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Women and Death 3

Women and Death 3: Women's Representations of Death in German Culture since 1500

Clare Bielby
Anna Richards
Copyright Date: 2010
Edition: NED - New edition
Published by: Boydell and Brewer,
Pages: 234
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  • Book Info
    Women and Death 3
    Book Description:

    In Western culture, women are often linked with death, perhaps because they are traditionally constructed as an unknowable "other." The first two Women and Death volumes investigate ideas about death and the feminine as represented in German culture since 1500, focusing, respectively, on the representation of women as victims and killers and the idea of the woman warrior, and confirming that women who kill or die violent or untimely deaths exercise fascination even as they pose a threat. The traditions of representation traced in the first two volumes, however, are largely patriarchal. What happens when it is women who produce the representations? Do they debunk or reject the dominant discourses of sexual fascination around women and death? Do they replace them with more sober or "realistic" representations, with new forms, modes, and language? Or do women writers and artists, inescapably bound up in patriarchal tradition, reproduce its paradigms? This third volume in the series investigates these questions in ten essays written by an international group of expert scholars. It will be of interest to scholars and students of German literature and culture, gender studies, and film studies. Contributors: Judith Aikin, Barbara Becker-Cantarino, Jill Bepler, Stephanie Bird, Abigail Dunn, Stephanie Hilger, Elisabeth Krimmer, Aine McMurtry, Simon Richter, Helen Watanabe-O'Kelly. Clare Bielby is Lecturer in German at the University of Hull. Anna Richards is Lecturer in German at Birkbeck College, University of London.

    eISBN: 978-1-57113-710-4
    Subjects: Language & Literature, History, Sociology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-x)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. 1-11)
    Clare Bielby and Anna Richards

    The frequent association of women with death in Western culture has received a great deal of critical attention. But the cultural representations under scrutiny have typically been representations produced by men, and critics have primarily been interested in the masculinist, sometimes misogynistic, assumptions that motivate them.¹ It has been argued, for example, that the alignment of women with death can be attributed to the “unknowable” quality of each for the male sex. Elisabeth Bronfen explains that representing the death of a woman, or death as a woman, allows male writers and artists at once to express the threatening and fascinating...

  6. 1: Practicing Piety: Representations of Women’s Dying in German Funeral Sermons of the Early Modern Period
    (pp. 12-30)
    Jill Bepler

    This essay focuses on a highly popular and specifically German mass phenomenon from the early modern period that helped establish stereotypes for the representation of ordinary women confronting death: the “Leichenpredigt” or funeral book. In the following, I want to examine what models of women dying these texts provided and how women themselves embraced these stereotypes and engaged in their construction, thereby gaining a degree of agency in the way in which they were represented to posterity. Their reading and writing played a role in forming those representations. The need to bear witness, which dominated accounts of confrontations with sickness,...

  7. 2: “Ich sterbe”: The Construction of the Dying Self in the Advance Preparations for Death of Lutheran Women in Early Modern Germany
    (pp. 31-50)
    Judith P. Aikin

    The rhetorical question “Wer weiß, wie nahe mir mein Ende?” (Who knows how near my end may be?) functions as the first line of a seventeenth-century song preparing for death that is still included in today’s Lutheran hymnal. The text’s author was Aemilia Juliana, Countess of Schwarzburg-Rudolstadt, consort of the ruler of a small Thuringian principality.¹ Since its first inclusion in a hymnal in 1687, innumerable women (and men) have incorporated this song into their sickbed and deathbed activities, and Johann Sebastian Bach loved this hymn so much that he made it the textual basis for several chorales.² The sentiments...

  8. 3: The “New Mythology”: Myth and Death in Karoline von Günderrode’s Literary Work
    (pp. 51-70)
    Barbara Becker-Cantarino

    Myth and death are at the center of the poetic works of Karoline von Günderrode (1780–1806). In her last collection, entitledMelete von Jon(Melete by Jon, 1806) — dedicated to the “Muse des sinnigen Daseyns — die auf hohe Lieder sinnt” (the muse of sensuous being, who ponders high songs)¹ — the lead poem deals with the death of Adonis. In the funeral elegy “Adonis Todtenfeyer” (Memorial for Adonis) we read:

    Wehe! Dass der Gott auf Erden

    Sterblich musst geboren werden!

    Alles wandelt und vergehet

    Morgen sinkt, was heute stehet;

    Was jetzt schön und herrlich steiget

    Bald sich hin zum Staube...

