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Feeling Differently at the Fin de Siècle: Representations of Emotion and Cultural Change in German Literature, 1890-1901

Yanacek, Holly A. (2016) Feeling Differently at the Fin de Siècle: Representations of Emotion and Cultural Change in German Literature, 1890-1901. Doctoral Dissertation, University of Pittsburgh. (Unpublished)

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This dissertation examines the representation of emotion in German literature of the fin de siècle, which I identify as a period of rapid cultural change when emotional codes and social mores were disputed. Compassion, honor, shame, love, pride, and pity were topics of contested public and intellectual debate around 1900, and I argue that the renegotiation of these emotional codes happened in part through literary works and other media. Building upon Bakhtinian discourse analysis and informed by current history of emotions research, my dissertation contributes the theoretical concept ‘heteropathia,’ which I define as the co-presence of differing ways of feeling represented in a single literary work or cultural object. I propose a methodology of reading for heteropathia that considers three aspects of a novel: the narrative situation, the depiction of emotional styles, and the reference to theoretical models of emotion. Chapter 2 analyzes compassion and honor as emotional antipodes associated with different moral systems in Theodor Fontane’s Effi Briest (1895). Although the novel depicts honor as an emotional practice that has lost its relevance in late nineteenth-century society, it ultimately admits the need for both compassion and self-regulatory emotions. Chapter 3 examines the subversion of nineteenth-century gendered emotional imperatives of feminine shame and romantic love in Lou Andreas-Salomé’s Fenitschka (1898). Fenitschka champions self-realization and validates alternate ways of feeling and gender roles, albeit not without admitting the difficulty in challenging familiar cultural narratives. Chapter 4 reads Thomas Mann’s Buddenbrooks (1901) as a critique of a range of emotions, from unreflective bourgeois pride to life-negating decadent sensibility, across four generations. Through its figure of the young writer Kai, who exemplifies both life-affirming pride and artistic sensibility, Buddenbrooks self-reflexively refers to its own mediation of emotions and thus highlights the role of literature in renegotiating emotions and social mores. I conclude that these three novels feature a heteropathic impulse that recalls the transitional status of the fin de siècle. These works acknowledge emotional alterity yet resist embracing any way of feeling uncritically. Instead, they mediate between diverse affective perspectives and create spaces for critical analysis and dialogue.


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Item Type: University of Pittsburgh ETD
Status: Unpublished
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
Yanacek, Holly A.hay22@pitt.eduHAY220000-0001-9028-6177
ETD Committee:
TitleMemberEmail AddressPitt UsernameORCID
Committee ChairLyon, John B.jblyon@pitt.eduJBLYON
Committee MemberHalle, Randallrhalle@pitt.eduRHALLE
Committee MemberMuenzer, Clarkmuenzer@pitt.eduMUENZER
Committee MemberArac, Jonathanjarac@pitt.eduJARAC
Date: 15 June 2016
Date Type: Publication
Defense Date: 23 March 2016
Approval Date: 15 June 2016
Submission Date: 12 April 2016
Access Restriction: No restriction; Release the ETD for access worldwide immediately.
Number of Pages: 216
Institution: University of Pittsburgh
Schools and Programs: Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences > Germanic Languages and Literatures
Degree: PhD - Doctor of Philosophy
Thesis Type: Doctoral Dissertation
Refereed: Yes
Uncontrolled Keywords: German realism; history of emotions; fin de siècle; Theodor Fontane; Lou Andreas-Salomé; Thomas Mann
Date Deposited: 15 Jun 2016 22:53
Last Modified: 10 May 2021 16:32


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