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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Heinrich Boll's early prose : a discourse of war-damaged bodies Reimchen, Margaret Helen


Using insights drawn from research in a variety of disciplines into theories of the body, this dissertation investigates Heinrich Boll's (1917-1985) early prose (1936-1955) as a discourse of war damaged bodies. The "new" texts discussed appeared in Germany between 1982 and 1995. The thesis represents the first attempt to analyse Boll's work from the perspective of the human body. Chapter I briefly outlines the influence sociology has had for a better understanding of the role of the human body in society. This chapter demonstrates that the body can be fruitfully used both as a critical tool and as an interpretative device in discussing literary texts. An elucidation of the methodology and theoretical approach used concludes the chapter. The thesis explores Boll's use of the body not only as aspects of the narrative and also for its ethical implication. According to him, an author's temporality ("Zeitlichkeit") is the first thing to be communicated before embarking on an analysis or interpretation of his work. Chapter II investigates the "Aryan/Nazi" body and refers to other contemporary body discourses. Chapter III, investigating the "Writer's" body, provides insights into Boll's biography. Both chapters shed considerable light on Germany's cultural, social, internal, and external political situation. Chapter IV describes the soldier's 'closed,' "disciplined" body as portrayed in texts such as Das Vermachtnis. Colonel Bressen, a key character in Wo warst du, Adam?, epitomises the "mirroring" body in Chapter V. More "Schein" than "Sein," it reflects an intentionally internalised and acquired "habitus." In Chapter VI, Boll's war story "Der blasse Hund," provides a striking example of a "dominating" body which seeks to preserve its power and to control its fears through committing violent acts against its helpless victims. In contrast, however, a "communicative" body such as Kate Bogner's in Und sagte kein einziges Wort, examined in Chapter VII, is 'open' and caring. Throughout his early prose, Boll's careful use of body language reveals the multi-layered nature of reality. Chapter VIII summarises the thesis and presents its major findings upon which further critical work on the significance of the human body in Boll's later writings might be based.

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