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Offizier und Amazone: Frauen in Maennerkleidung in der deutschen Literatur um 1800

Elisabeth Krimmer, University of Massachusetts Amherst


This thesis investigates cross-dressing as a historical practice and as a literary motif German texts around 1800. It is interested in how cross-dressing allowed real women and their fictional counterparts a wider sphere of action, and how the figure of the transvestite affected the contemporary discourse on "gendered character," a newly arising concept that attempted to define woman's intellectual and moral make-up as a derivative of her body. Chapter 1 is concerned with novels by Therese Huber and Caroline de la Motte Fouque which are set during the time of the French Revolution. It analyses how concepts of femininity are tied up with the author's political agenda by comparing a heroine who fights for the republicans with another who is a royalist. Chapter 2 focuses on the motif of the death of the transvestite in texts by Schiller, Kleist, and Gunderrode. It demonstrates how in Schiller's and Kleist's texts language, truth, and gender become entangled, whereas Gunderrode's texts refuse to instrumentalize the category of gender in order to stabilize cultural norms and values. Chapter 3 investigates the discourse on cross-dressing in the city of Weimar, the cultural mecca of Germany's late 18$\sp{\rm th}$ century. It understands texts by Charlotte von Stein and Wolfgang von Goethe as a discussion about the essence of gender carried out through the figure of the transvestite, and aims especially to reconstruct von Stein's point of view. Chapter 4 is concerned with novels by Frederike Helene Unger and Karoline Paulus which portray foreign cross-dressers, i.e., texts where the transgression of gender lines is coupled with a transgression of national boundaries. It demonstrates how these exotic transvestites function as enabling devices, facilitating the expression of forbidden desires and a critique of German gender norms. Finally, chapter 5 focuses on the literary movement of romanticism. It demonstrates how Dorothea Schlegel and Bettina Brentano-von Arnim employ the transvestite's power to defy dichotomies and to express desire. Rather than drawing a clear line between subversive and conservative texts, the analysis exposes the complicated network of resistance to and compliance with dominant gender stereotypes within every text.

Subject Area

Germanic literature

Recommended Citation

Krimmer, Elisabeth, "Offizier und Amazone: Frauen in Maennerkleidung in der deutschen Literatur um 1800" (1998). Doctoral Dissertations Available from Proquest. AAI9909177.