The ‘New’ Hamburg Dramaturgy: Translation as Scholarship in the Digital Age

Wendy Arons, Professor of Dramatic Literature, Carnegie Mellon University and Natalya Baldyga, Instructor in History and Social Science, Phillips Academy Andover

In our current fast-paced era of scholarship and publication, it is increasingly rare for academics to have the opportunity to spend years engaged in the deep study of a single, highly complex work. The new translation of G. E. Lessing’s Hamburg Dramaturgy  provided such an opportunity: the act of translation served as a humanities analog to “basic science” research. In their talk on the new translation, Wendy Arons and Natalya Baldyga illuminate the joys and perils encountered in their seven-year journey of discovery that began with a cup of coffee – a journey that included plunges down quirky research rabbit-holes as well as deep dives into archival material that challenge prevailing views regarding the form and function of Lessing’s text. Arons and Baldyga will also discuss the ways this project was enhanced and enabled by digital technologies, making the new Hamburg Dramaturgy a product of both the eighteenth and twenty-first centuries.


Wendy Arons is professor of drama at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, PA, USA. Her research interests include performance and ecology, 18th- and 19th-century theatre history, feminist theatre, and performance and ethnography. She is author of Performance and Femininity in Eighteenth-Century German Woman's Writing: The Impossible Act (Palgrave Macmillan 2006), and co-editor, with Theresa J. May, of Readings in Performance and Ecology (Palgrave Macmillan 2012). She is also co-translator, with Sara Figal, of a new edition of G. E. Lessing’s Hamburg Dramaturgy, edited by Natalya Baldyga, which received the 2018 ATHE/ASTR Award for Excellence in Digital Scholarship (Routledge 2018; also available online at She writes regularly about theater and culture in her blog, “The Pittsburgh Tatler” (




Natalya Baldyga, teaches in the Department of History and Social Science at Phillips Academy, Andover. She has taught theatre history, theory, and performance at Tufts University, the Florida State University, and Gustavus Adolphus College. Her research focuses on theatre historiography, cultural identity, and the performing body in eighteenth-century Europe. Dr. Baldyga’s published essays include “Sensate Cognition and Properly Feeling Bodies: G. E. Lessing, Acting Theory, and Emotional Regulation in Eighteenth-Century Germany” (Theatre Survey 2017), as well as articles on eighteenth-century German, English, and Polish theatre in journals, anthologies, and encyclopedias. In 2018, she and her colleagues Wendy Arons and Sara Figal received the Excellence in Digital Scholarship Award from the Association for Theatre in Higher Education (ATHE) and the American Society for Theatre Research (ASTR) for the online version of their new translation of G. E. Lessing’s Hamburg Dramaturgy (Routledge 2018). Dr. Baldyga also works as a freelance theatre director and translator. Her original translation and adaptation of Carlo Gozzi’s King Stag had its world premiere at Tufts University in 2017. 



This colloquium is co-sponsored by the Department of Germanic Languages and Literatures, the Department of Comparative Literature, and the 18th Century Salon.