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Masquerade, mimicry and performativity: The staging of female identity in German literature around 1800Lanlan Xu
My dissertation focuses on the performativity of gender identity projected in German literary works around 1800. I focus on the one hand on definitions of essential femininity, and on the other hand, on the way these definitions are called into question through the strategies of masquerade, mimicry and gender performance. In Chapter one, I draw on concepts of masquerade, mimicry and gender performance developed by Riviere, Iragary, Bhabha and Butler and reflect on the tension between performativity of gender and race on the one hand and identity politics on the other hand. Theoretical texts on femininity by Humboldt, Hegel, Fichte and Kleist are then discussed to recapture the dominant gender discourse around 1800. Chapter two looks at three dramatic depictions of the Marat-assassin Charlotte Corday (by Zschokke, Senkenberg and Westphalen) and analyzes how the politically active women are received by their contemporaries. It shows that the adaption of a female masquerade is a tactic, whereby the female character is able to create for herself a position of authority within a male dominated power structure. Chapter three is concerned with the motif of "mimicry" and "passing" in the literary reception of the Haitian Revolution (Kleist's Die Verlobung in St. Domingo, Körner's Toni and Weißenthurn's Die Schwester St. Janvier). The double structure of a restrictive definition of gender and race and its subversion through mimetic practices implies the potential of mimicry as a strategy to resist as well as to reinforce the dominant modes of power. Chapter four investigates the theater as a possibility of escape from and resistance to normative gender and identity roles. It analyzes the figures of actresses in Goethe's Wilhelm Meisters Lehrjahre and Mereau's "Marie" as well as "Die Flucht nach der Hauptstadt " to emphasize the significance of performativity in the context of identity politics. This study addresses the construction of female identity as performative and illuminates the effects of masquerade, mimicry and gender performance within patriarchal societies. It explores the dialectic between possibility and impossibility that accompanies each literary attempt to challenge the essentialist notion of femininity.
Social sciences; Language, literature and linguistics; Female identity; Gender identity; German; Masquerade; Mimicry; Performativity; Germanic literature; Womens studies; Gender; 0733:Gender; 0311:Germanic literature; 0453:Womens studies
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