Academic journal article German Quarterly

Politiken des Wahnsinns. Weibliche Psychopathologie in Texten deutscher Autoren zwischen Spätaufklärung und Fin de siècle

Academic journal article German Quarterly

Politiken des Wahnsinns. Weibliche Psychopathologie in Texten deutscher Autoren zwischen Spätaufklärung und Fin de siècle

Article excerpt

Hauser, Claudia. Politiken des Wahnsinns. Weibliche Psychopathologie in Texten deutscher Autoren zwischen Spätaufklärung und Fin de siècle. Hildesheim: Olms, 2007. 412 pp. euro42.00 paperback.

As Gilbert and Gubar's groundbreaking The Madwoman in the Attic approaches its 30th anniversary, Claudia Hauser demonstrates that there is still more to say about women and madness. Politiken des Wahnsinns employs the concept of topos to explore how ten prose texts by better- and lesser-known women writers participated in the cultural production of madness from 1780 to 1895. Asking whether women's writing engaged in politics, which Hauser understands as "Vergehens- und Verhaltensweisen, die auf die Durchsetzung von bestimmten Zielen hin gerichtet sind" (22), the study concludes that, between the Enlightenment and the turn of the century, women writers increasingly functionalized and politicized madness in the interest of women's advancement.

Section One adresses texts from a period in which Hausen (1976) and Duden (1977) locate the starting point of a new gender order and the accompanying pathologization of women. Typical of Frauenromane in the wake of Das Fräulein von Sternheim, Eleonore Thon's Julie von Hirtenthal (1780-1783) and Therese Huber's Familie Seldorf (1795-1796) relate madness to moral failure. While both texts essentialize women's roles as wife, mother and housekeeper, Huber politicizes illness and madness by depicting them as "Effekte der Zerstörung der Familie und patriarchaler Ordnungsstrukturen sowie moralischen Versagens der Eliten" (122).

Section Two addresses three periods of the 19th century. In the conservative period of the early century, neither Karoline von Woltmann's Wahnsinn und Liebe (1806) nor two novels by Caroline de la Motte Fouqué, Rodrich (1806/1807) and Die blinde Führerin (1821), question women's traditional roles. Madness in these texts results from women's love and thus signifies both femininity and lack of emotional control. Mid-century activists Louise Aston and Louise Otto allowed their female protagonists to move beyond the traditional domestic circle. Moral-didactic interests and a resulting association between madness and lack of virtue situate Otto's Arm und Reich (1845), and Cäcilie Telville (1852), within the conservative tradition of the Frauenroman. In contrast, Aston's more progressive Lydia (1848) points to the middle-class ideal of femininity as a psychosocial cause of madness. At the end of the century, Gabriele Reuter 's Aus guter Familie ( 1 895) and Hedwig Dohm's Werde, die du bist ( 1 894) underscore a connection between women's (lack of) education and madness. …

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