Wie ein unsichtbarer Schleier schwebt er mit: Eline Analyze zur Todesmetaphorik in früheren Werken Christa Wolfs

Parker, Stefanie Nauhardt, Department of Germanic Languages and Literature, University of Virginia
Martens, Lorna, Department of Germanic Languages and Literature, University of Virginia

Death represents a significant motif in the works of Christa Wolf. Yet its occurrence, function, and meaning in her texts have hitherto been virtually unexplored. This dissertation examines six works by the GDR novelist and essayist that were written between 1963 and 1983: Der geteilte Himmel, Juninachmittag, Nachdenken über Christa T., Kindheitsmuster, Kein Ort. Nirgends, and Kassandra. In each of these novels, a death experience such as an accidental death, death by disease, suicide, or murder takes place. The deaths suggest multiple interpretations: in each work, Wolf constructs death in such a way that the reader must ask what or who caused the death and what the author’s intentions were in causing the character to die in that particular fashion. By implementing death as a literary device, Wolf was able to evade censorship and, at the same time, voice her critique of GDR society. More or less covertly or transparently, depending on the year the work was written, Wolf criticizes the lack of freedom in GDR society as well as the individual's limited possibilities for self-realization. After exploring the novels by Wolf, I investigate works by fellow GDR writers Ulrich Plenzdorf (Die Leiden des jungen W.), Volker Braun (Unvollendete Geschichte), Heiner Müller (Hamletmaschine), and Jutta Schlott (Das liebliche Fest) that were written within the same time frame. These authors likewise use death to convey an array of political messages that are critical of the GDR. Writing after restrictions for writers were liberalized in 1971, they all use death less obliquely than Christa Wolf, although they too take care to leave room for multiple interpretations. Noteworthy is the preference of all the writers for self-imposed deaths or suicides. Suicide points to victimization, yet the precise motivation for the suicide can remain elusive. Wolf had a predilection for mysterious suicides or attempted suicides, and her fellow writers also prefer suicide to all other types of death. By exploring the complexity of the theme of death in these works, this dissertation provides evidence that there is a pattern of using death as a code in GDR literature.

PHD (Doctor of Philosophy)
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