December 1975 Newsletter
NEWS FROM WOMEN IN GERMAN
December 15, 1975
What you send to us is the fabric of this newsletter. When we sat face to face at the MMLA in Chicago and at the AATG in Washington D.C., we discovered that people had much information and many ideas which they had not yet shared with us. When placed in a larger context, each individual item of information takes on new and greater significance. Therefore, do not hesitate to send us anything concerning Women in German. To facilitate quick and easy communication, we agreed to overlook the amenities in our correspondence. Therefore, don’t feel obliged to send even a cover letter. Just put whatever information you have into a stamped envelope^ address it to us and mail it.
Please note the following important CORRECTION to the San Francisco MLA Program:
WOMEN IN GERMAN will meet in OPEN (not closed) session on Saturday morning, December 27, 8:30 a.m., in the Windsor Room, second floor of the ST. FRANCIS Hotel.
Be sure to spread the word about our meeting, since even the incorrect notice is buried in the program. This is our one opportunity to establish direct contact with West Coast Women in German who may not have had the opportunity to come to our previous meetings in the East and Midwest.
Reports from the Women in German Meetings
Attendance, at this meeting of the coalition was high; interest was as usual keen: over 35 people attended. A report was given on our questionnaire results. Not surprisingly, we found no non-sexist textbooks.
Ideas generated: As a follow-up to responses on the sexism in textbooks questionnaires, we discussed strategy for reaching publishers more effectively at the MLA. The following were suggested:
1) Invite publishers whose texts we have examined to our coalition meeting in San Francisco.
2) Create confrontational happenings concerning sexism in textbooks at the publishers’ booths in San Francisco. Come with ideas. One suggestion is to have teams of two go to the booths and read aloud (in English) pre-selected portions of texts which are particularly offensive, then repeat this dialogue several times. The purpose of the tactic is to call public attention to the nature of these texts and hopefully to embarrass publishers into action. Another idea is to organize a succession of individuals who would naively question the publishers about the sexism in their textbooks: point to a specific passage and ask in all innocence and surprise, "Are you aware ...?" After five people have done this, the publishers may get the point.
3) Any time a text is not used by you or your department, be sure to inform the publishers that their text has been rejected for sexist reasons.
Let them know exactly how many copies you would have used for how long a period of time, so that the extent to which sexism is not in their selfinterest becomes clear. If your department has not rejected a text in spite of its sexist bias, send your objections to the publishers anyway.
4) At the MLA we are planning to frame a collective letter to be sent to publishers from the Coalition of Women in German. A letter-writing campaign will also be organized there.
5) We discussed the need for writing our own non-sexist introductory texts. Collectives of people are urged to begin planning such texts.
The coalition of Women in German which met at the national meeting of the AATG in Washington, D.C., unanimously passed the following resolution:
"Moved that the editorial board of the AATG be urged to devote one issue of the German Quarterly to the theme of ’Women and German Literature." It was stressed that if the board decided to do this, the German Quarterly should provide sufficient and widely distributed notice of this special issue, thus giving people ample time to prepare contributions. The need for an issue on this theme was brought to the attention of the editors of German Quarterly at the open meeting of the journals held the previous evening. It is not known whether this suggestion will be implemented. If you support this idea write directly to the editor of GQ, William Little at the University of Virginia, Charlottesville, Va.
The "Women and Germanistic" section of the AATG was very well attended in spite of its being scheduled inconveniently at the very end of the meeting. Clearly people stayed just to hear it. Response to the panel was so enthusiastic that the AATG voted to include another section on "Women and Germanistic" at the summer meeting of the AATG in Philadelphia, 1926. Hopefully this section will become a permanent one.
One important discussion at the AATG concerned discrimination in school systems and the need for information about affirmative action. Anyone who has access to information or experience of this kind should contact us and we will print their names so that they may be contacted as resource people. One booklet suggested during our discussion was Sue the Bastards, written by a feminist lawyer and available from Aeoleon Press.
A Week-end Conference of Women in German?
The idea of a week-end conference was enthusiastically supported by the coalition of Women in German which met both at the MMLA and the AATG. Two people have expressed interest in organizing this week-end: Naomi Stephan (Valparaiso University, Valparaiso, Indiana) and Gisela Bahr (Miami Univ., Oxford, Ohio). Gisela is looking into the possibility of having the meeting in Ohio in the early fall of 1976. It is likely that Gisela and Naomi will work together on this project. Anyone interested in working with them should contact them directly.
The MLA seminar on Feminist Perspectives in Teaching German Literature, instituted by the Coalition of Women in German, will meet Monday, December 29 from 9-10:15 a.m. in San Francisco. Discussion will focus on position papers by Barbara Drygulski Wright (Univ. Conn.), Naomi Stephan (Valparaiso Univ.), and Judith M. Harris (U.Ca.-Berkeley) concerning Kabale und Liebe and Maria Magdalene as bürgerliche Trauerspiele.