  9. 4: The Murderess on Stage: Christine Westphalen’s Charlotte Corday (1804)
    (pp. 71-87)
    Stephanie Hilger

    July 13, 1793. Charlotte Corday. Jean-Paul Marat. Invoking these two names in conjunction with the date conjures up the most famous representation of the assassinated Jacobin leader: Jacques Louis David’s painting of Marat in his bathtub, dead, naked, a letter in his hand, and blood dripping from his wound.¹ This image has become part of European cultural memory of the years following the French Revolution. The assassin and the victim have both turned into mythical figures that have captured the imagination to the present day. This mythologization began not only with visual representations, but also with the poems, novels, and...

  10. 5: “Ob im Tode mein Ich geboren wird?”: The Representation of the Widow in Hedwig Dohm’s “Werde, die du bist” (1894)
    (pp. 88-100)
    Abigail Dunn

    Hedwig Dohm’s short story, “Werde, die du bist” (Become Who You Are), published in 1894, is a moving account of widowhood and old age.¹ For a nineteenth-century bourgeois German woman, Dohm lived a seemingly ordinary life for many years. She married at the age of twenty-four, bore four daughters, and was a housewife to her husband, the editor and publisher Ernst Dohm. On 5 February 1883 Ernst died of a heart attack and Hedwig Dohm’s thirty-six-year widowhood began. As Ruth-Ellen Boetcher Joeres argues, during her widowhood, Dohm’s difference from other bourgeois German women of the period emerged.² Not only did...

  11. 6: The Figure of Judith in Works by German Women Writers between 1895 and 1921
    (pp. 101-115)
    Helen Watanabe-O’Kelly

    The Judith story familiar to us today is from the apocryphal Book of Judith in the Septuagint or Greek Old Testament, which is based on an earlier tale probably from the third century BCE.¹ The key elements of the story are that Judith is a beautiful and chaste widow who saves the besieged city of Bethulia from conquest by the Assyrians under Nebuchadnezar’s rule by going to the enemy camp, accompanied by her maid Abra, and killing their general Holofernes in his sleep. When she brings Holofernes’ head back to Bethulia, her fellow citizens are emboldened to sally forth and...

  12. 7: Lola Doesn’t: Cinema, Jouissance, and the Avoidance of Murder and Death
    (pp. 116-133)
    Simon Richter

    Lola is a cinematic anomaly. What makes a given Lola “Lola” is her cinegenic name. By this I mean a name that engenders a profusion of films, each featuring a character who bears the name and shares key characteristics. Lola is unique in this regard. There is no other name as prolific in film history. In an ongoing series of some twenty films so far, beginning with Joseph von Sternberg’sDer blaue Engel(The Blue Angel, 1930),¹ Lola has come to designate an individual, usually a singer and dancer, whose persistent and self-confident sexuality understood as pleasure — her pleasure — provokes...

  13. 8: Death, Being, and the Place of Comedy in Representations of Death
    (pp. 134-151)
    Stephanie Bird

    In secular thought, religious understandings of death as a transition to a new life, as a stage within a morally meaningful process, function as cultural narratives that, as well as offering a foundation for a particular ethical system, also provide a comfort of sorts: death is not final, and the meaning of life is not defined by the bare, finite life of the body. It is fascinating to observe, then, how many modern philosophers are unwilling to understand death as simply the biological demise of an individual organism, part of the ethically indifferent natural process of reproduction and evolution. Thus,...

  14. 9: “Liebe ist ein Kunstwerk”: The Appeal to Gaspara Stampa in Ingeborg Bachmann’s Todesarten
    (pp. 152-173)
    Áine McMurtry

    Peter Hamm’s response set the tone for many reviews ofIch weiß keine bessere Welt(I Know of No Better World).¹ Published as a collection in 2000, these poetic drafts were written by Ingeborg Bachmann during a period of personal crisis that followed the breakdown of her relationship with Max Frisch in 1962 and his publication of the semi-autobiographicalMein Name sei Gantenbein(Gantenbein: A Novel) in 1964.² Bachmann identified aspects of her own person in the female protagonist of this novel and felt its appropriation of her intimate experience as a kind of murder. References to death recur throughout...

  15. 10: TV Nation: The Representation of Death in Warfare in Works by Peter Handke and Elfriede Jelinek
    (pp. 174-192)
    Elisabeth Krimmer

    In her studyThis Republic of Suffering: Death and the American Civil War, Drew Gilpin Faust investigates social and political changes in the reality and representation of death during the Civil War era. Although Faust does not dispute the universal nature of death, she is acutely aware that, in spite of its universality, “death has its discontinuities.”¹ Technological innovations and changing social formations have a profound impact on our experience and perception of death. While Faust discusses the cultural repercussions of the staggering death toll of the Civil War, this essay focuses on the socio-political conditions that determine the perception...

  16. Works Cited
    (pp. 193-212)
  17. Notes on the Contributors
    (pp. 213-216)
  18. Index
    (pp. 217-224)
  19. Back Matter
    (pp. 225-225)