Far from avoiding the controversies of contemporary reality and providing merely a means of pleasurable "escape" from one's dreary life--a characteristic that the cultural critic Siegfired Kracauer attributes to popular literature--I argue that the candid representation of controversial women's issues in Vicki Baum's stud. chem. Helene Willfueer and Menschen im Hotel, and Irmgard Keun's Gilgi, eine von uns and Das kunstseidene Maedchen provided a well-informed social critique to many non-university educated working- and middle-class women. I introduce the figures of the Kalte Persona, the Radar Type, and the Creature, which the German scholar Helmut Lethen argues emerge in the literature of the Weimar Republic and illustrate the desire for masking as a form of protection from the perceived dangers of society. I then apply Lethen's characterization to the protagonists of Baum's and Keun's novels in order to show that the presence of these figures are not limited to the realm of canonical literature from which Lethen draws his examples. Next, I argue against the gender bias of Lethen's analysis by showing how the women protagonists of Baum's and Keun's novels actively adopt the characteristics of the Kalte Persona that Lethen attributes only to men. The most pedagogically beneficial aspect of these novels, I argue, is that instead of telling their readers what to believe, both Baum and Keun give their readers the opportunity to formulate their own views on these complex issues. The public discussion of these novels provided women with the opportunity not only to discuss the novels themselves, but also to discuss the controversial issues raised. In my analysis of the critical and popular reception of Baum's and Keun's novels, I illustrate how these writings fostered a great deal of debate in the press about many contemporary controversies, allowing women to add their own often suppressed voices to the raging debates about the changing roles of women in the Weimar Republic.
University of Minnesota Ph.D. dissertation. April 2009. Major: Germanic Studies. Advisor: Richard W. McCormick. 1 computer file (PDF); iii, 250 pages.
King, Adam Ryan.
The pedagogy of pop: implicit codes of conduct in the Weimar novels of Vicki Baum and Irmgard Keun..
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