Thumbnail Image

Justifying the Margins: Marginal Culture, Hybridity and the Polish Challenge in Fontane's Effi Briest

This dissertation argues that the interpretive framework from which Fontane's Effi Briest is commonly approached limits discussion to metropolitan core culture and fails to address Fontane's path-breaking accomplishment. After outlining limitations of some prominent approaches to Effi Briest in chapter one, my next four chapters explore alternative reading strategies that instead situate the novel in the imperial context of the new German state inflected by transnational relations and problematize the tendency to see Germany as a space territorially and culturally homogenized and stable. Chapter two reads the novel through Foucault's notion of heterotopia to demonstrate Fontane's heterotopic strategies as a counter-model to the monolithic mapping of novelistic space. In chapters three and four I use Bakhtin's chronotopic strategies to show how Fontane "fuses together" fictional time and space into a productive force for depicting society in motion and change. I demonstrate how this "spatial turn" breaks with the traditional time-paradigm and opens up space for polyphony and dialogism. Chapter five discusses Fontane's Wanderungen contrapuntally to draw attention to Fontane's counter-strategies, which break with the master narrative in favor of small-scale ones, to show their relevance for Effi Briest. The rest of my dissertation focuses on the novel's Eastern Pomeranian/Kessin-based chapters. Chapter six addresses the spatial arrangement of Hinterpommern from the viewpoint of the ruling elites. Chapter seven treats Kessin as a hybridized "third space" that both resists the dominant and represents an unstable and ambiguous alternative to paralyzing dichotomies of opposites. I also look into Hinterpommern as a contested space between Germans and Poles - and their competing claims over the Kasubians, inhabitants of the strategically important Baltic area. In chapter eight I show how the Polish margins impinge on Fontane's fictional representation of Prussia and are articulated in both the content and structure of Effi Briest. In chapter nine I discuss Fontane's representation of Polish/Slavic-hyphenated characters in terms of their different responses/resistance to anti-Slav/Polish prejudices and measures. In revealing the creative and transformative powers of margins this dissertation models alternative ways of approaching canonical writers and contributes to the transnationalization of German studies in particular and cultural studies in general.
Research Projects
Organizational Units
Journal Issue
Publisher Version
Embedded videos