Humor and Irony in Nineteenth-Century German Women's Writing

Humor and Irony in Nineteenth-Century German Women's Writing

Studies in Prose Fiction, 1840-1900

Helen Chambers


Camden House



Brings to light unsuspectedly rich sources of humor in the works of prominent nineteenth-century women writers.
Nineteenth-century German literature is seldom seen as rich in humor and irony, and women's writing from that period is perhaps even less likely to be seen as possessing those qualities. Yet since comedy is bound to societal norms, and humor and irony are recognized weapons of the weak against authority, what this innovative study reveals should not be surprising: women writers found much to laugh at in a bourgeois age when social constraints, particularly on women, were tight. Helen Chambers analyzes prose fiction by leading female writers of the day who prominently employ humor and irony. Arguing that humor and irony involve cognitive and rational processes, she highlights the inadequacy of binary theories of gender that classify the female as emotional and the male as rational. Chambers focuses on nine women writers: Annette von Droste-Hülshoff, Ida Hahn-Hahn, Ottilie Wildermuth, Helene Böhlau, Marie von Ebner-Eschenbach, Ada Christen, Clara Viebig, Isolde Kurz, and Ricarda Huch. She uncovers a rich seam of unsuspected or forgotten variety, identifies fresh avenues of approach, and suggests a range of works that merit a place on university reading lists and attention in scholarly studies.

Helen Chambers is Professor of German at the University of St Andrews, Scotland, UK.


June 2007
232 pages
9x6 in
Studies in German Literature Linguistics and Culture
ISBN: 9781571133045
Format: Hardback
Library eBook
Camden House
BISAC LIT004170, LIT004290, LIT016000
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Table of Contents

Annette von Droste-Hülshoff and Ida Hahn-Hahn: Overcoming Seriousness?
Ottilie Wildermuth and Helene Böhlau: Harmless Humor or Subtle Psychology?
Marie von Ebner-Eschenbach: Satire, Physical Comedy, Irony, and Deeper Meaning
Ada Christen and Clara Viebig: Laughter and Pain in the World of Work
Isolde Kurz and Ricarda Huch: The Humor of Skeptical Idealism
Works Cited


(T)his well-researched study, which includes an extensive list of "works cited," is an important step in reevaluating a topic typically ignored in nineteenth-century German-language literature ... and uses a solid methodological approach to do so. MONATSHEFTE

Students . often bemoan the dearth of comic characters and plots in canonical German literature. Heroines, in particular, appear destined for death. A very different picture emerges, however, from Helen Chambers' new book.. (The) study is an important contribution to nineteenth-century women's literature.. GERMAN STUDIES REVIEW

For scholars and students of nineteenth-century German and Austrian women's writings, this volume is a "must have." . In each of four chapters we meet two writers whose intent and strategy bear commonality: Annette von Droste-Hülshoff and Ida Hahn-Hahn, Ottilie Wildermuth and Helene Böhlau, Ada Christen and Clara Viebig, Isolde Kurz and Ricarda Huch. For example, the chapter on Christen and Viebig steers us to "Laughter and Pain in the World of Work," that on Kurz and Huch to "The Humor of Skeptical Idealism." Maria von Ebner-Eschenbach alone is accorded an entire chapter due to her singular use of satire and physical comedy. . It is hoped that this study will serve as inducement to expand the project of translating these writers' works. H-NET

Author Bio

Helen Chambers is a professor in the Department of German at the University of St Andrews, Scotland.

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