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The Traffic of Gender in Expressionist Prose Writing

V & R unipress
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  • German Literature
  • Linguistics


untitled Sonderdruck aus Frank Krause (Hg.) Expressionism and Gender / Expressionismus und Geschlecht V&R unipress ISBN 978-3-89971-717-4 ©V&R unipress GmbH, Göttingen 2010 Andreas Kramer The Traffic of Gender in Expressionist Prose Writing In a recent essay devoted to the long-overdue recovery of »Women in German Expressionism«, Barbara Wright observes, among other things, that many male Expressionist writers and artists, for all their artistic innovations and their opp- osition to the bourgeois world, remained caught in traditional ways of thinking about gender identity and gender difference.1 Indeed, numerous texts within the Expressionist repertoire deal in depressingly familiar stereotypes of men and women, playing off the one against the other and apparently adopting the full range of dichotomies that lie at the heart of essentialist gender discourse. As Wright suggests, such conservative attitudes towards gender among the pre- dominantly male Expressionists would inevitably have implications for their project of social and cultural change, a project encapsulated in their demand for a »New Man«. If this assessment is broadly correct, then Expressionist writing can be seen to reinforce, rather than question, existing stereotypes about the male / female binary. In effect then, by refusing to see how gender is con- structed socially and culturally, and by not interrogating such constructions, Expressionist writers might be accused of perpetuating patriarchal discourses. Without wishing to refute this broad view, I’d like to add nuance to it. My argument is that there are prose texts by both male and female Expressionist writers which suggest a more ambiguous view of gender identity and de- stabilise, at least for a moment, the conventional binary and hierarchy. I’ve organised my discussion around the issue of traffic, Verkehr, as both a

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