Abstract

This article addresses the question of new beginnings in Western Europe after 1945. If the mother-child relationship is analogous to that between the male artist and his creation, the crisis of representation after World War II suggests infertile grounds for (re)production. Adorno's paradigmatic statement from this period, that 'writing poetry after Ausschwitz is barbaric,' makes it seem as if art itself had become impossible. However, writers and filmmakers of the post-war avant-garde did address the question of how to create narrative in the aftermath of fascism and the Holocaust. This question, as the article demonstrates, manifests itself in the depiction of actual or expecting mothers, who wander through territories in which they have no home. The texts under discussion — Bertolt Brecht's 1945 play, Der kaukasische Kreidekreis, Marguerite Duras' 1966 experimental novel, Le vice-consul, and Alexander Kluge's 1965 Autorenfilm, Abschied von Gestern — feature images of itinerant pregnant or maternal figures. Each is framed by the perspectives of a male storyteller, novelist, or filmmaker, who are engaged in the attempt to tell their stories. While these female figures are assigned by their narrators to carry the burden of the "future" — in the form of a child — they also do not have a place to go. Designed to signify the success or failure of new beginnings, directly and in terms of their ability to support the narrative, they are invested with allegorical significance and thus draw attention to the act of narration itself. They thereby represent, as the article maintains, the difficulties of historiography in a Europe that continues to be haunted by the telling of its own past.

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Additional Information

ISSN
1549-3377
Print ISSN
0743-6831
Pages
pp. 36-57
Launched on MUSE
2006-07-06
Open Access
No
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