May 1975 Newsletter
May 15, 1975
Once again something is new in Women in German. Last issue we changed our name; this issue we have started a new column: Dialogue. Looking ahead, we are also planning a column devoted to reviews of books pertaining to any aspects of women and German literature and culture. We welcome short book reviews or suggestions for books to be reviewed.
In response to several inquiries, we wish to make it clear that the newsletter invites all interested men sympathetic to our aims to take part in our effort. These inquiries underscore our firm belief that feminism implies human liberation.
Sexism in Textbooks
The fight against sexism in textbooks continues. While we are still gathering information on specific textbooks, one member of our coalition, Naomi Stephan, (Valparaiso University), has already taken some action and contacted two publishers on her own. Houghton Mifflin (Deutsch Heute) responded directly, while Van Nostrand Co. (Conversation in German) forwarded her letter to the author of the text in question. Excerpts from this correspondence appear below.
In her letters Naomi cited numerous specific examples of sexist biases and concluded that since both texts perpetuated the worst kind of female/male biases as well as role stereotypes, she found them “unsuitable for classroom use." John T. Riordan, Vice President and Editorial Director of Houghton Mifflin, is acting as a clearing house for his company's efforts to eliminate "any inadvertent sex and minority and ethnic group stereotyping," and welcomed "letters from individuals who are interested in providing students with an appropriate view of society". Nonetheless, he defended the book on "pedagogical grounds" and felt that since it was no more sexist than other books written in the early seventies, it was unfair to single out this one.
Frank Sedwick (Rollins College), co-author of Conversation in German,was considerably less responsive and more offensive. He felt that some of the objections to his text were "just plain silly", though he admits that others merit attention.
He explained that "a new edition is new in preparation, and we of course bend to the times".(ital ours) However, he concluded; "Textbooks should not be concocted as a vehicle for social change, rather they should reflect things as they are, else they become merely propaganda for pressure groups." He concluded by sermonizing: "I think that what you and the 'Women in German' group are doing is wrong... Your letter had the tone of a self-appointed Grand Inquisitor looking for a heretic under every bush." Further comment on the above seems entirely unnecessary.
However, we wish to add: a textbook, like every other work of literature, not only reflects social patterns, but also shapes them.
This response readily reveals how deeply ingrained the status quo is in our society, and hew strongly people will fight to maintain it. It is clear that publishers are becoming responsive to such criticism (especially if it is likely to hurt their pocketbooks) and will be even more so if we continue our efforts to raise their awareness. As evidence of this changing trend, guidelines for eliminating sexism in textbooks are available from Holt-Rinehart-Winston. Scott-Foresman has also printed a pamphlet entitled : "Guidelines for improving the Image of Women in Textbooks." This can be obtained free from Research and information Division, Scott-Foresman, 1900 E. Lake Avenue, Glenview, Illinois, 60025. Naomi Stephan says it is very good. In this connection, we wish to strengthen our group effort
and are appending a second copy of our questionnaire. Sorb of you may not have found an opportunity to fill it out in the press of the semester. We hope that you will find a few minutes during t he summer to send it to us. If you have already sent yours, pass this one on to someone else.
Competition on Sexism in Textbooks
This competition was announced in the March 75 AATG newsletter. Deadline is October 15, 1975. Richard Johnson and Jeanette Claussen are writing a paper on sexism in Lohnes and Strothmann for this competition. They are interested (a) in receiving information from others familiar with this text or (b) working on this project in a collective effort. Contact Richard Johnson, Indiana University-Purdue University, Port Wayne, Indiana 46805.
Visit by Karin Struck
Karin Struck, author of Klassenliebe (1973) and Die Mutter (1975) will be in this country during late October and the first half of November, and will be available for lectures and readings. Anyone who would like to have her visit their campus should get in touch with Evelyn Beck, German Department, University of Wisconsin, Madison, WI 53706, who will forward this information through the appropriate channels. Please include information concerning the honorarium you would be able to pay.
German Section 5
It is extremely likely that the topic for Section German 5 at the MLA. in 1976 will be ‘'Re-evaluations of women writers from Vormärz to the present: from Fanny Lewald to Karin Struck." Although the 1976 meeting is still a long way off, the research on these topics should probably be started new, since papers for the December meeting must be submitted as early as Spring of 1976. This means that only this summer (1975) is available for writing and researching these new topics.
A translation of Gabriele Wohmann's The Sisters (Die Schwestem) by Edna Spitz and Elizabeth Rütschi-Herrmann is being published this fall. It will appear in Dimension, University of Texas-Austin.
