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Silence, Self and Sacrifice in Gertrud Kolmar’s Prose and Dramatic Works

O'Connor, Suzanne (2010) Silence, Self and Sacrifice in Gertrud Kolmar’s Prose and Dramatic Works. PhD thesis, National University of Ireland Maynooth.

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Abstract

The process of assimilation claimed to domesticate the difference of the Jews by encouraging Jews to adopt attributes of gentile society and shed markers of belonging that identified Jews as other. However, the anti-Semitic basis of assimilation prevented the proposed processes of integration and acceptance of Jews from ever happening. The resulting situation for Jews who had gone through the process of assimilation was a perpetual state of ‘inbetweenness’. Perceived as inalienably other, yet in many ways representative of gentile society that projects this otherness, Jews were subject to contradictory and conflicting societal expectations so that it was impossible to fit in with established constructs. In Gertrud Kolmar’s prose and dramatic works, textual devices denote the continuous inbetween status of the characters. The multiple engagements with fixed constructs such as stereotypes expose how Jewish women were represented within perceived stable constructs. However, deviations from conventional structures refute neat categorisation of the characters so that inbetweenness is the prevailing status for all characters. Kolmar’s works do not present a solution to inbetweenness; rather, the lack of solutions and satisfactory conclusions to Kolmar’s prose and dramatic works is a textual device that accurately portrays the nature of Jewish existence in Kolmar’s time. Similarly, analyses of space and spatial markers in the prose works explore the complexities of Jewish existence as appropriations of the same space are multiple and contradictory. The thematic development of silence and sacrifice shows how the inbetween subject engages with conventional modes of communication and religious belief. In the prose and dramatic works Kolmar appropriates the significance of silence and sacrifice for her time. Silence is removed from its role as a symbol of oppression of Jews and used as a virulent, subversive mode of communication. Similarly, sacrifice is examined as a ritual that attests to the existence of divine powers, and the individual’s responsibility to attribute meaning to existence is explored. These investigations reflect on the realities of Kolmar’s time when religious beliefs (Judaism) were perceived as the source of otherness and the necessary sacrifices made to ensure survival in a hostile environment, such as the forced selling of Kolmar’s family home, were stripped of meaning. Kolmar’s prose and dramatic works offer an insightful commentary on the problematic existence of Jews in the 1930s and 1940s in Germany. The complexities of existence are not overlooked in Kolmar’s works; rather, they are perceived as manifestations of inbetweenness, which are explored in these works in a manner that exposes the flawed structure of the society that has led to the inbetween state of German Jews.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Keywords: Gertrud Kolmar;
Subjects: Arts, Celtic Studies & Philosophy > German
Item ID: 2272
Depositing User: IR eTheses
Date Deposited: 19 Nov 2010 16:12
URI:

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