Academic journal article German Quarterly

Schwellenüberschreitungen: Politik in der Literatur von deutschsprachigen Frauen 1780-1918

Academic journal article German Quarterly

Schwellenüberschreitungen: Politik in der Literatur von deutschsprachigen Frauen 1780-1918

Article excerpt

Bland, Caroline, and Elisa Müller-Adams, eds. Schwellenüberschreitungen: Politik in der Literatur von deutschsprachigen Frauen 1780-1918. Bielefeld: Aisthesis, 2007. 293 pp. euro39.80 paperback.

The thirteen contributions in this book all address the question as to how women writers thematized women's real or potential influence on society in their roles as citizens, wives, lovers, mothers, or daughters. They consider the issue of transcending norms (e.g., of the female image), expectations (e.g., as to the purpose of a genre) or spaces (domestic but also national space) by analyzing specific texts by a wide range of authors. A thoroughly referenced introduction by the editors provides an overview of the current research on the topic and a summary of all the contributions. The three sections of the volume deal with authors through the whole spectrum of the period. Though this is limited to roughly 150 years, the depth of analysis and breadth of discussion of some of the contributions can be compared to the initial standard reference works on women's writing by Hildegard Gnüg, Renate Möhrmann, Barbara BeckerCantarino and Gisela Brinker-Gabler.

Fittingly, Becker-Cantarino's contribution on women's voice on sexuality (with particular reference to Thérèse Forster-Huber and Brendel / Dorothea Veit-Schlegel) heads the volume's first section, "Schwellenüberschreitungen in der Geschlechterpolitik." It demonstrates that women writers of the period were acutely aware and made creative use of their particular place as a "Subjekt als diskursives Produkt im Schnittpunkt von Machtbeziehungen und nach Prinzipien der Selbstsorge"(29). Becker- ( !an tarino 's article as well as a second one in this section, Isabelle Stauffer's "Trasgressive Inszenierungen von Geschlecht bei Annette KoIb und Franziska zu Reventlow," found their arguments on the concept that gender is a discursive product (Michel Foucault / Judith Butler). This approach leads to closely-argued, convincing case-studies and significant contributions to the scholarship on these writers.

The other articles in this first section provide overviews rather than detailed analyses. Nancy C. Richardson writes on Helene Böhlau whose work has more recently been reprinted and included in collections. Richardson discusses how a brutal act of one woman (Isolde, in Halbtier) as a reaction to a lifetime of male repression is meant to be read as a political gesture by all suppressed women and as a moment of liberation. She conflates author and narrator and the argumentation therefore remains in the realm of divining authorial intention; she concludes with a condemnation of the society at the time (late nineteenth century) which made it exceedingly difficult for women to write satisfactory solutions to the predicaments in which they found themselves. By contrast, Caroline de la Motte Fouqué is an author who is hardly accessible in print today, but the topic of disguise and cross-dressing, which Julia Bertschik addresses, has already been convincingly researched (see, for example, Kerstin Wilhelms, 2000). The proposed link between cross-dressing and "formalästhetische" qualities (58) in La Motte Fouqué's writing remains somewhat opaque. Any discussion of aesthetic qualities is in fact completely absent from Elin Nesje Vestli's commentary on the opportunities marriage provides women with in a number of htstspiele by the Princess Amalie of Saxony. The reader is thus left wondering how Vestii defines categories she uses, for example "beste Stücke" (78), and in which direction future research on the princess's work should be directed.

In the second section, "Schwellenüberschreitungen und fiktionales Schreiben," Heike Steinhorst and Sabine Schmidt deliberately put aside aesthetic considerations in their analyses of texts by Helene Unger and Kathinka Zitz-Halein, respectively. Both women are examined as paradigmatic figures for the way in which writers were able to assert the validity of their own lives as women. …

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