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Betrothal, Violence, and the «Beloved Sacrifice» in Nineteenth-Century German Literature

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Jennifer Cizik Edmond

In nineteenth-century German prose, violence against women, especially affianced young innocents, is brutal, common, and cathartic. This seemingly paradoxical combination of factors results from the role of literature as a place where problems of sexual and social difference can be investigated safely. Taking social-anthropological and psychoanalytic perspectives into account, this book shows how female figures in the works of that era became transformed into «beloved sacrifices,» whose liminal position between the role of daughter and that of wife and mother made them prime targets for expiatory violence. It also demonstrates the prevalence of this topos, even in the major works of such canonical authors as Hoffmann, Storm, Keller, Raabe, and Fontane.