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Cemetery of The Murdered Daughters

Feminism, History, and Ingeborg Bachmann

Sara Lennox

Publication Year: 2006

Although Austrian writer Ingeborg Bachmann (1926–1973) is widely regarded as one of the most important twentieth-century authors writing in German, her novels and stories have sometimes been viewed narrowly as portraits of women as victims. In this innovative study, Sara Lennox provides a much broader perspective on Bachmann’s work, at the same time undertaking an experiment in feminist methodology.Lennox examines Bachmann’s poetry and prose in historical context, arguing that the varied feminist interpretations of her writings are the result of shifts in theoretical emphases over a period of more than three decades. Lennox then places her own essays on Bachmann in similar perspective, showing how each piece reflects the historical moment in which it was written. Making use of recent interdisciplinary approaches—Foucauldian theories of sexuality, post-colonial theory, materialist feminism—she explores the extent to which each of her earlier readings was shaped by the methods employed, the questions asked, and the political issues that seemed most germane at the time. Out of this analysis comes a new understanding of the significance of Bachmann’s work and new insight into the theory and practice of feminist criticism.

Published by: University of Massachusetts Press

Title Page, Copyright Page

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pp. vii-viii

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pp. ix-xi

This book has been a long time in the making, and I’ve incurred many debts along the way. I would not have started or continued this project without the encouragement of editors (often also good friends) who included my essays on Bachmann in journals and collections: Monika...


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pp. xiii-xiv

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pp. 1-28

As readers familiar with Ingeborg Bachmann’s writing will recognize, the title of this book, Cemetery of the Murdered Daughters, is borrowed from an episode that appears both in Bachmann’s novel fragment The Book of Franza and in her only finished...

PART I: Bachmann and History

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1. Bachmann in History: An Overview

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pp. 31-42

History left its scars on Ingeborg Bachmann’s life and work. She was the product of a turbulent period of Austrian history that included depression, Austro-fascism, National Socialism, defeat and occupation, economic recovery, and political restoration. She hated and condemned the...

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2. Bachmann's Feminist Reception

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pp. 43-82

Since the late 1970s, the enthusiastic response of feminist readers, critics, and scholars to the writing of Ingeborg Bachmann has produced a radical reassessment of her work. As I explained in chapter 1, she owed her reputation during her lifetime to the two highly accomplished volumes...

PART II: A History of Reading Bachmann

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pp. 85-89

“Around 1981,” Jane Gallop observes in her book of the same title, “a good number of feminist literary academics in this country were focused on the ‘difference between French and American feminism,’ on the question of psychoanalysis or deconstruction and their usefulness or danger. ...

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3. In the Cemetery of the Murdered Daughters: Malina

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pp. 91-115

Ingeborg Bachmann’s Malina is about the absence of a female voice; in some respects it reads like an illustration of the feminist theory which has evolved since its publication to explain why, within Western discourse, women are permitted no voice and subjectivity of their...

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Reading Bachmann in 1981

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pp. 116-118

Published in early 1981 (with a publication date of 1980) in a special issue of Studies in Twentieth-Century Literature, this essay is a paradigmatic example of many qualities of feminist literary scholarship around that time. As I noted in chapter 2, I believe it is also the first...

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pp. 119-122

By 1983, as a consequence of developments outside of and within the U.S. women’s movement, the limitations of the cultural feminist analysis had emerged more clearly, and challenges to its founding premises were raised on a variety of fronts in feminist theory and practice. ...

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4. Christa Wolf and Ingeborg Bachmann: Difficulties of Writing the Truth

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pp. 123-144

In the West German edition of Christa Wolf ‘s essays, Lesen und Schreiben (1980; translated into English as The Reader and the Writer), the two oldest essays, dating from 1966, deal with the works of Bertolt Brecht and Ingeborg Bachmann. Along with the East...

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Reading Bachmann in 1983

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pp. 145-149

This essay was written in spring 1983 for the volume titled Responses to Christa Wolf: Critical Essays, edited by the late Marilyn Sibley Fries (though not published until 1989). It displays some of the methodological heterogeneity of the early 1980s, as feminist literary scholarship...

