Literature as intervention:challenging normativity in the writing of Elisabeth Reichart, Charlotte Roche and Elfriede Jelinek

Wech, Cornelia (2019) Literature as intervention:challenging normativity in the writing of Elisabeth Reichart, Charlotte Roche and Elfriede Jelinek. PhD thesis, UNSPECIFIED.

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In this thesis, I analyse how the literary works of Elisabeth Reichart, Charlotte Roche and Elfriede Jelinek challenge normativity both in their engagement with gender and sexuality and with aesthetic choices. The comparative analysis of texts published over a period of twenty years (Fotze, 1993; Feuchtgebiete, 2008; and SCHATTEN (Eurydike sagt), 2013) provides insights into the socio-political and cultural dynamics at the different times of publication. Furthermore, such analysis reveals the continuing relevance of feminist authorial voices to the present day. At the same time, through the engagement with authors of different generational and professional backgrounds who might have diverging and in some regards contrasting perspectives on gender and sexuality, my thesis intends to challenge a stable, normative understanding of feminism and feminist writing itself. By combining performativity and performance theory not just with textual analysis but also with reader-response criticism, I make use of an innovative theoretical framework which allows me to outline how literature can expose and destabilise harmful gender norms. For this matter, I interrogate Reichart’s, Roche’s and Jelinek’s highly controversial engagement with issues around intimate hygiene, sexuality, sexually explicit discourse and rigid gender structures. Simultaneously, I show how the texts’ provocative and unsettling content is mirrored also in the aesthetic strategies they employ. These include discontinuous storylines, humour and parody, and the blurring between fantasy and reality. I further explore the potential that I see not only in literary texts but also in the authors’ own public performances to intervene in norms on multiple levels. The aim of my thesis is to make a case for an anti-normative analysis of literature, which makes the ways in which a text confronts us with ambiguities, insecurities and uncomfortable topics productive. In this sense, I show how literature can function as a form of intervention that provides a reflective space for readers to question norms in their own lives and to take the initiative to change these norms.

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Thesis (PhD)
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18 Feb 2019 12:45
Last Modified:
19 Sep 2023 03:07