Academic journal article German Quarterly

Entering History: Feminist Dialogues in Irmtraud Morgner's Prose

Academic journal article German Quarterly

Entering History: Feminist Dialogues in Irmtraud Morgner's Prose

Article excerpt

Emde, Silke von der. Entering History: Feminist Dialogues in lrmtraud Morgner's Prose. Bern: Peter Lang, 2004. 260pp. $50.95 paperback.

It is always a pleasure to see another book on Irmtraud Morgner, whose reputation deserves to grow. This study centers on Morgner's feminist masterpiece Trobadora Beatriz. Emde pronounces Morgner "one of the most daring and radical aestheticians of her generation" (11) and identifies her ultimate goal as helping women enter history. She believes that Morgner's novel, which is extraordinarily innovative for a work published in 1974 in the German Democratic Republic, fits the definition of postmodernism. The first chapter discusses the reception of Trobadora Beatriz in the GDR, the FRG, and the U.S. The remaining three chapters situate Morgner in the context of contemporaneous aesthetic, literary, and feminist debate.

Chapter 1 shows that the early reception of Trobadora Beatriz was confused. Critics tried to assimilate Morgner to what they wanted her to be instead of reading her for what she was. The reader is left with the impression that Morgner has not been done justice and that critical attention, after nearly petering out, has barely started up again. Any attempt to call attention to the stellar accomplishments of lrmtraud Morgner is welcome, yet it is not exactly true that she is neglected. This survey of criticism stops in the early 1990s and, consequently, does not take into account books by Stephanie Hanel, Petra Waschescio, and other more recent Morgner scholarship.

The second chapter proposes that Morgner engaged with Critical Theory, in particular Horkheimer and Adorno's Diakktik der Aufklarung, in Trobadora Beatriz. A certain amount of textual evidence corroborates that Morgner knew or knew of Horkheimer and Adorno's theories. Emde shows that Morgner's novel reflects their critique of instrumental reason. Morgner's novel is then read as engaging in an argument with Adorno above all in two ways: first, in its paramount quest for female subjecthood; and second, in its adoption of a radically avant-garde, innovative, postmodern form, which does not correspond to Adorno's own aesthetic preferences. Whether Adorno's aesthetic theory really is such a large presence in this fanciful, humorous, inventive novel, and not just one of the many glittering objects with which magpie Morgner builds her nest, is a matter for debate. …

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