Original Research

Die moderne self as toneelpop in Woyzeck on the Highveld

A. Krueger
Literator | Vol 32, No 2 | a12 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/lit.v32i2.12 | © 2011 A. Krueger | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 22 June 2011 | Published: 22 June 2011

About the author(s)

A. Krueger, Department Drama, Rhodes Universiteit, South Africa

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The modern self as puppet in Woyzeck on the Highveld

This article undertakes a semiotic investigation of identifications of the self in terms of a specifically South African modernism, via an exploration of an adaptation of Georg Büchner’s “Woyzeck”. William Kentridge’s production of “Woyzeck on the Highveld”(1992; 2009) marks at least three intersections of modernist and modernising discourses. Firstly, it uses as its principal source Georg Büchner’s protomodernist text, with its description of an individual alienated from his social context. Secondly, in making use of the puppets of the Handspring Puppet Company for its central characters, the play employs a style commensurate with modernist aesthetics, in terms of the objectification of subjectivity and the mechanisation of the subject. Thirdly, by re-contextualising Büchner’s German soldier as an African mineworker, the production deals with aspects of modernisation by examining the clash, confusion and concomitant syncretism of rural and urban cultures. The article concludes by identifying the all too human desire to be more than a puppet, more than machine, and the potential consequences of the fragmented modernist self on conceptions of identity and freedom.


Büchner; Georg; Freedom; Identity; Modernism


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