Sexual Violence in History: A Bibliography

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First published: July 1, 2023 - Last updated: July 1, 2023


Author: Niklas Straetker

Title: Boarding-School Novels around 1900

Subtitle: The Relation of Male Fear of Women to Male-Male Seduction and Sexual Abuse in Hesse, Musil, and Walser

In: German #MeToo: Rape Cultures and Resistance, 1770-2020

Edited by: Elisabeth Krimmer and Patricia Anne Simpson

Place: Rochester, NY

Publisher: Boydell & Brewer

Year: 2022 (Publiehed online: October 8, 2022)

Pages: 219-243

Series: Women and Gender in German Studies 10

ISBN-13: 9781640141353 (hardcover) - Find a Library: Wikipedia, WorldCat | ISBN-13: 9781800106062 (EPUB) - Find a Library: Wikipedia, WorldCat | ISBN-13: 9781800106055 (PDF) - Find a Library: Wikipedia, WorldCat

Language: English

Keywords: Modern History: 20th Century | European History: Austrian History, German History, Swiss History | Types: Child Sexual Abuse; Representations: Literary Texts / Hermann Hesse, Robert Musil, Robert Walser


- Cambridge Core (Restricted Access)

- JSTOR (Restricted Access)

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Author: Niklas Straetker, Department of Germanic Languages, Columbia University

Summary: »In the early twenieth century, the German-language literary scene witnessed the sudden proliferation of boarding-school novels, many of which feature scenarios of (predominantly) male-on-male sexual abuse and/or seduction at crucial points in the plots. Hermann Hesse's (1906; Beneath the Wheel, 1968), Robert Musil's Verwirrungen des Zöglings Törleß (1906; The Confusions of Young Törless, 1955), and Robert Walser's Jakob von Gunten (1909; Jakob von Gunten, 1969), three highly prominent works in the German-language literary canon, share a common setting: all-male boarding schools. As these institutions sequester students from their surroundings, contact with girls and women is limited. In each of the novels, there is only one female figure who plays a larger role and who thus serves as a semantically overcharged representation of womanhood as such. Especially in Unterm Rad and Törless, the lone female character embodies the dangerous world outside the institutions. She is portrayed as a voracious, lascivious, overpowering, and swamp-like entity that threatens to destroy the orderly recursive formalism of the teenage boys' lives.
It may seem counterintuitive that some men perceived women as menacing, violent forces, not only in novels but in the broader masculine imagination as such at a time when, by any objective standards, woman's emancipation and empowerment faced much greater resistance than they do today. This is even more puzzling if one considers the contemporary trope of the "hysterical" woman. It would appear, however, that a hundred years ago, the male protagonists of many a novel and autobiography traded accounts of how they had suffered and feared unsolicited sexual advances by women: #they too, that is. Such (oftentimes fictional) anecdotes cannot belie the larger historical reality of oppression and sexual abuse inflicted on women at the hands of men. Unlike today's #metoo accounts, those anecdotes often targeted a unitary bogeywoman and, in doing so, were more invested in constructing a distorting cultural trope5 than relating actual experiences.
Nonetheless, at the level of rhetoric, such male fear of women is oddly similar to the "female fear of male aggression" that is strongly emphasized in parts of the #metoo movement.« (Source: Cambridge Core)

Wikipedia: History of Europe: History of Austria, History of Germany, History of Switzerland | Literature: Austrian literature / Robert Musil, The Confusions of Young Törless | Literature: German literature / Hermann Hesse, Beneath the Wheel | Literature: Swiss literature / Robert Walser (writer), Jakob von Gunten | Sex and the law: Child sexual abuse / Child sexual abuse in Austria, Child sexual abuse in Germany