Images of Transsexuality in Philosophy, Theatre and Film: Nietzsche, Brecht, Fassbinder

Kollig, Daniel, Department of Germanic Languages and Literature, University of Virginia
Department of Germanic Languages and Literature, University of Virginia

This dissertation discusses representations of transsexuality in German philosophy as well as in German and US-American theater and film performances. Friedrich Nietzsche's aesthetics provides a basis for my analysis of constructions of sexual identity and gender role performances. Of special interest to me are the philosopher's writings on art, gender, and their performances in the so-called 'Dionysian Greek orgy,' which Nietzsche discusses at length in his first major work Die Geburt der Tragödie (The Birth of Tragedy). A central motif for this dissertation is the combination of the artistic notions of the Apollonian and the Dionysian, which representatives of Nietzschean scholarship repeatedly identify as gender metaphors, and which the performing arts represent. My dissertation's intention is to familiarize the reader with the issue of transsexuality as a mode of gender representation. With Kate Bornstein's play Hidden: A Gender and Bertolt Brecht's Der Gute Mensch von Sezuan (The Good Person of Szechwan), I demonstrate how representations of transsexuality on stage emphasize the impact images of the body as a contingent construction have on our understanding of transsexuality. Regarding film arts, my analyses of Rainer Werner Fassbinder's film In einem Jahr mit Dreizehn Monden (In a Year With Thirteen Moons), Oscar Roehler's Agnes und seine Brüder (Agnes and his Brothers), and John Cameron Mitchell's Hedwig and the Angry Inch exemplify how gender performances that resist any bi-gendered categorization contribute to the stigmatization of transsexed and transgender character. In recognition of Friedrich Nietzsche's model of the Apollonian and the Dionysian as intertwined artistic drives involving gender performances, this dissertation offers to counter transsexual stigmata with a comprehensive model of gender contingency that includes transsexual performances.

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PHD (Doctor of Philosophy)
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