Two years ago, I was approached by Camden House about the possibility of editing a series on women and gender in German studies. Since gender studies is close to my heart, I jumped at the chance to support scholarship in this field, and we recruited Hester Baer, Sarah Colvin, and Patricia Simpson to serve on the series board.
Although there are by now many important books on German women writers and on the construction and representation of gender in German literature, there is so much left to be done. For this reason, we conceived the series in very broad terms. We are interested in literary analysis of canonical and noncanonical women writers (Elfriede Jelinek as much as Luise Mühlbach) but also in interpretations of gender discourses in the works of male writers and filmmakers; we welcome topics with a historical or political component, and we accept monographs and edited collections by seasoned and first-time authors. Topics can range from race and migration to digital feminism, from violence and war to sexuality and the body, and from graphic novels to performance art.
The first title in our series is Katherine Stone’s Women and National Socialism in Postwar German Literature. Stone deconstructs the widespread cultural myth that women were by and large innocent victims of a chauvinist Nazi state. Although recent years have seen a number of important studies on women in the Nazi regime, in popular discourse representations of non-Jewish German women during the Third Reich still tend to fall into three categories: an exoticization of female perpetrators, such as Ilse Koch, the infamous “Bitch of Buchenwald,” who is depicted as exceptional and abnormal; a call for compassion for the female victims of the Nazis, including refugees and survivors of rape; and admiration for women’s everyday heroism during and after the war embodied in the figure of the “Trümmerfrau,” the rubble women who rebuilt German cities after the war. In contrast, Stone’s book asks us to consider a fourth concept that is often overlooked, namely female complicity with National Socialist policies and crimes. In doing so, we come to understand how and why “gender became a viscerally important site for managing the memory of National Socialism and its moral legacy” (4). Tackling this nexus of gender and German guilt, Women and National Socialism argues that notions of female innocence could be transferred to a national level where they allow for a construction of the victimization of all average Germans. The individual chapters expand on this theme in insightful interpretations of works by Ingeborg Bachmann, Christa Wolf, Elisabeth Plessen, Gisela Elsner, Tanja Dückers, and Jenny Erpenbeck.
The second title in the series, Emily Jeremiah’s Willfull Girls: Gender and Agency in Contemporary Anglo-American and German Fiction, explores the depiction of girls and young women in texts by Helene Hegemann, Caitlin Moran, Juli Zeh, Charlotte Roche, and others. Jeremiah is particularly interested in how these texts negotiate the transition from girlhood to womanhood in the context of neoliberalism and postfeminism. Informed by Rosi Braidotti’s concept of “becoming” and Sarah Ahmed’s notion of “willfulness,” Jeremiah parses depictions of agency and volition, body and beauty, sisterhood and identification, and sex and desire.
At the moment, we have a few interesting projects in the pipeline, including an edited volume on women in German Expressionism and one on German-speaking women and Africa. Most importantly, we are eager to receive more proposals!
This guest post is written by Elisabeth Krimmer, series editor, University of California, Davis