations of the Doppelgänger motif so central to E.T.A. Hoffmann’s original tale. John Neumeier’s version of the ballet uses a complex play with the Doppelgänger to magnify the Lacanian identity drama inherent in the story on which the ballet is based.1 In Neumeier’s hands the ballet is still a coming-of-age parable, as in Hoffmann, enhanced as the story of a young girl becoming a ballerina. In spite of his engagement with the Doppelgänger motif, however, Neumeier’s staging retains the upbeat fairytale atmosphere common to most versions, virtually ignoring any hint of the neurotic or supernatural. The Freudian sense of uncanny is present but minimally. In contrast, Marco Goecke’s Nutcracker is barely recognizable as a variation on Hoffmann’s tale or the ballet; only Tchaikovsky’s score and the names of the characters tie it to Hoffmann and more conventional productions. Instead, Goecke creates an eerily haunting series of dances in which the Doppelgänger becomes the central motif transformed into a multiple, as if the dancers perform inside a tripartite mirror, where their images are repeated endlessly. Unlike Neumeier, who reinterprets The Nutcracker in a modern way but retains much of the traditional staging of the ballet,...

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