“Was willst Du denn eigentlich, Clementine?”: Subjectivity in Fanny Lewald’s Clementine

Katherine Kerschen

Abstract

This article aims to move the scholarship concerning Clementine beyond a narrow interpretation focused on the extratextual significance of this work as it relates to Lewald’s biography as an activist for women’s emancipation. It approaches the novel with a focus on its formal elements, employing critical frameworks from Bakhtin and Butler to examine how Clementine is constructed as a subject. A tension between narrativization (a stable identity) and the unfinalizability inherent in the development of the self pervades the novel, as shown in the contradictions between Clementine’s language and actions. This never-resolved tension is reflected at the structural level in the heterogeneous textual genres contained in Clementine, which allows for a Butlerian reading of identity development through performativity. Ultimately, I show that this largely overlooked work exemplifies many of the features of the literary that have been prized in the canonical—and principally male-authored—texts of the nineteenth century. (KK)

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