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Desiring Emancipation

New Women and Homosexuality in Germany, 1890–1933

Marti M. Lybeck

Publication Year: 2014

Uses historical case studies to illuminate women’s claims to emancipation and to sexual subjectivity during the tumultuous Wilhelmine and Weimar periods in Germany.

Published by: State University of New York Press


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Title page, Frontispiece, Copyright

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pp. i-iv


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pp. v-vi

List of Illustrations

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pp. vii-viii

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pp. ix-x

This book would not have been possible without the generous support of the Berlin Program for Advanced European Studies at the Free University Berlin, which supported the original research, and the Institute for the Humanities at the University of Michigan, which funded time for the initial writing of the dissertation on which it is based. I thank the staffs and boards of both agencies for supporting my work. I am also grateful to the German Historical...

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pp. 1-16

The collar‑and‑tie‑wearing, bicycle‑riding, and cigarette‑smoking New Woman was a prominent international media figure of the 1890s. German writer Frieda von Bülow, one of several younger novelists who might be considered new women themselves, probed beneath the New Woman’s surface image of alternately alluring and dangerous modernity. Her story “Just Let Me Forget!” portrayed a relationship between two characters—the conventionally feminine...

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1. “Are These Women?” University Students’ Quest for a New Gender

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pp. 17-48

The title of the 1901 novel Are These Women? A Novel about the Third Sex immediately focuses the potential reader’s attention on the gender “problem” represented by a certain “type” of woman. These women, female in biology but masculine in ambition, are depicted in the novel’s characters, gathered in university towns where some of them are students. The characters struggle to link their studies to the cause of proving to science and society that their...

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2. Experiments in Female Masculinity: Sophia Goudstikker's Masculine Mimicry in Turn-of-the-Century Munich

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pp. 49-82

Munich, May 1897. Two women friends, both authors of New Woman fiction, arrive in town for an extended stay, highlighted by visits to theatrical productions and intellectual salons. Through a talented Jugendstil architect active in that milieu, they meet a particularly fascinating woman—a feminist activist and owner of a photography studio. Both authors become a bit infatuated with this unusual woman. One of them spends many evenings...

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3. Asserting Sexual Subjectivity in Berlin: The Proliferation of a Public Discourse of Female Homosexuality, 1900–1912

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pp. 83-116

This passage from Elisabeth Dauthendey’s 1900 novel The New Woman and Her Love marks a radical departure from the veiled eroticism and absence of stigma characterizing descriptions of same‑sex intimacy in the sources from the 1890s. This same‑sex erotic scene drew a strict boundary between the figure of the New Woman and sexual activity between women. Dauthendey’s recognition of the homosexual woman as a threat to the sexual innocence and normality of the New Woman is symptomatic of a significant shift in...

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4. Denying Desire: Professional Women Facing Accusations of Homosexuality

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pp. 117-150

The chaos following defeat in World War I brought Germans both hope and mourning. Groups of individuals who had been loosely affiliated as homosexuals before the war began organizing and publicizing as never before when restraints ceased to operate after the collapse of the monarchy in November 1918. Magnus Hirschfeld pioneered spreading his enlightening messages about homosexuality through the relatively new medium of film. He...

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5. Emancipation and Desire in Weimar Berlin's Female Homosexual Public Sphere

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pp. 151-188

The figure of the female homosexual, increasingly visible in the years after 1900, retreated from public view during World War I. Sexual anxieties focused on a more immediate female figure: the soldier’s wife.1 After Germany was defeated, the revolution and the establishment of a democratic republic set new terms for the German public sphere that made homosexuality—along with other nondomesticated forms of sexuality—more visible there than ever before. The founders of the Weimar German state attempted to purge...

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pp. 189-198

Desiring Emancipation has used a microhistorical and marginal approach to reveal the underlying dynamics of broad historical questions concerning women’s emancipation and sexuality.1 Focusing on the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries in particular, it has traced the coincidence of popular discourses about the New Woman and the formation of scientific discourses describing what came to be known as female homosexuality. Elements common to both meant that...


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pp. 199-240


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pp. 241-258


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pp. 259-290

Back cover

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E-ISBN-13: 9781438452234
Print-ISBN-13: 9781438452210

Page Count: 300
Publication Year: 2014

OCLC Number: 885012967
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Desiring Emancipation

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Lesbians -- Germany -- History -- 20th century.
  • Lesbians -- Germany -- History -- 19th century.
  • Lesbianism -- Germany -- History -- 20th century.
  • Lesbianism -- Germany -- History -- 19th century.
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