Commodities of Desire

February 2001
6 black and white illustrations
280 pages
9x6 in
Studies in German Literature Linguistics and Culture
ISBN: 9781571131980
Format: Hardback
Camden House
BISAC LIT004180, SOC028000

Commodities of Desire

The Prostitute in Modern German Literature

Edited by Christiane Schönfeld

The first collection of essays treating exclusively the figure of the prostitute in modern German literature.
Unlike her counterpart in French literature, and despite her importance in drama, poetry, and prose, the figure of the prostitute in modern German literature has been a largely neglected phenomenon. Commodities of Desire addresses this omission: it is the first collection of essays to exclusively investigate this colorful and multi-faceted figure in its many forms and mutations. The book pursues this goal by analyzing a number of key texts -- from the Wilhelmine Empire to the Weimar Republic -- and by providing the social, legal, and cultural contexts necessary for their interpretation. While the 'sex-worker' has been a presence in literature for centuries, the prostitute was never more popular in German literature than between the late 1880s and the early 1930s. It was then -- during a time when prostitution had become one of the most pressing social problems of urban Germany -- that the streetwalker became a symbol of the destructive and fertile forces of the metropolis, an allegorization of the political and social crisis, and a vehicle for biting social criticism. This book focuses on prostitutes as literary figures and prostitution as a topic in works by well-known and lesser-known writers. It thus clarifies the iconography of the prostitute and aids the reader in understanding her significance in the development of modern German literature.

Christiane Schönfeld teaches German at the University of Galway, Ireland.

Table of Contents

Introduction - Christiane Schoenfeld
Prostitution, Free Love, and Marriage in German Drama in the 1890s - Karl Leydecker
Frank Wedekind's Prostitute: A Liberating Re-Creation or Male Recreation? - Stephanie Libbon
The "süßes Mädel" in Fin-de-Siècle and Modern Vienna - Brenda Keiser
The Representation of Prostitutes in Literature and Film: Margarete Böhme and G. W. Pabst - Margaret McCarthy
Sense and Sentimentality? Margarete Böhme's Tagebuch einer Verlorenen in Context - Anna Richards
Streetwalking the Metropolis: Prostitutes in Expressionism - Christiane Schoenfeld
Blonde Satan: Weimar Constructions of the Criminal Femme Fatale -
Women of the Street: Prostitution in Bertolt Brecht's Works - Paula Hanssen
The Genesis of "Jenny": Prostitute Songs, the Mythology of Pimps, and the Threepenny Opera - Alan Lareau
At a Moral Crossroads: Vom Leben getötet and the Regulation of Sexuality in the Weimar Republic - Ingrid E. Sharp


An extremely useful as well as theoretically and historically acute account of the streetwalker in modern German film and literature. MONATSHEFTE

It is the accomplishment of Commodities of Desire to demonstrate the manifold ways in which... contradictory roles -- as social outcast and as personfication of the capitalist system -- render the figure of the prostitute an ideal literary vehicle to critique the moral hypocrisy, class privilege, and gender inequality of modern German society. --Gail Finney

...a compelling read and a very welcome contribution to German literary studies. GERMAN QUARTERLY

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