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PREFACE In last year's preface to Volume 12, we commented on the important work that members of Women in German have undertaken in questioning and expanding traditional notions of German literature and culture, a development that has also become evident in contributions to the Yearbook . It can, in fact, be traced through the history of our publication, beginning with Volume 1 (1985). This tradition is readily apparent in the present volume, which opens by maintaining another tradition as well: contributions solicited from the special invited guests at WlG's annual conference, which in 1996 was focused around the theme of gender and German identity. Herta Müller, in a previously unpublished autobiographical essay, recalls her brief experience as a preschool teacher in Romania under Ceausescu. Accustomed to corporal punishment and indoctrinated to respond only in terms of official expectations and slogans, the five-year-olds of whom she writes had already forfeited the capacity to respond to nature and to use language authentically—capacities that for Müller the writer are essential human qualities. Our other guest, Libuse Moníková, who was introduced to readers of Yearbook 12, insists on the importance of evaluating women's writing as writing and not as therapy for experiences of victimization . In asserting that "misery is not a criterion of truth, pity not a basis for judging quality," Moníková seems to be expressing her hope that her texts—and potentially others that are now included in our expanded understanding of German literature—earn their place in the new canon on their intrinsic merits and not on the basis of some sort of "sympathy bonus." Literature around 1800 is the focus of the first two of the following articles: Karin Wurst probes Elise Burger's Gothic imagination and the freedom it offered for an unconventional vision of reality beyond the narrowness of the domestic sphere and its value system. Using Burger's narrative "Dirza," Wurst demonstrates the emancipatory potential of a genre that allows its author to explore "phenomena and potentialities of experience that. . .would be too troubling or menacing to contemplate" under the conventions of realist writing. Daniel Purdy then takes up the case of Sophie Mereau. Her translations of the writings of Ninon de Léñelos, he suggests, served a strategic function in her own feminist agenda of asserting a tradition of female authorship in European literary history and positioning her political critique of Romantic and Classical denigrations of ? Women in German Yearbook 13 the feminine. Mereau, he argues, does not merely transfer Lenclos's words into German, but herself masquerades as Léñelos, rewriting the older woman's text as an intervention in the gendered ontology of her own times. Focusing on a prolific nineteenth-century writer who was the object of much more attention in her own time than in ours, Lynne Tatlock sets out to examine Luise Mühlbach's 1870 memoirs of her nineteenth-century childhood in Mecklenburg and demonstrates how that author's representation of the past served as a defense against a disturbing present. In this provocative reading, Mühlbach's nostalgic depiction of provincial Mecklenburg emerges as the attempt to imagine a feminized and domesticated nation as an alternative to the power politics of a Prussianized nation of blood and iron. Another cluster of articles provides new insights into fin-de-siècle culture: Barbara Hyams suggests that Leopold von Sacher-Masoch's career as editor of the journal Auf der Höhe casts new light on his attitudes towards Jews and women. Although Sacher-Masoch is remembered today primarily as the author of a work that provided a model for what Krafft-Ebing described as a pathological condition, Hyams indicates that for his journal Sacher-Masoch selected texts that represented a multicultural and cosmopolitan Hapsburg empire. Katharina Gerstenberger then turns to the confessions of Wanda von Sacher-Masoch, whose autobiographic text is revealed as a subversive countertext to her ex-husband's infamous "Venus in Furs. " In the years of their marriage, she had even adopted the name of the protagonist of that work, Wanda von Dunajew, as a pen name, but in the confessions, Gerstenberger argues, she writes herself free of the...

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Additional Information

ISSN
2578-5192
Print ISSN
2578-5206
Pages
pp. ix-xii
Launched on MUSE
2010-10-13
Open Access
No
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