- An Other Kind of Home: Gender-Sexual Abjection, Subjectivity, and the Uncanny in Literature and Film by Kyle Frackman
An Other Kind of Home offers a critical perspective on the function of abjection in literature and film in two pivotal periods in the emergence of the modern nation. Through close readings of Frank Wedekind's Frühlings Erwachen (1891; Spring Awakening, 1910), Robert Musil's Die Verwirrungen des Zöglings Törleß (1906; The Confusions of Young Törleß, 2001), Kutluğ Ataman's Lola und Bilidikid (1999; Lola and Billy the Kid), and Pierre Sanoussi-Bliss's Zurück auf los! (2000; Return to go!), Frackman demonstrates the persistence of othering as a mechanism of power in German-language cultural production. Relying on poststructuralist, psychoanalytic, and feminist theories, the study focuses on the role of gender and sexuality as sites where bodies are made abject. Beyond [End Page 161] uncovering the workings of subjugation in these texts, Frackman argues that abjection is a necessary process in the construction of the subject. His careful analysis points to how texts create and expose boundaries of home and belonging in German-language culture.
In chapter 1 Frackman explicates his theoretical approach, beginning with a survey of philosophical treatments of the relationship between subject and object, including Freud's Unheimliches as an analogue for abjection and Hegel's Begierde as a mediator in the "I's relationship with other 'things'" (18). These concepts help Frackman articulate the dynamic of "subject-object-abject," which he further develops through poststructuralist understandings of discipline and the body (Foucault and Butler) and Kristeva's notion of abjection. At times, Frackman seems to want to accommodate too many perspectives on subjectivization and othering in his study (e.g., his discussion of Benjamin's "Kunstwerk" essay 23–24). Ultimately, however, his careful textual analysis demonstrates the effectiveness of his approach, as it allows him to connect notions of space, home, and belonging across diverse texts.
Chapters 2 and 3 focus on literary texts from the turn of the twentieth century. In chapter 2 Frackman reads Frühlings Erwachen against the backdrop of industrialization, urbanization, and early German nationhood, highlighting Wedekind's satirical treatment of intergenerational tension as an indicator of the adults' hapless attempts to discipline their children's sexuality, which results in the most extreme case in Moritz's suicide (55). Frackman argues that the play exposes the abjection of the children's bodies in the service of emergent ideals of Bildung and the bourgeois nation. Chapter 3 takes up Die Verwirrungen des Zöglings Törleß, as Frackman reads the dynamic of subject-object-abject among the novel's main characters, four cadets enrolled in a boarding school at the decline of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Here Frackman posits the agency of space, arguing that the school comes to "inhabit the characters as much as they inhabit it" (79). In particular it is Frackman's discussion of the "red chamber" as a "queer space" that is most illustrative of the study's thesis (69).
In chapters 4 and 5 Frackman considers two films from the turn of the twenty-first century. Chapter 4 complicates the nation through themes of migration and diaspora in Lola und Bilidikid, demonstrating through scene and character analysis how subjects and objects mutually create each other through racial, sexual, and gendered abjection. Using the notion of "composite," Frackman proposes that the characters in [End Page 162] Ataman's film emerge as subjects who belong neither in Germany nor in Turkey but rather in both and in neither place at the same time (118). In chapter 5, queerness as a marker of uneasy belonging comes into focus in an analysis of Zurück auf los! In reading the main character's experience as an HIV-positive black gay man who loves East German pop music, Frackman further complicates our understanding of belonging and home by revealing the existential threat that the Other poses to the subject.
By carefully exposing the role of desire and abjection...