Defining identity through difference : aspects of contemporary German-language Jewish literature / by Clare Martha Davis.
Few Jews live today in either Germany or Austria. In the wake of the failed prewar German-Jewish symbiosis and the Shoah, the identities German and Jewish nearly contradict one another. But against all odds, as it were, some German and Austrian Jews persist today in forging a German or Austrian Jewish identity and thereby continuing and animating the history of German and Austrian Jews into the twenty-first century. As German-speaking Jewish authors writing post-Holocaust German and Austrian Jewish literature, Katja Behrens, Robert Schindel, Barbara Honigmann, and Robert Menasse question and continually redefine the identities of their fictional Jewish characters. In Die dreizehnte Fee and the related short stories “Nach innen ausgewandert” and “Alles normal,” Behrens depicts the protagonist's struggles with the knowledge of her Jewish identity, an identity that her mother initially concealed from her. Schindel's Gebürtig contains a group of Jewish friends, all of whom engage in the process of determining their identities, whether through positive identification with fin-de-siécle Vienna, or through writing of still other Jewish protagonists. The unnamed protagonist and narrator of Honigmann's Eine Liebe aus nichts continually addresses the subject of her identity and even emigrates to another country as part of her search for a redefined identity. And in Menasse's Selige Zeiten, brüchige Welt, Leo Singer obsessively seeks to discover his own identity by imitating individuals he admires, even idolizes. And all four texts are set in the 1980s and therefore provide a perspective on the emergence of an increasingly visible Jewish presence in Germany and Austria. In exploring how these literary texts engage Jewish protagonists in an ongoing dialogue with postwar German or Austrian society, I rely on close readings of the texts, intended to draw out the emphases of the text in this dialogic process that affects the identities of the protagonists. I also draw on various theoretical materials pertaining to identity that are loosely organized around the discourse of multiculturalism and the intersecting theories of nomadism, exile and diaspora.
Record last modified: 2018-04-24 16:01:00
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