Queer Kinships and Curious Creatures: Animal Poetics in Literary Modernism
MetadataShow full item record
My dissertation brings together prose texts and poetry by four writers and poets, who published in German language at the beginning of the twentieth century: Hugo von Hofmannsthal (1874-1929), Franz Kafka (1883-1924), Rainer Maria Rilke (1875-1926), and Georg Trakl (1887-1914). All four of these writers are concerned with the inadequacy of language and cognition, the so called Sprachkrise at the turn-of-the-century. In their texts, they challenge the ability of language to function as a means of communication, and as a way to express emotions or relate more deeply to the world. While it is widely recognized that this “crisis of identity” in modernist literature has been a crisis of language all along, I argue in my dissertation that the question of language is ultimately also a question of “the animal.” Other scholars have argued for animals’ poetic agency (e.g. Aaron M. Moe; Susan McHugh), or for the conceptual link between the “crisis of language” and the threat to human exceptionalism in the intellectual milieu of the early twentieth century (Kári Driscoll). My dissertation is the first study that explores the interconnection between Sprachkrise, animality, and the phenomenological philosophy of embodiment. Drawing on Merleau-Ponty’s philosophy of phenomenology, I illustrate how Hofmannsthal, Kafka, Rilke and Trakl invoke the body as intertwined with animals in complex ways, and employ these animal figures to reconceptualize notions of language and specifically the metaphor. The authors, I argue, engage in a zoopoetic writing, as other forms of life participate as both symbolic and material bodies in the signifying processes. Moreover, I illustrate how their zoopoetic approach involve forms of intimacy and envision figures that fall outside heteronormative sexualities and ontologies, making the case for a queer zoopoetics in Modernist German literature.