Barbara will trace the role of the passive suffering martyr, as it gradually becomes restricted to an intelligent and powerful female, from the martyr plays of the baroque period to the bourgeois plays of Lessing, Schiller and Hebbel. She will explore the ways in which female chastity became one of the few bourgeois moral virtues- considered worth defending to the death, during and after the rise of an educated bourgeoisie.
Naomi will examine how new concepts of drama as a vehicle for social change failed to offer a base for the development of the female figure toward any of the idealistic goals of emancipation, independence and freedom from oppression so enthusiastically propounded by the theorists and dramatists of the day. She will discuss how weakness and passivity in women were used to illustrate powerlessness and oppression of the middle class in the 18th century, and how, by suspending woman’s humanity, the middle class man could find some compensation for his political impotence. Naomi will also consider questions of presentation and reception of such plays as Kabale und Liebe in terms of reinforcing cliched notions of the female.
Judith will focus on Maria Magdalene as a reflection of Hebbel's literary image of women versus the social reality of the nineteenth century. By viewing the drama in the context of Hebbel’s theory of tragedy, his desire to revive the bourgeois tragedy, and some of the socio-political events of the first half of the nineteenth century, she will point out some of the crucial contradictions and questions which go beyond a critique of the narrow bourgeois patriarchy of the play. The dynamics of Klara’s relationships to the men in her life and the demise of the three female figures will be viewed against Hebbel’s (usually misogynistic) diary notations. Judith will also draw attention to Kroetz’s recent re-working of the play.
No papers will be read at the seminar, which will instead be entirely devoted to discussion. Persons wishing copies of the participants' brief position papers before the seminar should send a self-addressed stamped envelope with request to: Patricia Herminghouse, Dept. of Germanic Languages and Literature, [redacted] Washington University, St. Louis, MO 63130.
The deadline for the "Women in German" issue of Unterrichtspraxis has been extended till mid-January. Send contributions to Gerhard Weiss, Univ. of Minnesota, Minneapolis, Minn. The journal is interested in any articles pertaining to women so long as they have a pedagogical perspective.
MLA Job Interviews: In previous years women have had numerous complaints concerning treatment at job interviews. This year we will have some recourse. Kathryn Buck will be available at the MLA Job Information Service in San Francisco to receive and investigate complaints on the spot. If you do not have time to reach her there, contact her by letter c/o the MLA, [redacted]
Female Studies VIII: A collection of essays and syllabi concerning Teaching About Women in the Foreign Languages should be available at the MLA. Look for it at the information tables sponsored by the Women’s Caucus for the Modern Languages or inquire at the Feminist Press booth. Information as to how you can obtain it by mail and for how much will be provided in the next Newsletter. We also hope to include a critique of how useful it is particularly to teachers of German.
Bibliographies: We have received two bibliographies: one from Pat Herminghouse on "Women and Contemporary German Society" and one from a collective in Bloomington, Indiana, "German Women Writers in English Translation." We will reorganize these bibliographical listings and publish them in the next newsletter.
Nadean Bishop is compiling a bibliography of bibliographies with respect to Women in English and in the foreign languages. If anyone is compiling a bibliography, send the information to her at [redacted]
Pat Herminghouse is exploring possible funding from the "Women’s Educational Equity Act" for compiling an anthology of German women writers in translation.
She would like to see the project go beyond literature to include some good feminist criticism and some sociological and historical material. Anyone with suggestions on what should be included and/or indications of materials which they would like to translate, or for which they would like to write introductions, can contact Pat at the following address: Dept. of Germanic Languages and Literature, [redacted] Washington University, St. Louis, MO 63130.
In addition, some people at the recent AATG conference expressed a need for a women-writers-in-German text for fourth semester level instruction. Anyone with ideas on such a project or interested in helping develop it should also contact Pat.
Research in Progress
Sara Platzer is preparing a colloquium about Karin Struck to be presented sometime in February at the University of Colorado, Boulder campus. She will use critiques of Die Mutter, and also intends to start a dialogue about Struck in a later issue of this Newsletter.
The Aggressive Woman in Theodor Fontane
Renny Harrigan is working on an article about the aggressive woman in Theodor Fontane’s Mathilde Moring. This is a part of a larger project entitled "The Limits of Female Emancipation: Theodor Fontane’s Lower Class Women," soon to be completed.
This newsletter was prepared by Angelika Bammer, Evelyn Torton Beck, Viktoria Harwig, Jeanne Howell, Sara Pietsch, Christa Stutius, and Nancy Vedder-Shults, with thanks to Susan Sniader Lanser for contributing her typing "to the cause." Sue is a graduate student in Comparative Literature who earns extra money by typing papers and dissertations. She now refuses to type any that use sexist language. We pass this idea on as a potentially effective consciousness-raiser.
NOTE: If you have not yet paid your subscription fee, please do so now. If you have, we thank you for your support. Send your check for $2 ($1 if unemployed) for a year’s subscription to Women in German, German Dept., Univ. of Wisconsin, Madison, Wisconsin 53706.
Susan Sniader Lanser, typed