On knowingness : irony and queerness in the works of Byron, Heine, Fontane, and Wilde
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This thesis identifies strategies of queer/irony in the writings of Lord Byron, Heinrich Heine, Theodor Fontane, and Oscar Wilde. Key to the understanding of irony is Friedrich Schlegel's re-evaluation of the concept. The thesis establishes an approach to the multifaceted concept of irony and identify key concepts of queer theory. The focus, however, is close reading. First, Lord Byron's epic satire Don Juan is read with regards to the interplay of narrative strategies and the depiction of gender, homoeroticism and the concept of the child. Furthermore, reviews published at the time of the publication of Don Juan are examined: Why did the reviewers reject the work so violently? Second, in Heine's Buch der Lieder we find ironic strategies that Richard Rorty subsumed into the concept of 'final vocabularies.' By acknowledging the formulaic nature of language in general and Romantic tropes in particular, Heine succeeds in subverting a heteronormative discourse on love and desire. Heine's Reisebilder – 'Die Reise von München nach Genua' and 'Die Bäder von Lucca' – depict the limits of queer/irony: Where meaning is fixed, as in the case of the Platen polemic, irony loses its propensity to contain multitudes. Third, Theodor Fontane's novels of adultery are read against the background of irony as established through a Schlegelian reading of Frau Jenny Treibel and a queer reading of Ellernklipp. The novels Unwiederbringlich and Effi Briest question notions of truth and map the danger of knowledge. At the core of this chapter lies the notion of 'knowledge management,' a strategy closely related to irony. The figure of the courtier Pentz in Unwiederbringlich becomes a harbinger of dangerous, queer knowledge similar to the way Crampas' use of Heine quotations negotiates sexually suggestive knowledge in Effi Briest. In a final step, the aforementioned queer/ironic strategies are employed to read texts by Oscar Wilde. Are the strategies as inferred in the other chapters valid for Wilde's writings as well? We find that, in a time where homoerotic behaviour was heavily sanctioned, ironic writing had become a liability. Wilde's ironies are too opaque for the reader: They have become a movement where nobody is allowed to 'play along.'
Thesis, PhD Doctor of Philosophy
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