Research about Susan Glaspell

New York Public Library | Foto: H. Bochert

In April 2022, I was fortunate to receive a Godsched grant from the German Translators Fund (DÜF) to research Susan Glaspell’s work in the U.S. Glaspell was an important American modernist writer who wrote numerous short prose pieces, theater plays, and a number of novels more than on hundred years ago, laying the foundation for very important creative work to follow. She is most remembered for founding and leading the Provincetown Players (together with her husband George Cram Cook). This theater company set themselves no lesser goal than to found the American drama. Like never before, Glaspell was able to artistically experiment with the Players to create some of the most significant American plays – and short prose works – of her time. After the death of Cook in 1924, she almost exclusively focussed on writing novels. Her work is largely unknown in Germany, a circumstance new translations will change.

The Berg Collection

In the Berg and the Arents Collections of the New York Public Library, I had an opportunity to view and read some of Glaspell’s originals. To be in intimate contact with her manuscripts and typescripts, her notes and handwriting, have insight in her speeches and her work with the Federal Theater Project (an astonishing government relief program of the 1930s that I first learned about here) brought her much closer to me as a person, too.

Another part of my research was meeting and talking with Glaspell scholars like J. Ellen Gainor in Ithaca, Patricia Bryan in Chapel Hill, and with Martha Carpentier. My thanks goes out to all of them for their warm and abundant support. Their publications provided helpful access to and valuable insight in the context of Susan Glaspell’s writing. These encounters and discussions made Glaspell’s choice of the subject matter as well as the political context of her writing much more transparent.

At the same time in March and April, my colleague Anna Opel was in New York with the same DÜF grant, researching for her publication on Judith Malina, founder of the Living Theatre. Our exchange about our work was a special treat.

Great thanks goes to the German Translators Fund, the Deutscher Übersetzerfonds, for making this possible in the first place. Furthermore, the fund now supported the translation and publication of a few of Glaspell’s narrations with another grant to round off my occupation with this important writer with a publically relevant result.

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