Date of Completion
20th Century German Speaking Literature, Gender Studies, Human Rights
Katharina von Hammerstein
Field of Study
Doctor of Philosophy
My dissertation examines how two German-speaking authors of the 20th century—Ingeborg Bachmann in her ”Todesarten”-Projekt (Ways of Death Project) (1962/63-1971/1972) and Uwe Johnson in Jahrestage (Anniversaries) (1970, 1971, 1973, 1983)—inscribe themselves into the Human Rights discourse. By employing newly developed theories of gender as they intersect with theories of Human Rights I argue that both authors consciously create complex gendered as well as sexual minority perspectives that allow the authors to focus on oppressed groups.
I investigate how Bachmann employs these perspectives, particularly in Das Buch Franza (The Book of Franza) (1965/66), to highlight her female protagonists as successors of Jewish victims of the atrocities committed by former Nazis, modeling both on the final protocols of the Nuremburg Doctors Trials. The crimes exposed in these trials also contributed to the inspiration for the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) in 1948, marking the start of the current Human Rights discourse. Thus, I show that Das Buch Franza and the UDHR share the same source of inspiration and are both shaped by a return to Natural Law, making Bachmann’s book part of this discourse. Furthermore, I apply Carol Anderson’s study Eyes off the Prize. The United Nations and the African American Struggle for Human Rights, 1944-1955 (2003) to Johnson’s Jahrestage. Anderson argues that—despite the successes of the Civil Rights Movement—the failure to include economic rights with legal binding power in the UDHR has left the majority of African Americans from the 1960s to the present, living in conditions characterized by structural racism. I contend that Johnson illustrates a critique akin to Anderson’s later one, by conceptualizing the living conditions and family life of an African- American girl, allowing him to present the dramatic effects of economic rights not sufficiently implemented in the UDHR.
My dissertation thus demonstrates two German-speaking authors add—via new gender constructions—to the intersection of literature and human rights by demonstrating the necessity of implementing the rights of the UDHR into the Austrian and U.S.-American legal frameworks. Thus, these writers’ works perform a typical function of human rights literature.
Bettray, Ute, "Menschenrechtsdiskurse und Gender in ausgewählten Werken von Ingeborg Bachmann und Uwe Johnson" (2014). Doctoral Dissertations. 452.