TitleThe politics of ambiguity
NameSteele, Rebecca Elaine (author), Helfer, Martha (chair), Levine, Michael (internal member), Ciklamini, Marlene (internal member), Downing, Eric (outside member), Rutgers University, Graduate School - New Brunswick,
German literature--19th century--History and criticism,
Women in literature
DescriptionMy dissertation investigates the tension between political inertia and change in early 19th-century German-language texts through the representation of the female androgynous title figure. My analysis includes other border figures--political, geographical, temporal, epistemological, and aesthetic Grenzfiguren--which are all formulated in terms of the feminine in these texts. I argue that while each text attempts to contain the androgynous, emancipated or emancipating woman and by extension tries to stabilize the other ambiguous border figures, every attempt at containment is undermined by the text itself, thereby demonstrating that political stasis is neither possible nor desirable. Thus, women's emancipation is inextricably linked to political progress.
Paradoxically, the numerous literary representations of strong, independent, and politically successful women in German-language literature of the early 19th century stand in stark contrast to contemporaneous theoretical discussions of gender that declared women to be naturally weak, subservient, and only suited for wifehood and motherhood. These literary representations call natural or essential femininity into question, thereby challenging the social and political mechanisms that kept women contained in the private sphere. This paradox informs my reading of Friedrich Schiller's Maria Stuart (1800), Johann Wolfgang von Goethe's Die natürliche Tochter (1803), Friedrich Hebbel's Judith (1841), and Adalbert Stifter's Brigitta (1844/1847). Each of these texts was written in and is historically situated at a time of political upheaval and change. My analysis uncovers an intimate connection between the strategies used to contain these transgressive women and to stabilize the political volatility present in each text.
NoteIncludes bibliographical references (p. 262-281)
Noteby Rebecca Elaine Steele
CollectionGraduate School - New Brunswick Electronic Theses and Dissertations
RightsThe author owns the copyright to this work.