Schiller's Children: Ulrike Meinhof and the Terrorist Performative

By Passmore, Leith | Lilith: A Feminist History Journal, Annual 2007 | Go to article overview

Schiller's Children: Ulrike Meinhof and the Terrorist Performative


Passmore, Leith, Lilith: A Feminist History Journal


A seemingly reluctant male actor in a mini-skirt and high heels is forced before the curtain of the Thalia Theatre in Hamburg, and a wig, a pale trench coat and a text are subsequently pushed through the curtain. The actor puts on the wig and coat - both references to Red Army Faction (RAF) terrorist Ulrike Meinhof - and begins to read: an actor playing an actor playing a role which looks like Ulrike Meinhof. It is the 2006 premiere of Nicolas Stemann's production of feminist playwright and Nobel Prize laureate Elfriede Jelinek's text Ulrike Maria Stuart. The production is a complex integration of a nineteenth century German interpretation of a sixteenth century English story (Schiller's Maria Stuart) and the historical construction of a twentieth century RAF terrorist (Ulrike Marie Meinhof). This paper argues that the Stemann and Jelinek's work of theatre is a useful tool for redressing the history of Ulrike Meinhof, for what is dramatised is not the historical figure of Meinhof, nor a historical reality but history itself. There are two conceptions of Meinhof running through the work. The first is the contemporary historical understanding of Meinhof that is consistent with a long tradition of representing the violent feminine and female terrorist. The second suggests a way of moving beyond the first: the terrorist performative. The implications of this are significant for the history of Ulrike Meinhof because it offers an alternate to the traditional discourse of unnaturalness, the search for a female terrorist causality and the related distinction between pre-terrorism-Meinhof and post-terrorism-Meinhof.

Ulrike Marie Meinhof: Myth, Mother, Lover

Born in the early years of the Third Reich, Ulrike Marie Meinhof began public life in the late 1950s as a prominent student activist. She went on to become a journalist of substantial fame during the 1960s, due to her print, television and radio work on activism and particularly the student revolt of 1968. On 14 May 1970 she was involved in successful liberation of Andreas Baader from prison. This has traditionally marked the birth of the Baader-Meinhof Gang as the group was dubbed by the popular media, or, as the group's members would later refer to themselves, the Red Army Faction. (1) Meinhof enjoyed a great degree of infamy in the underground before her arrest in 1972 and this infamy only increased during her four years in prison. She took her own life on Mothers' Day 1976, a date which coincided with the anniversary of V-Day. Terrorist acts of violence in the Federal Republic of Germany (FRG) peaked, in 1977, but the RAF survived its founding members and only officially disbanded in 1998. (2)

What remains of Meinhof today is largely rooted in the tradition of the representation of the violent female: Meinhof is understood in terms of an impressionistic femininity that is broken and flawed, hyper and exaggerated, or a surprisingly seamless conflation of the two. This paradoxical construction of the violent femme is motivated by the assumption that femininity and violent behaviour are mutually exclusive. (3) Such a focus on 'unnaturalness' has a long tradition; be it nineteenth century criminology (4) or recent medial constructions of female suicide bombers, (5) the understanding of the violent or criminal female typically draws on mythical stereotypes. These include the 'terrible mother', (6) the overly emotional or hysterical, (7) even diseased (8) woman whose motivations are assumed to be domestic, familial or sexual, rather than ideological. (9) The discourse of 'unnaturalness' around the female terrorist in turn reinforces the notion of 'natural' sexual difference.

It is these contemporary myths and present-day images of Meinhof which Jelinek and Stemann dramatise in Ulrike Maria Stuart. (10) The play has no real plot in the traditional sense. It presents vague, chronological references to events in Meinhof's life, from her entrance into the underground in 1970 until her suicide in 1976. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • A full archive of books and articles related to this one
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Schiller's Children: Ulrike Meinhof and the Terrorist Performative
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

    Already a member? Log in now.