MMLA Paper on Gabriele Reuter
Richard Johnson, Indiana University-Purdue University will present a paper “Becoming a Woman Writer: Gabriele Reuter’s Autobiography and Biographies” at the fall 1975 MMLA.
This column, devoted to controversial issues, such as the questionable feminism of certain women writers, is a new feature of the newsletter. While the "feminism" of Erica Jong’s Pear of Flying has stirred considerable controversy in the United States, Karin Struck has cane out with two books (Klassenliebe and Die Mutter) which are certain to be as hotly debated on this side of the Atlantic when they are finally translated into English. It is not Karin Struck, however, but Christa Wolf with whom wee wish to begin. Though Wolf has raised considerably less controversy than Jong or Struck in West Germany and the United States, her books do raise important feminist issues which need to be examined. This is especially true of one of her latest short stories, "Selbsversuch," which appears in her collection Unter den Linden (1974). The story concerns a woman scientist who, as an experiment, chooses to become physiologically male, while retaining her original "female" self in all other respects. When she finds herself becoming
"male" emotionally as well- i.e. "unable to love"--she decides to return to "womanhood." As is evident even from the brief synopsis above, this story raises serious questions concerning Wolf's stance on the relative significance of biological determinism versus acculturation, We feel that while Wolf is well aware of the effects of socialization on men and women, she nonetheless seems to accept the male assumption that biology determines one's emotional make-up.
As a result, Wolf unwittingly supports the patriarchal view of women. If women only are innately capable of "loving," how can we ever break out of the stereotypical role divisions? Clearly we have not said the final word on this story and view our opinion as the starting point of a dialogue. We invite your responses to Struck and Wolf, particularly to Wolf's story and/or our interpretations of the problems it poses.
Materials on Feminism in German
As it is difficult to find information on the Feminist Movement in German-speaking countries, we are in the process of compiling such material. Several publishing companies are making special efforts to print feminist literature, and in addition women's groups are creating their cum journals. Our list is just a beginning. If you know of any other journals, special publications or records, let us know, so that we can share these resources.
I Publishing companies offering books on the women's movement and feminism:
1) Trikont, 8 Mfinchen 80, Josephburgerstrasse 16
2) Verlag Roter Stem, 6 Frankfurt, Postfach 18-0147
3) Maulwurf-Bucversand, 1 Berlin 62, Crellestr. 22
4) Faith Verlag, Stamberg, Possenhofenerstrasse 36; "Materialien zur Frauenemanzipation" edited by Antje Kunstmann; special series begun fall 1969
3) Fotbuch Verlag, 1 Berlin 31, Jenaer Str. 9
1) "Auf: Aktion UnabliSngiger Frauen", eine Frauenzeitschrift—quarterly 1090 Wien, Tendlergasse 6/1,2
2) "Frauen gemeinsam sind stark", Frauenzeitung, A newspaper for women by women. Editorship changes from city to city. It appears quarterly and is available from women's groups and political bookstores.
3) "Frauenoffensive"; 8 Munchen 80, Josephburgerstr. 16; "Frauenoffensive" has also released a record of songs by women's groups in Frankfurt, Munich and Darmstadt: : Von heute an gibt's mein Prograum". The record can be ordered from Trikont Verlag.
German women have been singing "Ich bin von Kopf bis Fuss auf Liebe eingestellt" long enough. A group of women in Munich has written this new text:
Man hat uns von Kopf bis Fuss auf Männer Eingestellt
Man hat uns von Kopf bis Fuss auf Männer eingestellt und das war uns're Welt und scrnst gar nichts.
Wir lasen Brigitte und jeden Roman wir spielten die Puppen für Männer das kam an.
Wir war'n von Kopf bis Fuss auf Männer eingestellt das war uns're Welt und sonst gar nichts.
Wir haben begriffen war uns 're Rolle war
politisch 'ne Null — doch im Bett
Ja wir war 'n von Kopf bis Fuss auf Männer eingestellt
und das war uns're Welt und sonst gar nichts.
Doch plötzlich da kotzte uns alles so an wir merkten unser Ziel das ist nicht der Mann.
Wir hab'n uns von Kopf bis Fuss auf Kämpfen eingestellt, das ist ,jetzt uns're Welt und sonst gar nichts.
Wir wollen bestimmen was mit uns geschieht gegen Kapitalismus und gegen den Profit.
Ja wir sind von Kopf bis Fuss auf Kämpfen eingestellt das ist jetzt uns're Welt und sonst gar nichts!
