An Indelible Seal: Race, Hybridity and Identity in Elisabeth Langgässer's Writings

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Abstract

Presenting a case study on the German writer Elisabeth Langgässer (1899-1950), who rose to postwar fame with her both highly evocative and ambivalent literary treatment of Jewish themes and the Holocaust, my first monograph treated the under-researched history of 'mixed-race Jews' under Nazism. By charting the historically problematic implications of notions of 'hybridity', my study sought to challenge the 1990s enthusiastic celebration of this concept in the wake of Homi K. Bhabhas writings. My book explores the ways in which Langgässer‘s literary and personal writings constructed cultural and geographical meeting points of Christianity and Judaism. These, I argue, presented Langgässer with a mode of working through the notions of 'racial hybridity' that led to her own Nazi persecution as a 'mixed-race Jew' ('jüdischer Mischling'). Tracing the historical, ideological and personal dimensions of Langgässer's literary production, chapters examine the body of theories and social practices regarding the 'racial hybrid' since the mid-nineteenth century, their impact on Langgässer's self-understanding through her letters and personal writings, and the representation and function of 'hybrid' and Jewish characters in the writer's three major novels. Responding to the public controversy caused by the memoir of Langgässer eldest daughter Cordelia Edvardson (1984), an Auschwitz survivor who accused her mother of having abandoned her to deportation, the final chapter of my book explores the complex dimensions of this truly epic mother-daughter conflict in light of the 'Jewish' and 'Jewish hybrid' predicaments in Nazi Germany.
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationEssen
PublisherBlaue Eule
Publication statusPublished - 2001

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