Genre departures : women writers and the crisis of representing National Socialism and World War II / Georgette Fleischer.
This dissertation is a comparatist study of women writers' responses to National Socialism and World War II. In part one, I address theoretical responses by Rebecca West and Hannah Arendt; in part two, experimental literary responses by Virginia Woolf, Gertrude Stein, and the Austrian writer Ingeborg Bachmann. Genre Departures examines literary works in a number of genres: poetry and poetic meditation; journalism, travel, and memoir; neo-realist and postmodernist novel. It also crosses disciplines in order to examine writers who themselves crossed disciplines and in some cases national boundaries. Since the texts I examine were first published between 1936 and 1971, I begin with premonitory anticipations of the war and conclude with responses that are distinctively postwar and retrospective.I argue that National Socialism and the ruptures created by the ensuing war produced a seismic shift in the world of these women writers that expressed itself in their intellectual and aesthetic production. This is the result, as I read it, both of a Scheherezade effect, a production born of circumstantial desperation, and of a deep emotional need to explain these political developments. In addition, because of the ways in which gender inflected this particularly difficult and painful history, women writers occupied highly complicated political positions. I suggest that it is out of their sense of their own moral ambiguity in a world so fraught with aggression and destruction that women writers reached for one form of representation after another, in an attempt to work themselves into a more comfortable moral position. Ultimately their efforts constituted a historically-induced experimental movement.
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