The Feminization of Dr. Faustus: Female Identity Quests from Stendhal to Morgner

The Feminization of Dr. Faustus: Female Identity Quests from Stendhal to Morgner

The Feminization of Dr. Faustus: Female Identity Quests from Stendhal to Morgner

The Feminization of Dr. Faustus: Female Identity Quests from Stendhal to Morgner

Synopsis

"While the decline of the male hero in nineteenth- and twentieth-century literature is usually studied in isolation, Druxes uses a major manifestation of this phenomenon - the failing power of the Faust myth - as an interpretive lens through which to illuminate the corresponding rise in the viability of female Faustian heroes or would-be heroes. Her study of the female Faust figure in the realist novels of Stendhal, Gauthier, Keller, James, and the contemporary writer Morgner is further unusual in that she carries out her analyses both against the background of the sociohistorical factors conditioning these female figures and with reference to the mutual interaction of plot and novel form. Since nineteenth-century writers make female subjectivity the arena in which the conflicts of male subjecthood are debated, their attempts to create female versions of the heroic quest for self-knowledge speak not only to the crisis of the male model but also to the crisis of the realistic novel. Using psychoanalytic theory and French feminist and deconstructionist theory, Helga Druxes shows how the female Faustian quest for worldly knowledge and subjecthood develops a new concept of identity that takes its social constructedness into account, and she demonstrates some of the transgressive narrative strategies which male and female writers have employed, embodying their dissent not only in the creation of a female Faust but in their visions of an authentic female desire for selfhood and socially regenerative female bonding." Title Summary field provided by Blackwell North America, Inc. All Rights Reserved

Excerpt

Sie bedurfte das Wunderbare und Geheimniβvolle, aber in der Sinnenwelt, in Leben und Schicksal, in der üuβern wechselvollen Erscheinung.

Der grüne Heinrich

[She needed the wonderful and the mysterious, but as it manifested itself in the world of the senses, in life and in fate, in its external ever-changing appearance.]

One of the characteristics of the Faust figure is a thirst for the metaphysical behind the physical. Marlowe's and Goethe's Fausts enter into pacts with the devil to escape the sameness of the physical world that surrounds them. They want to change, to explore territories unknown to man, and through their search for scientific knowledge, to obtain the power to transcend their mortality, their Erdgebundenheit ["bondage to the earth"].

Since the eighteenth century, the desire for knowledge has become increasingly associated with the quest for self-knowledge, and since the middle of the nineteenth century this desire has ceased to be an exclusively male domain. As male Faust figures fail in their quests for transcendence, female Faust figures emerge. Keller's Frau Margreth has metaphysical aspirations that parody those of the traditional male Faust. She seeks a concrete manifestation of the metaphysical in external appearances and ignores the realm of pure spirituality.

Lamiel seems to suffer a similar enslavement to life's outward appearances, although her quest for knowledge is not hampered by mysticism like Frau Margreth's. Instead, she seeks to free herself from the constraints of a hierarchical bourgeois society through continual metamorphosis. Lamiel . . .

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