Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Heimat and memory in the city: Representations of New York City and Vienna in autobiographical works of exiled Viennese authors
by Wilson, Wendy Sue, Ph.D., Georgetown University, 2009, 207; 3366092
Abstract (Summary)

This dissertation investigates the notion of Heimat as it intersects with memory through representations of Vienna and New York City (NYC). I contend that characteristics of NYC allow exiles to (re)discover elements of their former Heimat, as they come to terms with their new lives in the United States. Moreover, I offer two new perspectives on the notion of Heimat. First, it is a fluid notion that can change under the influence of new circumstances and second, cityscape rather than landscape or nature plays a significant role in its development.

To show this, I have examined Franzi Ascher's memoir – Bilderbuch aus der Fremde, Friedrich Heydenau's exile novel – Auf und ab, and Elisabeth Freundlich's autobiography – Die fahrenden Jahre. Ascher, Heydenau, and Freundlich spent the majority of their exile from the Third Reich in NYC and their works offer ample opportunity to examine representations of both cities. This dissertation assesses the influence and function of the notion of Heimat and memory in their representations and considers how do they shape or maintain identity. What effects does this rupture have on their function? Do they repair this rupture? Focusing on function, while analyzing the reciprocal influence of the central locality of their original Heimat – Vienna and their exile locality – New York City allows me to address these questions and present three simultaneously congruent and divergent notions of Heimat.

Finally, I employ Heimat and collective memory theory, analyzing both individual and collective aspects of the formation of memories and the notion of Heimat. My theoretical approach begins with Maurice Halbwachs' seminal work On Collective Memory and Peter Blickle's work, Heimat: a Critical Theory of the German Idea of Homeland, Heimat. I agree with the predominant school of thought, which asserts that the social frameworks – such as family, religion, and social class – shape one's memories and demonstrate that these coincide with the social frameworks that shape one's notion of Heimat. I show however that while both may be formed in or defined by a "collective," they remain distinctly personal, and I support this by highlighting the collective commonalities and the individual differences.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Eigler, Friederike
Commitee: Murphy, G. Ronald, Pfeiffer, Peter C.
School: Georgetown University
Department: German
School Location: United States -- District of Columbia
Source: DAI-A 70/07, Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Germanic literature
Keywords: Ascher, Franzi, Austria, Austrian studies, Collective memory, Exile literature, Freundlich, Elisabeth, Heimat, Heydenau, Friedrich, New York City, Vienna
Publication Number: 3366092
ISBN: 978-1-109-26661-0
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