The Missing "Confessions of a Plagiarist": Intermedial Borrowings in Friedrich Dürrenmatt's Der Besuch der alten Dame (1956)

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Abstract

Friedrich Dürrenmatt’s works have long been recognized as including borrowings and intermedial references. While Dürrenmatt revealed various sources himself throughout his lifetime, not least in the provokingly entitled “Bekenntnisse eines Plagiators” (1952), the cinema of his time remained one notable omission. A contemporaneous American western, the Oscar-nominated Bad Day at Black Rock (directed by John Sturges; Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, USA, 1955), in particular, provides a fruitful line of inquiry within the context of Der Besuch der alten Dame (1956). Parallels between the play and the film include striking structural, compositional, and formal similarities, as well as shared socio-political concerns, which help uncover another source of Dürrenmatt’s masterpiece. This article reveals much about Dürrenmatt’s method of work, namely a playful use and creative reappropriation of sources, including blockbusters from American cinema.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)37-54
JournalSeminar
Volume56
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2020

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