Research and Scholarship (Department of Germanic Languages and Literatures)

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    Fairy Tales in the Modern(ist) World: Gerhart Hauptmann’s Bahnwärter Thiel and Marie von Ebner-Eschenbach’s Das Gemeindekind
    (American Association of Teachers of German, 2013) Byram, Katra A., 1975-
    Despite the dark impulses that drive many fairy tales, popular nineteenth-century collections were animated by modern optimism. This article contends that two 1887 novellas, Gerhart Hauptmann’s Bahnwärter Thiel and Marie von Ebner-Eschenbach’s Das Gemeindekind, demonstrate what happened to this optimism and the fairy tale that embodied it at the inception of twentieth-century modernity. It shows how they use fairy-tale frameworks to express a proto-Naturalist worldview and draws out the affinities that make this improbable combination fruitful: foremost, a common concern with poverty and its consequences. Both novellas reject the fairy tale’s miraculous resolution of these problems and, with it, the modern optimism it expresses. At the same time, each demonstrates the continuities underlying the shift to modernism. While Hauptmann’s story retains the fairy tale’s dream of domestic sanctuary and its belief in overwhelming supernatural powers, Ebner-Eschenbach’s preserves a remnant of humanist hope.
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    The Challenge of Mütterliteratur: Gender, Generation, and the Genres of German Cultural Memory
    (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2018-02) Byram, Katra A., 1975-
    Current models of German postwar memory culture often contrast an accusatory second-generation Väterliteratur with a more self-reflexive third-generation family writing. This article demonstrates that reading second-generation books about mothers in the context of historical cultural memory undermines this distinction. Ingeborg Drewitz’s Gestern war heute (1978), Barbara Bronnen’s Die Tochter (1982), and Helga Novak’s Die Eisheiligen (1979) share key features with the post-Wende “new family novel” typified in recent scholarship. These similarities suggest that changing enactments of gender and cultural memory have allowed previously feminized experiences and memory practices to evolve into the basis for a national memory culture.