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Professor Mary Helen Dupree presented students and faculty with an in-depth look into German literature.


The University of Maryland Germanic Department and the School of Languages, Literatures, and Cultures welcomed Professor Mary Helen Dupree from Georgetown University for a guest lecture on German literature, as discussed in her book The Mask and the Quill: Actress-writers in Germany from Enlightenment to Romanticism.
Professor Dupree is a PhD graduate of Columbia University and also completed a two-year postdoctoral fellowship at Rice University. Her studies center around late 18th and early 19th century German literature, with special emphasis on gender and theatre performance. Her book is the result of eight years’ worth of work that began as part of her research at Columbia.
Dupree focused her analysis on the female actresses and writers that played very significant roles in the development of German literature.
“In the 18 century, the term ‘actress’ was synonymous with prostitute, petty thief, or, at best, drama queen,” explains Dupree.
The few actors and actresses that dominated the time period did not have the option of performing in theatres, as there were very few of them in Germany. Instead, they performed with traveling troupes, or Die Wanderbühne. The majority of these troupes were actually led by women, many of whom inherited the troupes from their late husbands.
Several women in particular captured the attention of Dupree in her studies. Friederike Karoline Neuber (1697-1760) was a part of a German theatre reform movement. She contributed to the change of German repertoire, standards of acting excellence, and proper acting ethics and behavior.
Another intriguing character for Dupree is Charlotte Ackermann (1757-1775). The young and innocent actress was seen by her contemporaries as a persona of the emotional actress and her talent was embraced especially postmortem.
“The 18th century coroner’s report attributed her death to standing fatally close to an open window after dancing on stage and drinking a cold glass of lemonade,” states Dupree, amidst laughter from the entertained audience.


Date of Publication: 
Tuesday, September 25, 2012