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Image and autonomy : Woman figures in Thomas Mann's work

Valentine, Gerta; (2004) Image and autonomy : Woman figures in Thomas Mann's work. Doctoral thesis (Ph.D), UCL (University College London). Green open access

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Abstract

Critical orthodoxy tends to perceive Thomas Mann as an intellectual or cerebral writer; and, in consequence, it is often argued that he is interested not in individual characters as convincing, engaging, human entities, but rather in stereotypical figures who embody certain values or attitudes. And - so the argument runs - this limitation is particularly evident in respect of the women figures. The publication of the diaries has led critics to invoke his latent homosexuality as further evidence for his inability to create credible women characters. This thesis seeks to challenge this orthodoxy by arguing that time and time again Thomas Mann's women figures challenge - or, at the very least, call into question - the stereotyping that is foisted upon them by their socio-cultural context and lay claim to a measure of human autonomy. Of course Thomas Mann understands the omnipresent workings of the stereotypifying agencies - the family, male desire (as enshrined in a resolutely male culture), patriarchal myths, and so on. But he reflects upon these stereotypes on frequent occasions. And he seems to take profound narrative and human delight in instances of emotional, psychological and cognitive freedom on the part of his women figures. The thesis concentrates on Tony and Gerda Buddenbrook, Clawdia Chauchat, Lotte Kestner, Mut-em- enet and Rosalie v. Tümmler. In the complex, often surprising, and sometimes painful processes by which these characters free themselves from the roles wished upon them, they challenge that particular and prevalent function, which is assigned to women in Western European literature - to advance (or to hinder) the male self in its quest for self-realization. Perhaps Mann's repressed (homo-)sexuality helped him to understand states of inhibition and repression, and, by this token, the female predicament. In any event, this thesis seeks to suggest that the women figures are some of the most credible and appealing creations in Thomas Mann's fictional universe.

Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Qualification: Ph.D
Title: Image and autonomy : Woman figures in Thomas Mann's work
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
Language: English
Additional information: Thesis digitised by ProQuest.
Keywords: Language, literature and linguistics; Social sciences; Mann, Thomas
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10100968
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