Gender and Humor in German Literature of the fin de siècle Public Deposited

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  • March 20, 2019
  • Ungar, Melanie
    • Affiliation: College of Arts and Sciences, Department of Germanic and Slavic Languages and Literatures
  • This dissertation explores the intersection of gender and humor in German-language literature of the fin de siècle. At the turn of the century, the German-speaking countries of central Europe experienced a surge of interest in humor theory as well as unprecedented feminist activity, making the relationship between humor and gender a fruitful area of study. However, most literary criticism on gender and humor published in the last forty years has focused on the gender of a humorous literary text’s author rather than how humor affects representations of gender within the text. This dissertation therefore examines literary works by decidedly non-feminist authors like Theodor Fontane, Thomas Mann, and Frank Wedekind as well as the feminist activist Hedwig Dohm and analyzes how humor works to influence gender representation in novels, short stories, dramas, and polemic essays. Ultimately this dissertation argues two main points: First, humor in literature of the fin de siècle often acts as a social leveler and creates a space in which men and women can prove themselves intellectual and moral equals. Second, humor in this literature often goes beyond depicting men and women simply as equals and challenges traditional and essentialist gender roles by exposing them as social constructs devoid of any “natural” foundation. In order to make these arguments, this dissertation engages with humor theory, classical to contemporary, as well as Judith Butler's theory of gender performativity.
Date of publication
Resource type
Rights statement
  • In Copyright
  • Gellen, Kata
  • Downing, Eric
  • Rasmussen, Ann Marie
  • Engelstein, Stefani
  • Koelb, Clayton
  • Doctor of Philosophy
Degree granting institution
  • University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Graduate School
Graduation year
  • 2016

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