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Perspectives on Gender in Post-1945 German Literature

Perspectives on Gender in Post-1945 German Literature

Georgina Paul
Volume: 45
Copyright Date: 2009
Published by: Boydell and Brewer,
Pages: 268
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  • Book Info
    Perspectives on Gender in Post-1945 German Literature
    Book Description:

    Rooted in Enlightenment rationalism, modernity tends to privilege masculine-connoted characteristics -- conscious subjective agency, rational control and self-containment, the subjugation of nature -- and has generated a conceptualization of human subject

    eISBN: 978-1-57113-746-3
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Note on the Translations
    (pp. ix-x)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. 1-4)

    Throughout human history and in all forms of human society, the existence of two sexes and the social organization of their relationship to each other have generated a diversity of concepts and meanings, ideal characteristics and qualities, that come together in abbreviated form in the gender terms “masculine” and “feminine.” What masculinity and femininity mean in any given society is, among other things, mediated through culturally symbolic forms such as art, dance, music, and literature. This book is an investigation of gender as a culturally symbolic category in a sequence of major literary works by key German-language writers in the...

  6. Part I: Gender, Subjectivity, and the Cultural Critique of Modernity:: Twentieth-Century Perspectives

    • 1: Gender, Subjectivity, and Cultural Critique from the Fin de Siècle to Fascism
      (pp. 7-34)

      In 1911, the Berlin sociologist and cultural commentator Georg Simmel published an essay entitled “Weibliche Kultur” (Female Culture). Written against the background of the increasing public impact of the women’s movement and widespread debate on the so-called “Woman Question,” Simmel’s essay set out to consider the specific contribution that women might be expected to make to the shaping of human culture in the future. The objective manifestations of culture had — on this point he was unequivocal — hitherto been exclusively the creation of men: “It is men who have created art and industry, science and commerce, the state and religion.”¹ The...

    • 2: The Post-1945 Crisis of Enlightenment and the Emergence of the “Other” Sex
      (pp. 35-64)

      “Humanity had to inflict terrible injuries on itself before the self — the identical, purpose-directed, masculine character of human beings — was created, and something of this process is repeated in every childhood,” wrote Max Horkheimer and Theodor W. Adorno in the Dialectic of Enlightenment.¹ It has been generally rather little acknowledged that Horkheimer and Adorno’s post-Holocaust analysis of the disaster that had engulfed the historical and cultural project of the Enlightenment is couched quite specifically as a critique of the masculine traits that had come to define the concept of human subjectivity in European modernity. At the center of the Dialectic...

  7. Part II: Readings in Post-1945 German Literature

    • 3: Challenging Masculine Subjectivity: Ingeborg Bachmann’s Malina
      (pp. 67-95)

      Since its publication in 1971, the Austrian writer Ingeborg Bachmann’s Malina has come to be regarded as a classic, perhaps even the classic representation of the problematics of gender identity and gender relations in post-Holocaust German-language literature. This formally highly innovative novel (if it can be called a novel at all)¹ presents the story of a female character Ich,² who inhabits the continuous present of heute (today). Ich’s existence is played out in the tension between two male characters, her lover, Ivan, and the enigmatic Malina with whom she shares her apartment. Appearing at first to be Ich’s husband or...

    • 4: From His Point of View: Max Frisch’s Mein Name sei Gantenbein
      (pp. 96-122)

      More than any other German-language writer of the 1950s and 1960s, the Swiss writer Max Frisch is identified with the representation of the problems of masculine identity in the period of societal restoration following the end of the Second World War. His reputation in this respect is based above all on three prose works: Stiller (1954), Homo faber (1957), and Mein Name sei Gantenbein (1964). The subject of this chapter is the last and, in terms of its narrative structure, most complex of these works, read both on its own terms and as a partner-text to Bachmann’s Malina for its...

    • 5: The Critique of Instrumental Reason: Max Frisch’s Homo faberand Christa Wolf’s Störfall
      (pp. 123-152)

      While Max Frisch’s 1964 novel Mein Name sei Gantenbein reveals the continuing investment of the bourgeois male author/subject in a form of subjectivity based on phallic control and (self-) mastery, a rather earlier work by Frisch, the 1957 novel Homo faber, adopts a more critical and more effectively ironic stance on the fantasies of mastery — both of self and of the natural world — underpinning the Enlightenment construction of the de facto male/masculine subject. This chapter looks at Frisch’s Homo faber alongside a later work, Christa Wolf’s 1987 novel Störfall, written in response to the nuclear reactor explosion at Chernobyl in...

    • 6: Pathologies: Elfriede Jelinek’s Die Klavierspielerin and Rainald Goetz’s Irre
      (pp. 153-188)

      Elfriede Jelinek’s Die Klavierspielerin (The Piano Teacher) and Rainald Goetz’s Irre (Crazy) were both published in 1983. As literary products of the early 1980s, they are exemplary of an intensified phase in the questioning of the Enlightenment conceptualization of selfhood and social order in the aftermath of the 1968 movement and the rise of the new feminism in the 1970s. The decade and a half before their publication was characterized by an extraordinary wave of critical-theoretical activity in Western Europe and the United States, corresponding in the intellectual arena to what Peter Wagner terms the “de-conventionalization” of social practices.¹ Two...

    • 7: End Visions: Heiner Müller’s Die Hamletmaschine and Christa Wolf’s Kassandra
      (pp. 189-221)

      The final two chapters of this study form a single thematic sequence, the focus of which is the relation of the gendered author to the inherited literary and cultural tradition. This chapter looks at two works that revisit and revise mythical figures from the Western cultural tradition from a contemporary perspective: Heiner Müller’s 1977 performance text¹ Die Hamletmaschine (The Hamletmachine) and Christa Wolf’s 1983 prose narrative Kassandra (Cassandra). Müller’s treatment of Hamlet, as the type of the introspective male intellectual subject, represents in extreme form the crisis in masculine subjectivity and authorship in the post-1945 period that has been one...

    • 8: Beyond the Impasse?: Barbara Köhler’s “Elektra. Spiegelungen”
      (pp. 222-236)

      Questioned about her poem-cycle “Elektra. Spiegelungen” (Electra. Mirrorings) in an interview recorded in 1993, Barbara Köhler said: “Perhaps the whole cycle was a commentary on, a mirroring of Die Hamletmaschine.” In the same interview, she describes the work as an attempt “to escape the murder-machinery,” and as having more to do with the work of mourning (Trauerarbeit) than with (by implication Müller’s) vendetta.¹

      The texts that make up the cycle “Elektra. Spiegelungen,” written between 1984 and early 1985, are among the earliest in Köhler’s first collection, Deutsches Roulette (1991),² and so stand at the very inception of her oeuvre. It...

  8. Bibliography
    (pp. 237-250)
  9. Index
    (pp. 251-258)
  10. Back Matter
    (pp. 259-259)