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Rubble trouble: History and subjectivity in the ruins of fascism

Siobhan S Craig, University of Massachusetts Amherst


This dissertation discusses Anna Banti's Artemisia, Roberto Rossellini's Paisà, Ingeborg Bachmann short story “Simultan,” Helma Sanders-Brahms' Deutschland, bleiche Mutter and Alain Resnais' Hiroshima mon amour. The novels and films addressed all create a condition of epistemological crisis; they present the spectator or reader with a landscape of rubble, both literal and figurative, in which all existing structures have been erased. There are no stable epistemological certainties left, only provisional configurations that are always threatening to collapse once more into the debris, history is defined by slippage and displacement. Bachmann and Resnais, in particular, explore the trace and echo of “history,” and the rupture of temporal stability; for them, history shares the structure of language, ruled by metonymy and slippage, always exceeding any stable framework. These self-referentially split and fractured narratives present us with a universe in which everything is in flux. If “history” is “broken” by definition, so too are subjectivity, gender and desire: rupture and splitting are their constitutive elements. In Rossellini's films, especially, heterosexual masculinity has lost any claim to “authenticity” and has become purely performative, a phantasm of opera, theater, film, even puppet shows. The male subject is constituted both as spectacle and obsessive spectator, with voyeurism and scopophlia the only possible forms of desire. The lacuna of desire left by the collapse of the heterosexual male subject is partly filled by the scopophilic appetites of the cinematic spectator: we see ourselves, and our own deviant desire, constantly represented on screen.

Subject Area

Comparative literature|Motion Pictures|Germanic literature|Romance literature

Recommended Citation

Craig, Siobhan S, "Rubble trouble: History and subjectivity in the ruins of fascism" (2000). Doctoral Dissertations Available from Proquest. AAI9960745.