German, German Literature and Culture, German Studies

New translation published: «Stella: A Play for Lovers» (1776) by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

«This new translation of Goethe’s original version of Stella introduces contemporary English-speaking audiences to his audacious play. Goethe wrote at a time when Romantic ideals of freedom, family, and love were first gaining expression. Still, he challenges gender relations and asks what the desire for intimacy between two women means in depicting a ménage à trois.» (Dr. Alice Kuzniar, University Research Chair, Professor of German and English, University of Waterloo)

This theater-worthy translation of Goethe’s Stella makes the complete first (1776) version of this emotionally complex drama available for the first time to English-speaking readers. The book’s accessible and engaging introduction contextualizes the drama in its national and international contexts, while the appendix documents the substantial changes made by Goethe in 1806 version. In Gustafson’s and Becker’s lively and accurate translation, Stella will continue to delight and challenge contemporary readers and audiences.» (Eleanor ter Horst, Associate Professor and Chair, Department of Modern and Classical Languages and Literature, University of South Alabama)

«This elegant, lively translation of Goethe’s Stella includes a ménage à trois, removed from a later version. The reader is introduced to women discovering love for one man and their own shared passion. Ideal for future productions, this translation rescues a controversial play for a new audience.» (Eve Moore, Associate Professor of German, Kenyon College)

Goethe’s play Stella (1776) caused so much turmoil in Germany that it was retracted from the stage. In England, it was portrayed as evidence of lesser German values because of its portrayal of a ménage à trois. This new translation provides an introduction exploring the reception of the play in Germany and England, scholarly interpretations of the play, and the portions that were left out in earlier translations. The introduction also outlines the major questions the play highlights: Why do the two women, Stella and Cecilia, ultimately accept the ménage à trois? Can they trust Fernando, who flirts with every woman he meets? Do women and men conceive of marriage and loving commitments differently? Do the women agree to the ménage à trois because it is the only way they can be together as friends or as lovers? In addition, this translation has an appendix that outlines all of the changes (over 100) that Goethe made in 1806 in order to get the play back on stage. A useful resource for students, teachers, and scholars alike, this translation sheds new light on Goethe’s classic play.

Available for purchase here.

Susan E. Gustafson is the Karl F. and Bertha A. Fuchs Professor of German Studies at the University of Rochester. Her research interests include eighteenth- and nineteenth-century German literature, women’s studies, gender studies, and translation. Her scholarship has focused on non-traditional representations of love and families including same-sex relationships, adoptive families, and all families coming together through love and not determined by social mandates.

Kristina Becker Malett is Assistant Professor of Instruction at the University of Rochester. She received her master’s in Education and American Studies at the Free University and Humboldt University Berlin. She taught for several years in the Berlin school system. She also taught German-language courses at the Eastman School of Music 2008–2017 and has been teaching German in the Department of Modern Languages at the University of Rochester since 2010.

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