"Witnessing Impossibility: The Traumatic Theater of Rachel Neuburger's Nepenthe"
Perfromance Studies Alumni Leonie Ettinger (M.A. '16) has been published in the Journal of Literature and Trauma Studies. Leonie's article, Witnessing Impossibility: The Traumatic Theater of Rachel Neuburger's Nepenthe, was published in volume 8, number 2.
Set in 1961 LA, Rachel Neuburger’s Nepenthe (2016) depicts a woman confronted with repressed recollections of forced prostitution at a Nazi concentration camp. In 2016, a London theater audience witnesses the return of her traumatic experience, which had been forgotten not only by her but, even more urgently, the historiography of World War II itself. The analysis of the play reveals that due to the fragmented nature of trauma, understanding survivor testimony requires criteria beyond historical analysis. Thus, the essay argues, a dramatization of testimony could, through its unique bond between performer and audience, be the appropriate medium for saying the unsayable of traumatic history.
Leonie Ettinger is a Ph.D. candidate in the German Department at NYU. She holds an M.A. in Performance Studies from NYU's Tisch School of the Arts and a B.A. in Anthropology and Media from Goldsmiths, University of London. Leonie researches early 20th-century literature and Brechtian epic theater, Frankfurt School critical theory, cultural history, and psychoanalysis, particularly trauma studies. Her dissertation explores "crises of authority" in German Expressionist literature and drama. Her writing has been published in Marxism in the Age of Trump (2018) and the journal Expressionismus (2020). A forthcoming article will appear in Concept of Culture: New Directions in Conceptual History (2023). She is the recipient of NYU's 2019 Oustanding Teaching Award and the 2020 Alpine Fellowship Academic Writing Prize.