TLRH | SLLCS Seminar| ‘Porn Philology? On Editing the Notorious Mutzenbacher Novel (1906)’
Tuesday, 12 October 2021, 4 – 5pm
A talk by Dr Clemens Ruthner (German Dept, TCD) chaired by Prof Mary Cosgroveas part of the School of Languages, Literatures and Cultural Studies Research Seminar Series in association with Trinity Long Room Hub.
The novel (or allegedly: auto-biography) Josefine Mutzenbacher. Die Geschichte einer Wienerischen Dirne. Von ihr selbst erzählt [The Story of a Viennese Harlot, told by herself] this is probably the most notorious text in Austrian turn-of-the-centuries literature. Published anonymously in 1906, the text is no less than a crystallization point for almost all discourses on sexuality in the 20th and 21st centuries: a livre maudit, and at the same time one of the great erotic bestsellers in German (or rather: Viennese) language, which whole generations of Central European men read under the school desk as a sex education of sorts. Die Mutzenbacher was policed, and even banned, but also adapted for cinema in 1970 - and repeatedly appreciated for its artistically obscene humour, e.g. by Oswald Wiener, one of the leading authors of the avantgardist Wiener Gruppe of the 1950s and 60s, who wrote two essays on the novel.
However, the search for the pornographic author continues: Felix Salten, the author of the famous children's book Bambi, is a usual suspect, but forensic linguistics tells a different story. Also, Die Mutzenbacher has always raised the question what is morally permissible when you spreak of sex, and what is not - and finally, at what age do you ‘own’ your sex: Does this novel count among the "writings harmful to minors"? Is it allowed to sell it and demand royalties for it - or should it better be forbidden by law? Is its female protagonist the forerunner of a female self-empowerment, or is the novel the culmination of an incredible objectification of women as sexual commodities, and even child pornography? How do the strategies of this representation of sexuality work and within what historical context can they be re-read in an illuminating way? But first, you need an academically acceptable edition of the text…
Dr Clemens Ruthner is an Assistant Professor in German and Central European Studies at Trinity College Dublin and Director of Research of its School of Languages, Literatures and Cultural Studies. His research focuses on fin-de-siècle literature and culture in Central Europe, Postcoloniality, on alterity, gender and sexuality, and cultural theory. Latest monograph: Habsburg's 'Dark Continent' (2018).
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