"PENILE POLITICS" Sexuality and America in Thomas Brussig's Novel "Helden wie wir"
The German reunification in 1990, a political and historical turning point, produced a literary vacuum, in which the younger generation of writers stood a chance of becoming accepted by a big readership. One of these newcomers is the East German Thomas Brussig. His novel Helden wie wir (Heroes like us) has since its publication in 1995 been acclaimed as one of the most important contemporary German novels. Recounting the German reunification from a sexual point of view, it tells the story of the pervert Klaus Uhltzscht who brings down the Berlin Wall with his penis. Sexuality embodies the East German society’s struggle between freedom and ideological bondage. Helden wie wir also deals with the relationship between Germany and the United States. We see today’s United States as a sanctuary and mainstay for Germany’s history. Brussig refers to the American dream, democracy and freedom, interweaving voices of American politicians like Ronald Reagan and using American culture as a foil for his protagonist Klaus. In my analysis of Helden wie wir I focus on sexuality and America. In my analysis of sexuality I follow the references in the novel itself – Freudian theories, the East German sex therapist Siegfried Schnabel, and works by Christa Wolf. I also include works not explicitly mentioned in the novel but which yield further insight into Brussig’s understanding of sexuality, Philip Roth’s novel Portnoy’s Complaint and Thomas Laqueur’s Making Sex. I try to explore sexuality further by working out special aspects, like the division of sexuality in East and West, the penis as symbol, and the language of sex. In the chapter on American ideas I include political statements of American presidents as a historical account of the reunification by the German historian Manfred Görtemaker. Besides other historical analyses and scholarly literature about the picture of America in German literature, the view of the Western world in Christa Wolf’s works is juxtaposed with Helden wie wir. Furthermore, I include the depiction of America in Brussig’s two other novels Am kürzeren Ende der Sonnenallee and Wasserfarben in order to show a continuity in the author’s perspective on this topic. The conclusion unites the previous chapters and shows how sexuality and America together form a complex in Helden wie wir.
School:University of Cincinnati
School Location:USA - Ohio
Source Type:Master's Thesis
Keywords:contemporary german literature theory of sexuality america in
Date of Publication:01/01/2005