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  • "Sie war; sie wurde; sie wurde nichts": Weiblichkeit, Trauma und Suizid in Texten von Arthur Schnitzler, Ingeborg Bachmann und Peter Handke by Simone Klapper
  • Felix Tweraser
Simone Klapper, "Sie war; sie wurde; sie wurde nichts": Weiblichkeit, Trauma und Suizid in Texten von Arthur Schnitzler, Ingeborg Bachmann und Peter Handke. Würzburg: Königshausen und Neumann, 2020. 247 pp.

Simone Klapper's "Sie war; sie wurde; sie wurde nichts," a fresh and original contribution to the scholarly literature on Austrian literature, is informed by critical paradigms of poststructuralism and builds a strong theoretical foundation for original readings of three seminal prose works: Schnitzler's Fräulein Else; Bachmann's Das Buch Franza; and Handke's Wunschloses Unglück. Klapper identifies key moments in the development of clinical and sociological understandings of suicide, tracing the progress in the general understanding of the phenomenon and its depiction in fictional works. What [End Page 134] emerges is a highly nuanced and persuasive account about the scientific understanding of suicide while leaving space for the unique perspectives available to creative fiction: "Diese Prosatexte aus dem zwanzigsten Jahrhundert lenken die Aufmerksamkeit auf zentrale von der Suizidologie beleuchtete Gesichtspunkte. Das Besondere der literarischen Auseinandersetzung mit dem Suizid besteht darin, dass literarische Texte dazu in der Lage sind, Fragestellungen der oben aufgezählten Disziplinen miteinander zu verknüpfen" (13).

The tension that Schnitzler, Bachmann, and Handke create in their narrative protagonists' minds is central to Klapper's argument. The author thus situates her work firmly within the tradition in Austrian Studies that has described authors' works in their aesthetic construction, excavate the hold that social types and expectations maintain on the individual, that is, the way that such types are reflected in the narrative strategies they deploy: "Die untersuchten Texte verstehen den Suizid der Protagonistinnen als Akt des 'Sich-zum-Verschwinden-Bringens.' Der Suizid ist also Ausdruck ihrer persönlichen Zerstörung, aber auch Zeichen des Protests gegen die geltenden Verhältnisse. Weibliche Selbsttötungen erscheinen als Zeichensetzung, und zwar sowohl als Ausdruck äußerster Verzweiflung als auch als souveräner Akt der Selbstbegründung in einer für sie feindlichen gesellschaftlichen Ordnung" (225). Through critically informed close readings of each text, the author cogently argues that though they are different in formal apparatus they all highlight the intersection of individual autonomy and social and cultural contexts that haunt the suicidal act.

Thus, one of the strengths of this study is its broad definition and problematization of the concept of suicide. By identifying the contributing factors in this manner, involving not just psychology but also behavior, class, and social status, Klapper is able to highlight particular moments in each work in which the protagonist is disoriented by the inevitable tension between individual desire and social and political expectation. Schnitzler's, Bachmann's, and Handke's ability to embed this crisis of individuality and social engagement within the narrated monologue of the protagonist is part of what makes these works resonate so compellingly with readers to this day.

Klapper theorizes each author's unique take on human subjectivity by focusing on the narrative and narrated protagonists, on the inevitable confrontation of the individual in her complexity with social and political norms that depend crucially on a stereotypical depiction of the human experience. [End Page 135] The readings of the particular texts are animated by a clear focus on their protagonists' existential crises, that is, their inability to simultaneously fit into society and to be unique. These theoretical underpinnings allow Klapper to see each text with fresh eyes and advance the scholarly literature on all three, well-trodden though they might be.

Crucial to her interpretations is the power that normative constructions of identity exerted on the individual. This tension between social norms and individual identity, which is irreducible and insoluble, in turn reveals Schnitzler's, Bachmann's, and Handke's depictions of suicide to be apt and suggestive: "Trotz der zeitlichen Distanz und den historisch bedingten unterschiedlichen Nuancen ihrer Werke zeichnen sich Schnitzlers, Handkes und Bachmanns Auseinandersetzungen mit dem weiblichen Suizid durch eine Poetologie aus, die zwischen Sprachskepsis rundem Vertrauen in das Vermögen der poetischen Sprache der Literatur oszilliert" (229).

This monograph is unfailingly lucid in...

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Additional Information

ISSN
2327-1809
Print ISSN
2165-669X
Pages
pp. 134-136
Launched on MUSE
2021-09-03
Open Access
No
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