Female experiences of rape and hunger in postwar German literature, 1945-1960 Public Deposited

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  • March 22, 2022
  • Wieden, Anja
    • Affiliation: College of Arts and Sciences, Department of Germanic and Slavic Languages and Literatures
  • Female Experiences of Rape and Hunger in Postwar German Literature, 1945- 1960, traces the fundamental rubble experiences of rape and hunger as they course over time and through the genres of autobiography and fiction. This dissertation illuminates how literary forms unite, dissociate or displace female experiences in such a way that either female power is enacted or masculinist political reconstruction is facilitated. In the immediate postwar years, autobiographies became a popular genre for women to express their experiences of rape and hunger during and directly after the war. Anonyma’s Eine Frau in Berlin, written from April to June 1945, is of central interest to my analysis. The writer’s imagination of a postwar world is filtered through her starving and sexually abused body, resulting in what Anonyma describes as “Schreiben aus dem Bauch heraus.” Using humor to narrate her rape experience, the writer displays agency and control of her situation. Conversely, my dissertation also explores the recoding, appropriation and silencing of female experiences, prominently played out in fictional texts written and published alongside women’s autobiographies. These divergent representations resulted, in part, from what I first identify as the literary subordination of bodily experience to the primacy of political ideology around 1945. In the case of Anna Seghers’ “Die Saboteure” (1947), I illuminate the way anti-fascist prose preserves a link between female agency and the experience of hunger, but at the expense of silencing rape as an incisive wartime experience altogether. In the case of Gert Ledig’s Die Vergeltung (1956), I examine, how literary existentialism not only relativized women’s experiences of rape but also excluded the times and spaces of hunger. The dissertation then uncovers how narratives such as Das Brot der frühen Jahre (1955) and Der Tod in Rom (1954) appropriate the coupling of hunger and rape common among female autobiographies, but make them part of a man’s quest to come to terms with the past. Wartime experiences of women are almost entirely excluded in this literature. To further demonstrate this exclusion, I turn to Wolfgang Koeppen and Heinrich Böll, two writers of West Germany’s literary salon, Group 47, and examine how texts by these representatives of the Federal Republic of Germany’s leading literary institution claim corporeal economies of food and sex as exclusively (post-) fascist male experiences, transforming the conditions for female agency into post-fascist signs of the fascist man.
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  • In Copyright
  • "... in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in the Department of Germanic Languages and Literatures."
  • Langston, Richard
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  • Chapel Hill, NC
  • Open access

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