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Ursula Hegi: Tearing the German Silence in American English

This thesis comes from the desire to explore the paradoxical phenomenon of silence about Nazism and the Holocaust from the point of view remained unexplored for a long time, that of the many Germans who have immigrated to America after the war. The mastery Ursula Hegi, a contemporary writer, will assume a great importance, because she gave us not only a unique portrait of more than thirty years of German history, captured through the eyes of the dwarf Trudi and the microcosm of a small Rhineland village, but she gave also voice to the excruciating guilt and shame that still afflict thousands of German immigrants against Nazi crimes.
In this discussion will be considered novels Floating from My Mother's Palm (1990), Stones from the River (1994) and The Vision of Emma Blau (2000), with particular emphasis on the essay Tearing the Silence: On Being German in America (1997), which collects a series of interviews conducted by Hegi with a group of German immigrants who, overwhelmed by feelings of guilt and the silence experienced in childhood, often found themselves unable to deal with the "dark legacy" left by the their parents. Hegi tried to break through this veil of secrecy and guilt that oppresses her generation to accept herself and the past of her native Germany. Born in 1946 in a small town near Dusseldorf, Ursula Hegi moved in the United States at eighteen, where she currently teaches creative writing at Eastern Washington University. She published six novels, an essay, two collections of novels and a children's book. Feltrinelli in Italy in 2000 published "The Vision of Emma Blau" and in 1998 "Like stones in the river" which was a huge success, winning the Grinzane Cavour-2000 prize for fiction.
The thesis begins with a brief look into the causes and consequences of the long silence that surrounded the Holocaust after 1945, dissolved only in the late sixties and seventies. it will explore the social and psychological implications of the Holocaust in contemporary American life, including the proliferation of museums dedicated exclusively to the memory and the global distribution of many successful films that, according to the scholar Alvin Rosenfeld, resulted in a mere "Americanization" of the phenomenon itself.
The second section opens with a chapter that tries to retrace the personal and literary works undertaken by Ursula Hegi in her long and arduous journey toward a complete acceptance of her being a German in America, in which her life is not within the American culture, but in between two different cultures, yet so important for the definition of her own identity. Starting from Hegi's fiction, this silence in schools, families, churches, is presented as a mirror of society's general amnesia, while the indoctrination and the consequent inhibition of thinking and reasoning are explained as the main reasons that drove millions of Germans to submit blindly to a totalitarian regime. This theory will be discussed within a broader academic discussion, including psychoanalysts Wilhelm Reich, Erich Fromm and the philosopher Theodor W. Adorno.
The thesis ends with an analysis of three female characters - Helene in The Vision of Emma Blau, Hanna in Floating in My Mother's Palm and Trudi in Stones from the River - Hegi created them to demonstrate that the veil of silence of the German people can be ripped and to completely accept oneself's identity. With the courage of being different, "Others", they learn to never give up and oppose the strength of their intelligence to the oppression and indifference. From their point of view, they observe other people and discover the inner deformity. Above all stands out the character of Trudi, the dwarf of Burgdorf, who, despite her appearance, becomes a sort of confidant, a collector of stories and secrets, a kind of guardian of collective memories told in pages of books banned by the Nazis but waiting for better times. In the end, she becomes aware of being intellectually different from this hard and brutal universe that surrounds her. At the end of the fantasy Trudi becomes a princess that, as in a dream, breaks the spell of indifference and silence accepting the enigma of her body and herself as a German.

Mostra/Nascondi contenuto.
URSULA HEGI: TEARING THE GERMAN SILENCE IN AMERICAN ENGLISH 4 1. THE SHOAH THROUGH AMERICAN EYES 1.1. THE LONG SHADOW OF SILENCE A little more than a half-century has passed since the collapse of Hitler's Third Reich, and mankind is still struggling to come to grips with its legacy of horror and bestiality. In the aftermath of World War II the so-called “civilized” world was shocked to see photographs of unimaginable horror; victims stacked in piles of hundreds and thousands, “living skeleton” 1 describing unspeakable brutality and atrocities. The scenes of mass murder that were exposed in the spring of 1945 with the opening of the Nazi extermination camps are images that will never be erased from human consciousness. But it is not enough that the crimes against humanity that were committed at Auschwitz, Treblinka, Bergen-Belsen, Buchenwald and Dachau should never be forgotten. It is no less vital that the significance and meaning of those crimes be understood. Over the past two decades, interest and growing awareness in the Shoah 2 in the world has blossomed. Similarly, a significant number of works have been published, examining the legacy of National Socialism from the perspective of a new generation that has begun to question its parents’ involvement with the Nazism and the Shoah by ushering in a multitude of questions on guilt and silence. Who was innocent; who guilty? How far will we allow ourselves to go before we speak up? 3 1 Hegi, U., Tearing the Silence: Being German in America, New York: Simon & Schuster, 1997: 267. 2 See note [1] at the end of the introduction for the discussion about the use of the term Shoah rather than Holocaust. 3 From here on, I am referring to the following historical sources about the Third Reich and the Shoah, Corni, G., Storia della Germania. Da Bismarck alla riunificazione. Milano: Saggiatore, 1995: 223-316. Grobman, G. M. (1990). The Holocaust - A guide for Teachers. Retrieved October 15, 2004, from http://www.remember.org/guide/. Mazower, M., Le ombre dell’Europa. Democrazie e totalitarismi nel XX secolo. Milano: Garzanti, 2000: 145-247. Polari, A. & M. Giappichelli. (eds). Storia e analisi storica. 3B. Giunti Scuola: Prato, 1998: 266-403. The Southern Institute for Education and Resort (2004). The Holocaust. Retrieved October 15, 2004, from http://www.southerninstitute.info/.

Tesi di Laurea

Facoltà: Lettere e Filosofia

Autore: Elisa Trentini Contatta »

Composta da 48 pagine.

 

Questa tesi ha raggiunto 1135 click dal 25/01/2005.

Disponibile in PDF, la consultazione è esclusivamente in formato digitale.