Mistaken identity in Wilhelmine, Weimar, and Nazi film / by Valerie Aviva Weinstein.
This dissertation argues that narratives of mistaken identity in Wilhelmine, Weimar, and Nazi films express the anxieties and pleasures of a perceived erosion of traditional identities while reinforcing firm identity categories and the boundaries between them. Analyses of Schuhpalast Pinkus (Ernst Lubitsch, 1916), Die Austernprinzessin (Lubitsch, 1919), Ich möchte kein Mann sein (Lubitsch, 1919), Das alte Gesetz (E. A. Dupont 1923), Alraune (Henrik Galeen, 1928), Metropolis (Fritz Lang, 1927), Spione (Lang, 1928), Glückskinder (Paul Martin, 1936), Capriccio (Karl Ritter, 1938), and Jud Süß (Veit Harlan, 1940) demonstrate that the dissolution of boundaries staged in films of mistaken identity interact with contemporary discourses of Jewish assimilation, mass production, horror, degeneracy, Americanism, the New Woman, and mass culture. Both the discourses and the films accuse industrial modernization and shifting social structures of rendering objects and people more alike, of making social differences more difficult to recognize by visual signs. The trope of mistaken identity in these films represents Jews, women, workers, criminals, monsters, and robots as no longer visually marked; these figures embody both seduction and horror within filmic narratives that attempt to negotiate the perceived instabilities of modernity, often by reaffirming the categories and reerecting the boundaries that the figures appear to transgress. Lubitsch's farces expose the incongruities between anxieties about women's emancipation and the persistence of sexual difference, between the limits of Jewish assimilation and the antisemitic discourses accusing assimilation and the garment industry of rendering appearances equal. Galeen's Alraune expresses the seductiveness and risk of degeneracy embodied in the New Woman, privileging affective over scientific epistemologies. The self-reflexive work of Fritz Lang acts as a meta-commentary on the production and effects of mass culture in an era of “Americanization.” The musicals Glückskinder and Capriccio use the star persona of Lilian Harvey to promote heterosexuality and accommodation to social structures. Jud Süß and Das alte Gesetz construe the barrier between German and Jew as permeable, and take ambivalent stances towards it, yet ultimately promote divergent visions of social order and the relationship of Jews to it.
Record last modified: 2018-05-24 14:02:00
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