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Bodily Desire, Desired Bodies

Gender and Desire in Early Twentieth-Century German and Austrian Novels and Paintings

Esther K. Bauer

Publication Year: 2014

Bodily Desire, Desired Bodies examines the diverse ways that literary works and paintings can be read as screens onto which new images of masculinity and femininity are cast. Esther Bauer focuses on German and Austrian writers and artists from the 1910s and 1920s —specifically authors Franz Kafka, Vicki Baum, and Thomas Mann, and painters Otto Dix, Christian Schad, and Egon Schiele—who gave spectacular expression to shifting trends in male and female social roles and the organization of physical desire and the sexual body.

Bauer’s comparative approach reveals the ways in which artists and writers echoed one another in undermining the gender duality and highlighting sexuality and the body. As she points out, as sites of negotiation and innovation, these works reconfigured bodies of desire against prevailing notions of sexual difference and physical attraction and thus became instruments of social transformation.

Published by: Northwestern University Press

Series: Cloth text


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Title Page, Copyright Page, Dedication

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pp. ix-2

Working on an academic book can sometimes feel like a very lonely undertaking— hours spent in the stacks of libraries, reading scholarship and nonscholarly works, and the actual process of writing and revising until the final manuscript is ready for submission to the publisher. Yet in reality, I could...

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Introduction: Changing Visions and Visualizations of Gender, Desire,and the Body

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pp. 3-10

During the first decades of the twentieth century, the writers and painters in this study focused on the body to explore and negotiate the organization of male and female social roles and sexual desire. With their corporeal turn, they anticipated key ideas of the current gender debate, in which Susan...

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Chapter One. New Woman—New Body: Female Images by Vicki Baum, Christian Schad, and Otto Dix

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pp. 11-40

When readers first encounter Christine Flamm, called Flämmchen, one of the main protagonists of Vicki Baum’s 1929 novel Grand Hotel, she sits in the hotel lobby, powders her nose, smokes, and eats dessert. Flämmchen (little flame) lives up to her nickname, which highlights the figure’s erotic appeal...

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Chapter Two. Representations of Femininity: Vicki Baum’s Helene and Works by Gustav Klimt, Franz von Stuck, and Anselm Feuerbach

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pp. 41-64

When at the end of Vicki Baum’s novel Helene, the eponymous heroine and the man she loves have finally overcome all obstacles that had stood in the way of their union, and he asks her to marry him, she answers, “It’s an experiment. I will try it.”1 Perplexing for anyone who expects romances to have...

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Chapter Three. The Body Between Sex and Violence: Franz Kafka’s Brunelda and Otto Dix’s Three Women

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pp. 65-82

“Ultimately, all wars are waged only about and for the vulva.”1 Painter Otto Dix’s provocative remark indicates his belief that physical desire is the main force in human interactions, and that the pursuit of access to bodies often assumes violent form. His numerous renditions of prostitutes during and after...

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Chapter Four. Looking to Dominate: Power and Gender in Franz Kafka’s Amerika and Egon Schiele’s Seated Male Nude (Self-Portrait)

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pp. 83-100

Franz Kafka’s novel Amerika: The Missing Person opens with the hero Karl Rossmann entering New York Harbor, where the Statue of Liberty is holding a sword instead of a torch. No longer a “Mother of Exiles”1 guiding and nurturing new immigrants, Kafka’s Liberty is a warrior type, a phallic woman...

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Chapter Five. Gender Is in the Eye of the Beholder: The Look of Desire in Thomas Mann’s The Magic Mountain and Christian Schad’s Count St. Genois d’Anneaucourt

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pp. 101-122

“To see is to deflower. . . . Every investigation implies the idea of a nudity which one brings out into the open by clearing away the obstacles which cover it.”1 As far back as antiquity, vision has been the primary sense on which cognition is modeled in its pursuit of knowledge, and thinkers as diverse as...

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pp. 123-128

Turning briefly to two more recent phenomena will exemplify the continuing appeal and provocative potential of attempts to destabilize traditional notions of sexual difference and the prescriptive gender norms they inform: the concept of so-called preferred gender pronouns and the coexistence of...


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pp. 129-162


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pp. 163-188


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pp. 189-194


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E-ISBN-13: 9780810167810
E-ISBN-10: 0810167816
Print-ISBN-13: 9780810129931
Print-ISBN-10: 0810129930

Page Count: 224
Illustrations: 14
Publication Year: 2014

Edition: 1
Series Title: Cloth text
Series Editor Byline: John Smith, Will Wordsworth See more Books in this Series

OCLC Number: 885292644
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Bodily Desire, Desired Bodies

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Subject Headings

  • German fiction -- 20th century -- History and criticism.
  • Austrian fiction -- 20th century -- History and criticism.
  • Painting, German -- 20th century -- Themes, motives.
  • Painting, Austrian -- 20th century -- Themes, motives.
  • Gender identity in literature.
  • Human body in literature.
  • Desire in literature.
  • Sex role in literature.
  • Human figure in art.
  • Desire in art.
  • Sex role in art.
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