Date of Award

Summer 8-13-2010

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Graduate Group

Germanic Languages and Literature

First Advisor

Dr. Frank Trommler

Abstract

The German writer Ernst Kreuder (1903–1972, Büchner Prize 1953), best known for his book Die Gesellschaft vom Dachboden (The Attic Pretenders, 1946), the very first book by a German author published in Germany after World War 2, is now one of the lesser known authors to both academic circles and the general public. The academic interest in Kreuder’s work has been focused primarily on his role as a postwar writer, either in connection with romantic tradition, social criticism or in the context of autobiography. This dissertation offers a new reading of Kreuder’s work in the intersection between literature and ecology. The fact that the relationship between man and nature from the ecological point of view was not the object of literary representation in German prose until the 1970s makes Kreuder one of the pioneers of the ecological approach in West German literature. The analysis of Kreuder’s works presented in this dissertation lies within the scope of a relatively new research paradigm in German literary studies, the “ecologically oriented” literary criticism, which has developed as a continuation of, and later parallel to, the Anglo-American Ecocriticism. This dissertation argues that, through the constant creation and reinvention of forms of literary representation of the relationship between man and nature, Kreuder developed in his works a conceptually sophisticated and aesthetically appealing ecologically oriented Weltanschauung, which manifests itself differently in his various works and culminates at the end of Kreuder’s literary career in his last novel, Der Mann im Bahnwärterhaus (The Man in the Signalman’s Cabin, 1974, posth.). Methodologically my research and interpretation is based on the discursive models developed by Hubert Zapf in the functional approach of the cultural ecology, which examines the ecological function of the fictional texts in the cultural context. The outcome of this research includes an appreciation of the ecological potential of Kreuder’s work, provides insight into strategies and techniques employed by Kreuder to express the ecological concepts, and positions Ernst Kreuder among the pioneers of the ecologically oriented literature. This ultimately contributes to a critical reexamination of the literary canon of 20th Century German literature.

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