Fanny Lewald and Nineteenth-Century Constructions of Femininity

Synopsis

Fanny Lewald (1811-1889) was one of the nineteenth century's best-selling German women writers and a recognized activist for women's rights. Twentieth-century scholarship has emphasized a gap between her progressive essays on the subject of the « woman question and her more traditional fiction, which appeared to perpetuate the stereotypes of middle-class women dominant in the discourses of her culture. This study, however, identifies strategies of dissent in Lewald's fiction as well. It examines the role of various discourses - such as medicine, law, education, and the family - as gender-producing agents in the nineteenth century and focuses on Lewald's textual collusion with and resistance to this process of production.