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Title: Mutterherz: Motherhood and Dedifferentiation in German Realism
Authors: Brook, Mary Grayson Sterrett
Advisors: Nagel, Barbara N
Contributors: German Department
Keywords: containment
German literature
nineteenth-century literature
Subjects: German literature
Gender studies
Issue Date: 2023
Publisher: Princeton, NJ : Princeton University
Abstract: “Mutterherz: Motherhood and Dedifferentiation in German Realism” investigates why motherhood becomes a topos in German realist works from the period 1840-1895 by authors Adalbert Stifter, Theodor Storm, Theodor Fontane, and Annette von Droste-Hülshoff. Recent scholarship on German realism both observes containment structures as literary motifs within this canon and relies on metaphors of containment to clarify the contradictions and challenges of literary realism in the nineteenth-century German context. Crucially, these containment structures share a distinct porosity or weakness, often allowing for their own undoing. I take this process of “dedifferentiation” as the conceptual starting point for my investigation of motherhood and spatial structures within the German realist canon. This dissertation introduces the concept of “dedifferentiation” into aesthetics and tests its potential to gather forms, tones, and moods at the threshold of the representational catalog of German realism. Dedifferentiation assumes numerous spatial forms: the woven surface with no beginning or end, the landscape made up of overexposures, the anagram. What these (anti-)forms have in common is that they all eschew the promise of linearity and literality associated with the bloodline. Chapter 1 examines a regressive merging of the roles of mother and daughter as well as woven floral figures of dedifferentiation in Fontane’s Effi Briest, a ballad by Droste-Hülshoff, and in novellas by Storm and Stifter. Chapter 2 considers subjunctive fictions of “natural” motherhood that oppose realist fiction and the legal fiction of paternal adoption in Stifter’s Der Hagestolz. Chapter 3 examines disrupted genealogies and projections of the maternal body on the landscapes of Stifter’s paintings and in his novella Brigitta. The dissertation considers how expressions of kinships not yet recognized in the nineteenth century may disrupt a sense of realism and concludes with a reflection on the surrogacies and relations that create the horizon of possibility against which we conceptualize family in our own time.
Type of Material: Academic dissertations (Ph.D.)
Language: en
Appears in Collections:German

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