A Literature of Theory: Christa Wolf's Kassandra Lectures as Feminist Anti-Poetics

by Thomas O. Beebee, Beverly M. Weber
A Literature of Theory: Christa Wolf's Kassandra Lectures as Feminist Anti-Poetics
Thomas O. Beebee, Beverly M. Weber
The German Quarterly
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University of Massachusetts, Amherst

A Literature of Theory: Christa Wolf's Kassandra Lectures asFeminist Anti-Poetics

Christa Wolfs Frankfurt lectures, de- livered in May 1982, have enjoyed (or suf- fered) a critical reception that adequately addresses the narrative "Kassandra" as lit- erary discourse, while generally neglecting the theoretical import of the accompany- ing lectures.1 In the five lectures, Wolf deliberately avoids providing a unified "poetics." However, she does present theo- ries of literature that are key to under- standing her more recent writing and illus- trate affinities to feminist literary theory and cultural theory developed by scholars in Germany, Europe, and North America. To adequately read the five Kassandra lec- tures as theory, one must examine them as a whole, as we intend to do in this article. As Judith Ryan suggests, Wolf develops a poetics (or rather, anti-poetics) in which theory and practice are not separated (86). Our investigation of how the five lectures do this will suggest that together they live up to the title of "Lectures on Poetics" un- der which they were given -provided one can include an "anti-poetics" under that rubric. Recognizing the problematic rela- tionship between postmodernism and fem- inism~,we will not explore Wolfs theoreti- cal stance within a postmodernist frame- work as Ryan has done, but rather within and in resistance to the larger German lit- erary-theoretical tradition and in an inter- national feminist theoretical framework, suggesting that these positionings are more adequately understood by reading the lectures and narrative together. In ad- dition, we will see that the unusual form of the lectures suits their feminist content. Wolf thereby makes the indirect point that feminist criticism and theory must assume new forms in order to challenge patriarchy, and refuses the desire of a male colleague that she accept the authority of literary genre ("die Autoritat der literarischen Gattungen [...I gelten lassen" [WE 131]).2

The focussing of reading and of critical attention on the narrative apart from its preconditions began with their publication history and has continued in their critical reception. In the Federal Republic of Ger- many the lectures appeared in two sepa- rate volumes: the Vorrausetzungen without the story, and "Kassandra" without the Vorrausetzungen. In the German Demo- cratic Republic, Aufbau Verlag published

Kassandra. Vier Vorlesungen. Eine Erzah- lung in 1983 (and in several subsequent editions).As its title indicates, this edition contained all five lectures in their original order, illustrated, but with portions of the third lecture censored (see Appendix; on the censoringof the WE, see Graves). The story was also published separately by Reclam Leipzig. Though the story has been translated into nearly all European lan- guages, including Icelandic and Catalan, as of 1986 the other four lectures had ap- peared only in English, Italian and Dutch editions (Geist and Rost 482-86). To fur- ther complicate things, the English trans-

The German Quarterly 74.3 (Summer 2001) 259

lation by Jan van Heurck put everything (except the "Literaturnachweis") back to- gether, but reversed Wolfs original order- ing. Van Heurck's relocation of the story to precede the lectures made them into an ap- pendix rather than Wolfs intended "Vor- aussetzungen" (translated as "conditions," but really "preconditions" or "requirements"). His jettisoning of the author's Literaturnachweis, while understandable given that the titles were in German, made the lectures less a scholarly exercise than a personal memoir. Wolf herself has affirmed that the "Vorlesungen und die Erziihlung zusammen stellen ein hthetisches Gebil- de dar" ("Urspriinge" 914).

Criticism has by and large ignored the author's preference for considering the five lectures as a whole. Leslie Adelson, Heidi Gilpin, Judith Ryan, Sigrid Weigel, and Sabine Wilke all separate the first four lectures from the fifth, focus on one side of this divide or the other, and then conclude -tautologically -that Wolf "adheres to [...I generic boundaries" (Adelson 511), creates Kassandra as an autonomous, sta- ble subject (Weigel), and negates radical critiques in her earlier texts in order to end the narrative "conventionally" (Wilke). Anna Kuhn's work, in contrast, does recog- nize the radical potential in reading the five lectures together, but joins Sigrid Weigel in arguing that this potential lies in the autonomy created for the subject (191). We contend that a reading of all five lec- tures will show that Wolf confronts rather than adheres to generic boundaries, delib- erately de-autonomizes Kassandra as sub- ject in order to activate the reader, and avoids narrative closure by constantly cross-referencing fiction and theory.

The lectures examine the preconditions not so much of the narrative "Kassandra" as of any story produced within a patriar- chal system of aesthetic norms. The first lecture, "Ein Reisebericht iiber das zu- fdlige Auftauchen und die allmahliche Verfertigung einer Gestalt," reveals Wolfs double-tracked search for Kassandra, in the pages of books and in the landscapes of Greece. The second lecture continues in the Greek setting, with emphasis on a trip to Crete that provokes the recollection of a matriarchal society. The third lecture, "Ein Arbeitstagebuch uber den Stoff, aus dem das Leben und die Traume sind," ap- plies the Greek material to the present (e.g., Reagan-era) situation in the GDR, with emphasis on the arms race and on Germany's doomed role in the superpower conflict. The fourth lecture, "Ein Brief uber Eindeutigkeit und Mehrdeutigkeit, Bestimmtheit und Unbestimmtheit; uber sehr alte Zustiinde und neue Seh-Raster; uber Objektivitat," is in the form of a letter to a fictitious friend, A. This letter, filled with citations from the work of Ingeborg Bachmann, reflects on what woman's writ- ing might look like. From the table of con- tents, it is easy to see the variety in form and content of the lectures.

