"Sie war; sie wurde; sie wurde nichts." Weiblichkeit, Trauma und Suizid in Texten von Arthur Schnitzler, Ingeborg Bachmann und Peter Handke
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This study investigates the literary presentation of female suicide in Schnitzler's 'Fräulein Else', Bachmann's 'Das Buch Franza' and Handke's 'Wunschloses Unglück', prose texts situated in a period from the beginning to the middle of the 20th century. By exploring the interrelation between suicide, trauma, gender and speechlessness in the framework of Cultural and Gender Studies this dissertation provides new insights into the development of poetic language critique in twentieth century literature. The works discussed suggest a close link between suicide and (psychological) speechlessness. The protagonists' suicide in each text results from violence, marginalisation and traumatic experience. Their suicide can be understood as a response to an aporetic situation and as an act of sovereignty against a social order or cultural practices which render(s) them voiceless. The works also reflect on how suicide can traumatically affect the bereaved. The texts critically explore the impact of social issues and historical events on an individual person. Yet they refrain from taking the shape of a mere case history as occurring in medical or psychological writings. By employing a subjective perspective, they question given linguistic and epistemological paradigms but aim to speak for the marginalised. The topos of the body plays a key role in these texts in signifying traces of traumatisation, emotional damage and marginalisation and hence mirrors inner and outer conditions of the suicidal protagonists. The authors' use of the 'symptomatic language' of hysteria functions as a form of critical reflection on existing psychological paradigms and counteracts a logocentric writing tradition. The literary texts reflect on possibilities and limitations of linguistic (re)presentation of suicide by exploring new poetological ways and narratological techniques. Arguing that death is a continuation of speechlessness, while simultaneously being a clearly readable sign, this project also investigates the semiotics of suicide.
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