Date of Award


Document Type

Open Access Thesis





First Advisor

Michael Kirkwood House


The “long nineteenth century” was subject to various social, economic, political and cultural changes that were propelled by the Enlightenment and industrialization. This alteration of human life also had a physical dimension. It generated new bodypolitics and conceptions of labor which had a significant impact on the human body. This project is concerned with the changing experience of human physicality in the long nineteenth century and how it is reflected in German literature of the time. I study the trope of the body in Gerhart Hauptmann’s Die Weber, Georg Büchner’s Woyzeck and Franz Kafka’s Die Verwandlung. I reveal how the constructed individual and collective bodies in these texts become sites of social, economic, political and cultural conflicts. By constructing, reconstructing and deconstructing human physicality, they negotiate and delineate the boundaries of human existence. Moreover, I show how these images of human physicality point back at and criticize the societies that produced them. All three texts construct an intertextual body which draws a bleak image of the human condition at the time. Human physicality in the modern age reveals itself as being in a state of denial, disappropriation and dehumanization. In response to this, all three texts demand a sociopolitical reappropriation of the human body on an individual as well as collective level. This thesis raises awareness of a significant yet understudied subject in German literature and provides a starting point for further research in this field.


© 2017, Hans Niehues