Role reversal and passing in postwar German and Austrian literature / by Robert Lawson
Includes bibliographical references (p. 202-228)
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Electronic version from ProQuest
This dissertation examines role reversal and passing in postwar Austrian and German Jewish literature. Role reversal is a strategy in which individuals or characters in a literary text transform their identities by assuming attributes commonly associated with their opposites. This transformation could involve a perpetrator posing as a victim or the victim turning into a perpetrator. Passing refers to the way in which individuals or characters hide their identity in order to cross ethnic or social boundaries. For example, an individual or a character might feel compelled to conceal his or her Jewishness or non-Jewishness. This study examines a wide range of narratives by Austrian and German Jewish writers. The first chapter analyses role reversal and passing in the texts of Edgar Hilsenrath and Jurek Becker, two first generation German Jewish authors whose writing establishes certain patterns that second generation writers have adopted in their prose. The subsequent three chapters explore how second generation writers Maxim Biller, Irene Dische, Esther Dischereit, Anna Mitgutsch, Doron Rabinovici, and Robert Schindel adapt these patterns for their own purposes. I argue that role reversal and passing serve to counter anti-Semitic stereotypes, to highlight the identity problems of second generation Jews in Austria and in Germany, and to criticize the way in which non-Jewish Germans and Austrians have dealt with the Holocaust. I also argue that gender and nationality influence the way in which these authors use role reversal and passing. In the final chapter, I compare and contrast two real life cases of role reversal as documented in the memoir of Binjamin Wilkomirski, a non-Jewish Swiss posing as a Holocaust victim, and the wartime chronicle of Solomon Perel, a German Jew who disguised himself as a Hitler Youth to survive the war.
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