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Reading Barbara Köhler's Niemands Frau as a Radical Poetic Response to Homer's Odyssey

Johnson, RM; (2016) Reading Barbara Köhler's Niemands Frau as a Radical Poetic Response to Homer's Odyssey. Doctoral thesis , UCL (University College London). Green open access

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This thesis presents the first sustained analysis of Niemands Frau (2007), Barbara Köhler’s radical poetic engagement with Homer’s Odyssey. Köhler weaves together a vast web of intertextual references including Ovid’s Metamorphoses, T.S. Eliot’s The Waste Land and a biography of Alan Turing, and subjects including quantum mechanics, computers and cloning. To provide a coherent structure and facilitate navigation of the potentially overwhelming network of references, I anchor analysis to Köhler’s engagement with classical tradition and the major Odyssean figures that feature in the cantos. Key to my methodology is close reading, essential to gain access to complex and often syntactically irregular cantos. As Niemands Frau resists the total application of a single theoretical or philosophical approach, I draw selectively on the work of thinkers including Deleuze, Barthes, Freud, Cavarero, and Adorno and Horkheimer, in order to elucidate specific aspects. While the introduction provides a review of secondary literature and discussion of the physical construction of Niemands Frau, the first chapter examines Köhler’s text as a feminist critical and creative response to the German tradition of Odyssey translation and reception, as a radical, ‘minor’ translation. Subsequent chapters analyse the literary traditions surrounding Penelope, Helen of Troy, Tiresias and Odysseus to show how Köhler has used elements for her own poetic purposes. I argue that Niemands Frau calls for a close engagement with the literary canon to rehabilitate its ‘other’: the women, monsters and queer figures repressed by (patriarchal) cultural reception. Köhler’s poetic reworking of marginalised figures is political in making marginalised voices heard and, furthermore, derives an ethics from them. She criticises the political, scientific, philosophical and cultural traditions that she perceives as – currently and historically – repressive, and strives for an embodied and differentiated appreciation of life.

Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Title: Reading Barbara Köhler's Niemands Frau as a Radical Poetic Response to Homer's Odyssey
Event: UCL (University College London)
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
Language: English
UCL classification: UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of Arts and Humanities > SELCS
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/1532906
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