Schiller's Children : Ulrike Meinhof and the Terrorist Performative

Leith Passmore

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


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.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)15-25
JournalLilith: a feminist history journal
Publication statusPublished - 2007


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