Women and National Socialism in Postwar German Literature

Women and National Socialism in Postwar German Literature

Gender, Memory, and Subjectivity

Katherine Stone

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Investigates why the question of women's complicity in National Socialism has struggled to capture the collective imagination, examining how a variety of female authors have conceptualized the role of women in the Third Reich
In recent years, historians have revealed the many ways in which German women supported National Socialism-as teachers, frontline auxiliaries, and nurses, as well as in political organizations. In mainstream culture, however, the women of the period are still predominantly depicted as the victims of a violent twentieth century whose atrocities were committed by men. They are frequently imagined as post hoc redeemers of the nation, as the "rubble women" who spiritually and literally rebuilt Germany.
This book investigates why the question of women's complicity in the Third Reich has struggled to capture the historical imagination in the same way. It explores how female authors from across the political and generational spectrum (Ingeborg Bachmann, Christa Wolf, Elisabeth Plessen, Gisela Elsner, Tanja Dückers, Jenny Erpenbeck) conceptualize the role of women in the Third Reich. As well as offering innovative re-readings of celebrated works, this book provides instructive interpretations of lesser-known texts that nonetheless enrich our understanding of German memory culture.

Katherine Stone is Assistant Professor in German Studies at the University of Warwick.

Table of Contents

The Gender of Good and Evil: Guilt and Repression in Ingeborg Bachmann's Malina (1971)
Matriarchal Morality: Women and Hope in Christa Wolf's Kindheitsmuster (1976)
Patriarchal Authority and Fascism Past and Present: Elisabeth Plessen's Mitteilung an den Adel (1976)
The Blessing of a Late, Female Birth: Gisela Elsner's Fliegeralarm (1989)
Uncanny Legacies: Gender and Guilt in Tanja Dückers' Himmelskörper (2003)
The Dialectic of Vulnerability and Responsibility: Jenny Erpenbeck's Heimsuchung (2007)


Stone's . . . arguments effortlessly weave together a vast amount of scholarship and theory on gender, memory, and literature. Her writing is clear, efficient, and elegant. In short, this outstanding book is a Corrective for the tendency to reduce the history of Nazi Germany to the binaries of male/oppressor-female/victim. It is a must-read for scholars of post-1933 Germany and for feminist scholars, regardless of their area of focus. MODERN LANGUAGE REVIEW [Alexandra Merley Hill]

Across the works of six female authors, the author shows how literature acts as an important site of cultural memory for the reproduction, contestation, and disruption of hegemonic models of gender and female subjectivity. In particular, Stone convincingly demonstrates how such consideration of gender complicates and enriches understanding of the development of German memory of the Nazi past. . . . Recommended. CHOICE

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