"The best written, most insightful and convincing study of the relationship between gender and fascism that I have read. . . . Analytically astute."--Ursula R. Mahlendorf, University of California, Santa Barbara"An important new view of German fascism under Hitler and after. . . . Makes a convincing argument that the division of gender in our Western society (including democracies) constitutes fascist practice. . . . Rejects the idea that fascist practice could thrive only in a totalitarian government."--Helga W. Kraft, University of Florida"Superbly designed to draw in readers. . . . Instrumental in shaping and reshaping the way we go about assessing the complex relationship of women and the texts of literature and history."--Patricia Herminghouse, University of Rochester
In this critical women's history, Marie-Luise Gattens focuses on the intersecting of gender and fascism and on the problems of feminist historiography.
Virginia Woolf's Three Guineas (written in Britain in the 1930s) argues that fascism depends on a patriarchal notion of gender and provides a European framework for the four contemporary German women writers that Gattens studies. Ruth Rehmann (Der Mann auf der Kanzel: Fragen an einen Vater) describes a daughter who attempts to understand why her father, a Protestant pastor, refused to perceive the criminal nature of National Socialism. Christa Wolf's autobiographical novel (Patterns of Childhood) reconstructs the way that practices under National Socialism created "the German girl" who is in opposition to men as well as to all non-German women. Helga Schubert (Judasfrauen) confronts women's collaboration with National Socialism, as she retraces the cases of ten women who informed for the Secret Security Police (Gestapo). Finally, Monika Maron (Silent Clove 6) , writing after the fall of the Berlin Wall, stages a struggle between a female historian and a high functionary of the German Democratic Republic in the late 1980s.
In each of the works, "making sense of the past" is explicitly treated as a complicated interpretive process. Gattens writes from the premise that our understanding of the past is written overwhelmingly in terms of men's historical experience and that studying women's accounts will deepen our understanding of National Socialism. She shows, however, that feminist history does not offer pat answers for a nonfascist society.
This study draws on recent work of feminist theoreticians who work within the framework of semiotics, Marxism, and "the poststructural discussion of the subject," as well as Michel Foucault's notion of the disciplines.
Marie-Luise Gattens is associate professor of German at Southern Methodist University. She is the author of articles and book chapters in English and German that deal with feminist theory, women's history, and German and contemporary women's literature.