Richard Johnson has also sent us the following information concerning an interview with Anna Marie Troger on Feminism in Germany today. Ms. Troger is a professor of political science in Berlin and one of the leaders of the women's movement in Germany. She spent three years in the United States, returned to Germany, and then came back again recently to examine American feminism. She discusses the social, political, and economic conditions of women in Germany, primarily the Bundesrepublic, and contrasts them with the United States. Although a few portions of the interview are repetitive, most of it provides an excellent introduction to German feminism. Her efforts to set up consciousness raising groups in Germany are particularly valuable in demonstrating the problems facing German feminists today. The interview would be appropriate in any courses dealing with current issues in Germany, even in language courses as long as other materials in German or a brief German vocabulary were available. This tape is 28 minutes long and can be ordered from the Feminist Radio Network, [redacted] Washington D.C. 20016.
When we last requested examples of syllabi from courses dealing with either "Images of Women in German Literature" or "German Women Writers," the number of such courses was indeed rather small. The last few months have seen a great increase of interest and as a result numerous campuses have instituted or are in the process of instituting these courses — for example, Christina Keck's summer course at Purdue, described at some length in our last newsletter. In the light of these new developments, we feel it is more important than ever to share resources and experiences. We are, therefore, once again calling for annotated syllabi indicating class responses to the works included and describing methods that have succeeded as well as those that weren't as effective.
We have received two such reports. The first is from Richard Johnson at Indiana University-Purdue University in Fort Wayne, a synopsis of which appears below:
The course was entitled "Images of Women in German Literature" and was open to students who could read German (for German credit) as well as to those who could not. Works treated were: Lessing’s Emilia Galotti, Goethe's Iphigenie in Tauris and Faust I, Kleists's Penthesilea, F. Schlegel's Lucinde, Heboel's Maria Magdalene, Fontane's Effi Briest, Hauptmann's "Flagman Thiel," Schnitzler's "Miss Else," Musil's "Tonka," Brecht's Mother Courage and Her Children, C. Wolf's The Quest for Christa T. and G. de Bruyn's "Exchange of Sexes.” The goal of the course was "to increase the student's understanding of 1) German literature, especially the role that women play in major works in English translation from the Enlightenment to the present, and 2) the development of socially defined sex roles in German speaking areas during that period.' The discussion focused on three major areas: 1) social stereotyping of women in each work and, to a lesser extent, men; 2) the degree to which an author creates characters who transcend stereotypes? and 3) the significance of the characters in the work as a whole.
A second course outline arrived from Elizabeth Rütschi-Herrmann and Edna Spitz (Stanford University) early last week. The freshman seminar on "German Women Writers of the Twentieth Century" which they taught last fall will be offered again first semester next year. Works read included: Richarda Huch's The Deruga Trial
and Eros Invincible, Bertha von Suttner's Lay down your Arms and Memoirs of Bertha v. Suttner, Vol. 1, Vicki Baum’s Grand Hotel and It was ALL QUITE DIFFERENT, Anna Seghers' The Seventh Cross and Transit, Luise Rinser's Nina and The Rings of Glass, Use Aichinger's The Bound Man, Ghosts on the Lake and Herod's Children, Ingeborg Bachmann's Undine Goes and A Step towards Gomorrah, Kelly Sachs' The Chimneys, Christa Wolf’s The Quest for Christa T., Werner Thonnessen's analysis of the proletarian women's movement around the turn of the century: The Emancipation of Women and selections from contemporary German women writers including Gabriele Wohmann, Gisela Ilsner, Christa Reinig and Helga M. Novak.
Response to such courses can best be summarized in Richard Johnson's words:
"The discussions are the most animated and exciting of any I have had in seven years of teaching." Such enthusiasm is not at all atypical for this kind of course.
This newsletter was prepared by Angelika Banmer, Evelyn Torton Beck, Jeanne Howell, Judy Stout, Christa Stutius, Nancy Vedder-shults.
This is our last newsletter until the fall semester. However, the newsletter staff will be active all sunnier compiling the material you send to us in preparation for an early fall issue.
If you are familiar with more than one text, please xerox or copy this form for each additional text.1. What text are you refering to:
Publication Date:2. Does this text contain any blatant remarks denigrating women?
If "Yes", please provide examples:
A) In readings or dialogues?
B) In exercises?3. Does the text contain any examples of sex role stereotyping?
If "Yes", please provide examples:
A) In readings or dialogues?
B) In exercises?
4. If your answer to questions No. 2 and 3 are both "No", does the text reflect the changing roles of women and men in society? Please give examples.
Please return to: Evelyn T. Beck, German Department, University of Wisconsin, Madison, Wisconsin 53706