Item Details

Dinge des Exils - Ein Panoptikum der Krise

Waegner, Beatrice
Thesis/Dissertation; Online
Waegner, Beatrice
Biemann, Asher
Bennett, Benjamin
Grossman, Jeffrey
Wellmon, Michael
This dissertation examines the impact the condition of exile has on the relationship between people and the material world formed by the objects around them. It is a literary study of 20th century German Exile Literature. By examining and comparing biographical and literary texts through the lens of objects, I clarify and complicate what it means to be exiled. Things accompany people into, in, and from exile and take on an ambivalent function: things help people cope with the unstable state of exile, but they also plunge people into a state of crisis by making them aware of their precarious situation. The exile literature studied includes biographical and literary materials by authors who had to flee from the National Socialists: Stefan Zweig, Joseph Roth, Vicky Baum, Anna Seghers, Erich Maria Remarque, and Rose Ausländer. In each chapter, I describe, analyze, and compare the lives and literatures of two authors in order to identify three categories of objects which are vital under the condition of exile: Zweig and Roth are concerned with the function of things to build community under the condition of exile. Baum and Seghers explore the protective and deceptive power of everyday things under the condition of exile. Finally, Ausländer and Remarque focus on the companionship things give people under the nomadic condition of exile. In addition to contemporary thing theorists like Bill Brown and Bruno Latour, I work with the writings of intellectuals who lived in exile, mainly Theodor W. Adorno and Walter Benjamin, in order to define the framework for my literary analysis. This dissertation complicates the idea that exile writers have nothing left but their language. They are greatly concerned with the material world as well and use their language in order to communicate the importance of things. This research further complicates the idea that exile only uproots people. I argue that exile throws the material world into crisis as well. In “Dinge des Exils – Ein Panoptikum der Krise,” I demonstrate how refugees are inseparable from their things, how these things generate identity, and how things store memory.
University of Virginia, Department of Germanic Languages and Literatures, PHD (Doctor of Philosophy), 2015
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PHD (Doctor of Philosophy)
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