Date of Award

1-1-2012

Document Type

Campus Access Dissertation

Department

Comparative Literature

First Advisor

Yvonne M Ivory

Abstract

This study is committed to a critical analysis of the ways in which constructions of masculinity and national identity intersect in contemporary German cinema. The fundamental premise behind it is that masculinity, or rather male subjectivity, functions as the nodal point for negotiating national identity. Thus the thesis argues that the contemporary process of German normalization attempts to create consensus based on a gender bias in which masculinity comes to represent the privileged site of reconstruction at the expense of female and marginal subjectivities. Despite the prominence of masculinity studies in recent years, a comprehensive study of masculinities and male fantasies in current German film has not yet been undertaken.

In Chapters 2 and 3, I analyze The Miracle of Bern (Das Wunder von Bern, 2003) and Downfall (Der Untergang, 2004) as exemplary films of a new normalized historical cinema that reinstalls male subjectivity's privileged position in a less suspicious, postfeminist fashion. In Chapter 4, I transfer these questions of normalization and male subjectivity to a multicultural context, analyzing Turkish-German director Fatih Akin's utopian film The Edge of Heaven (Auf der anderen Seite, 2007). Drawing on Jessica Benjamin's intersubjective revision of Freudian psychoanalysis, I argue that the film attempts to create a dialectical space of mutual recognition that offers way out of male domination. At the same time, however, the film eclipses the problematic dominance of German hegemonic masculinity and falls back on stereotypical depictions of a violent, Muslim Other. Finally, in Chapter 5, I explore current counter-filmmaking and the ways in which it can revive questions of self-consciousness. In reading Michael Haneke's The White Ribbon (Das weiße Band, 2009) and Christoph Hochhäusler's I Am Guilty (Falscher Bekenner, 2006), I show how they each confront German male subjectivity in their very distinctive ways. That is, both directors return to cinematic forms that leave the viewer questioning, rather than comforted.

This array of films is of course highly selective, but they are representative of the most dominant trends in twenty-first century German film. Furthermore, the focus on exclusively male directors results from the study's overall attempt to evoke a sense of male selfconsciousness.

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