Childhood memories in women's autobiographical writings of the 1970s and 1980s / by Norgard Klages
Includes bibliographical references (p. -215)
Using a feminist psychoanalytical approach, the dissertation investigates the nature of mother-child and father-child relationships as well as the impact of the Holocaust as presented in autobiographical writings of the last two decades. In my analysis, I draw on Nancy Chodorow's and Jessica Benjamin's theories of child development. Their discussions emphasize that the female self is formed by connecting to rather than separating from others. Women's accounts of their childhood memories therefore are especially linked to memories of their mothers and fathers. The focus of their autobiographical writings is not an individual self but how this self is connected to others. Girls who are exclusively raised by women develop blurred ego boundaries, a condition often illustrated in the autobiographical accounts written by women. The relationship between fathers and daughters is depicted as highly disturbed. Women's autobiographical writings depict a fatherless society: as a result of the break-down of the Third Reich fathers have lost their authority within the public domain. To compensate, they attempt to establish an even more dominant role within the family. The fathers' emotional distance from their daughters and their negligence towards their daughters often involves physical and sexual abuse. The daughters/authors reveal not only the dysfunctional structures of their families but also reject the way Germans have dealt with the political past. While some authors are also able to admit their own guilt and thus break out of the dichotomy of victim and perpetrator, others address the inability of Germans to mourn the crimes of the Third Reich. Through their writings they create what Eric Santner has called an "empathic environment" which makes it possible to break the melancholic cycle and engage in the necessary discourse of mourning. The works discussed are: Brigitte Schwaiger, Wie kommt das Salz ins Meer, Elisabeth Plessen, Mitteilung an den Adel; Angelika Mechtel, Wir sind arm wir sind reich; Karin Reschke, Memoiren eines Kindes; Ruth Rehmann, Der Mann auf der Kanzel; Eva Zeller, Solange ich denden kann; Cordelia Edvardson, Gebranntes Kind sucht das Feuer.
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