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pp. 151-155

Even feminists themselves sometimes recall the mid-1980s as a period of decline for the U.S. women’s movement. One of the longtime feminist activists that Nancy Whittier interviewed for her Feminist Generations, for instance, characterized those years as “a time of this horrible...

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5. Gender, Race, and History in The Book of Franza

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pp. 157-182

Though The Book of Franza was uncompleted at the time of Bachmann’s death, it was begun as the first of the “Ways of Death” novels. As the editors of the Werke explain, Bachmann had conceived her plan for the novel cycle even before she completed...

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Reading Bachmann in 1984

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pp. 183-187

This essay was first published in German in 1984 in the special text kritik issue on Ingeborg Bachmann guest-edited by Sigrid Weigel; it appears here for the first time in English. Written in the spring of 1984, it was strongly influenced by contemporary debates both inside and outside of feminism. ...

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pp. 189-194

The caesura that separated 1984 from 1985 was Ronald Reagan’s landslide victory in the November 1984 election. The lopsided results turned the euphoria of progressives who had participated in the Jackson campaign into deep gloom. The title page of the January–February...

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6. Bachmann and Wittgenstein

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pp. 195-210

Twelve years after her death, literary scholars are slowly beginning to understand the author whom Sigrid Weigel has termed “the other Ingeborg Bachmann.” As Weigel explains, “The stimulus of feminist cultural criticism and poststructuralism was necessary before Bachmann’s...

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Reading Bachmann in 1985

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pp. 211-214

This essay was written in summer 1985 and published in a special issue of Modern Austrian Literature devoted to the “other,” feminist Bachmann. In that issue my essay was one of the few that did not address feminism or gender questions. As I observed in chapter 2, I believe now...

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pp. 215-221

Reagan’s popularity continued unabated into his second term, and the Democratic Party seemed incapable of mounting any substantial opposition to Republican policies. One commentator observed: “By 1986, the White House and Senate were in Republican hands...

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7. Bachmann Reading/Reading Bachmann: The Woman in White in the "Ways of Death"

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pp. 223-232

Only one single, brighter episode interrupts the dismal narrative of Ingeborg Bachmann’s unfinished novel, The Book of Franza: Franza’s recollection of May 1945, “the most beautiful spring.” The Book of Franza mostly details Franza’s husband’s deliberate attempt...

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Reading Bachmann in 1987

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pp. 233-238

This essay was written in summer 1987 and published in the spring 1988 issue of German Quarterly. Clearly, since writing the Wittgenstein essay two years before, I had found my way back to feminism, and this essay bears the marks of the methodological transition in which...

PART III: Reading Bachmann Historically

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8. Bachmann and Theories of Gender/Sexuality: Representing Femininity in "The Good God of Manhattan"

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pp. 241-268

This chapter draws on recent advances in U.S. feminist theory to argue for a new kind of reading of Ingeborg Bachmann’s texts. Almost all U.S. feminist scholars now agree that femininity and masculinity are social constructions that vary enormously across time and culture...

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9. Bachmann and Postcolonial Theory: White Ladies and Dark Continents

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pp. 269-296

“[Austria] is different from all other little countries today because it was an empire and it’s possible to learn something from its history. And because the lack of activity into which one is forced there enormously sharpens one’s view of the big situation and of today’s empires,”...

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10. Bachmann and Materialist Feminism: Gender and the Cold War

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pp. 297-339

Two apparently contradictory arguments underwrite this book which I want to address explicitly here. On the one hand, I have maintained that Bachmann’s writings should be read historically, though they often are not; on the other hand, I have asserted that all readings of Bachmann are...

Works Cited

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pp. 341-373

Index [Includes About the Author and Back Cover]

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pp. 375-387

E-ISBN-13: 9781613761212
E-ISBN-10: 161376121X
Print-ISBN-13: 9781558495517
Print-ISBN-10: 1558495517

Page Count: 408
Publication Year: 2006