Dorfman at Duke

Playwright and novelist celebrates twenty-five years
January 31, 2010

A commemoration of playwright, novelist, essayist, human-rights activist, and Chilean exile Ariel Dorfman's twenty-five year association with Duke began this fall and will continue through the end of the academic year with film screenings, theatrical programs, and an academic conference on Dorfman's work.

Dorfman, Walter Hines Page Professor of literature and Latin American studies, was forced into exile following a military coup in his native Chile in 1973. He is perhaps best known for his play Death and the Maiden, which details the brutalities of a dictatorial regime in an unnamed Latin American country.

In October, Duke theater studies lecturing fellow Jay O'Berski performed a staged reading of Dorfman's play Picasso's Closet, and in November, the Nasher Museum of Art hosted a benefit dinner, the proceeds of which went to support three local organizations working with literacy and human rights.

Duke University Press is publishing a book by one of Dorfman's former students, Sophia A. McClennen A.M. '92, Ph.D. '96, who is now an associate professor of comparative literature, Spanish, and women's studies at the Pennsylvania State University. Ariel Dorfman: An Aesthetics of Hope is scheduled for release in February.

In January, McClennen will convene an academic conference at Duke on Dorfman's work in conjunction with Duke University Press' reprinting of his book The Empire's Old Clothes, originally published in 1983.

This spring the Screen/Society will show a series of Dorfman's films, including the 1994 adaptation of Death and the Maiden; the drama Prisoners in Time, which he wrote with his son Rodrigo Dorfman '89; and the documentary A Promise to the Dead: The Exile Journey of Ariel Dorfman.