Literature around 1900, Decadence, Gender Studies, History of Medicine
The dissertation thesis moves on the interface between literature sciences and the history of medicine. Four German texts from the turn of the century are examined, in order to point out the conceptions of disease/health and gender conceptions in their textual representation. The thesis contains four text analyses. The two literary texts chosen for this investigation are: Thomas Mann's novella Tod in Venedig and Heinrich Mann's novel Die Jagd nach Liebe; the two non-literary texts, which oscillate between medicine and culture criticism are Max Nordau's Entartung and Otto Weiningers Geschlecht und Charakter.
On the basis of the privileged position of the medical sciences in the second half of the 19th Century and of the conceptions of Gender which had come into a problematic situation of insecurity, this dissertation thesis points out the crossovers of the two pairs of oppositions - consisting of health/illness and masculinity/femininity - in discourses around 1900. A leading train of thought is that in the turn of the century both pairs of oppositions with their implications were of great importance for a comprehension of normality and that they were negotiated, discussed and structured in different discourses in different forms. Around 1900 a crisis of these two, dichotomized structures can be observed, which forms a central point of this dissertation thesis. In view of this crisis situation, the texts are read as indications of the crisis and, in addition, as texts which contribute to this crisis performatively by their function modes.
Methodologically, the analyses are marked in particular by the discourse analysis and Gender theory. On the basis of the ideas of Michel Foucault this thesis is marked by the knowledge of historical and cultural differences. This thesis concludes that grammatical, social and epistemic models configure what in certain epochs form criteria for possible truths. The view is directed towards how something is presented, how it is seized in intellectual discourse and what can be said about it.
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