How Christa Wolf Lost Her Poetics

The Frankfurter Poetik Vorlesungen are the public arm of a "Stiftungsgastdozentur fur Poetik" at the Johann Wolfgang Goethe University. They were founded in 1959 by the university rector, Helmut Viebrock, on the Oxford model, to provide a forum in which practicing poets and novelists would share their insights into those aspects of literature most occu- pying their minds at the time. The list of Dozentur-holders reads like a Who's Who of contemporary German literature, be- ginning with Ingeborg Bachmann in 1959 and proceeding through Heinrich Boll (1964) and Christa Wolf on to Ernst Jandl (1984) and Hans Mayer (1986). The lec- tures have been televised, and a majority of them find publication. In his brief over- view of the series, Horst Dieter Schlosser notes that Wolfs lectures drew especially large crowds, so that a video hook-up was needed to accommodate overflow listeners in another auditorium (298).

Given the original goal of this series to glean insights concerning literature from its producers, rather than from critics, the- orists, or historians, the concept "Poetik ist entsprechend weit gefaljt: er meint hier die Standortbestimmung des Autors, die die- ser nach seinen Gesichtspunkten vornimmt" (Schlosser 9). Seemingly unaware of this looser understanding of the term "poetics" in the history of the Frankfurt lectures, from the first sentences of her first lecture Wolf insists on placing her own viewpoints in the context of the history of Western poetics asa theory of literary pro- duction: "Poetikvorlesungen heil3t dieses Unternehmen, aber ich sage Ihnen gleich: eine Poetik kann ich Ihnen nicht anbieten" (VEE 7). Elsewhere, Wolf has also denied that these lectures constitute literary criti- cism ("Aus einer Diskussion" 901).3 In other words, Wolf apologizes here for not doing something that could not have been expected of her, and that only a few of her predecessors had undertaken. Such insis- tence bears examination.

There are several senses in which Wolfs disclaimer can be interpreted, as well as several in which it can be considered misleading. If we place stress on the word "eine," then its meaning becomes adjecti- val: a "single," unified, non-contradictory poetics is being rejected; instead, Wolf of- fers us several. This hint at a multiple or Protean poetics corresponds to the very different forms Wolf gives the five lectures: the first two are Reiseberichte or travel nar- ratives; the third is an Arbeitstagebuch or work diary; the fourth is a Brief or letter; the fifth an interior monologue. It is note- worthy that in the history of German liter- ature the first three of these forms have functioned as vehicles for important criti- cal and theoretical statements. In what we today call his Italienische Reise (1816) Goe- the used the travel narrative to forge his most sustained (albeit indirect) argument for German Classicism. Rainer Maria Rilke's fictionalized diary, Die Aufzeich- nungen des Malte Laurids Brigge (1910) was an extended meditation on art and aes- thetic perception. The letter was widely used for philosophical discourse and liter- ary criticism in the eighteenth century, most memorably by Friedrich Schiller for his Briefe zur ~sthetischen Erziehung des Menschen (1793-94). Yet these three forms -travel narrative, diary, and letter -are unusual vehicles for literary theory today, due to the general process of differentia- tion of social sub-systems, and in particu- lar to the institutionalization of literary criticism and theory within the academy and its assimilation of scientific norms of


We might say that Wolf offers us theo- ries of literature and culture, but no poetics. W E. McDonald initially agrees with Wolf that "the four lectures are all au- tobiographical and explicitly not 'confron- tational' with any established poetic" (267). McDonald then goes on to compare the VEE with such texts as: Thomas Mann's Die Entstehung des Doktor Fau- stus, Umberto Eco's Postille a1 None della Rosa, and Jane Gallop's Thinking through the Body, finally deciding that Wolf "is working toward a new kind of text" (269), one in which fiction and autobiography en- gage in open dialogue. "Wolf has, in spite of her disclaimers, fulfilled the assignment given to her by her Frankfurt sponsors; she has not 'announced a poetic,' but inscribed a poetic practice" (McDonald 280). To this dialogue we may add theory- while Wolfs Kindheitsmuster is a work that blurs boundaries primarily between autobiogra- phy and fiction, VEE adds a much heavier emphasis on the theoretical component of the literary dialogue which comprises Wolfs work. She has, in a way, created a new literary genre, a structural confronta- tion with poetics.

If Wolf really had no poetics to offer she would either remain silent or begin her story earlier rather than give us hundreds of pages of "preconditions." Indeed, the very title, "Voraussetzungen einer ErzBhlung," carries with it an implied theoretical stance. Wolf did not use alternative terms such as "Quellen einer Erzahlung," "Wer- degang einer Erzahlung" or the like, but chose a term that points to the logical de- pendence of narrative upon something else that precedes it. Wolfs rejection of "Po- etik" stems from her understanding of poetics as aregulated system of norms gov- erning literary production. Citing from the Lexikon der Antike, she defines "Poetik" as the:

Lehre von der Dichtkunst, die, im fortge- schrittenen Stadium, -Aristoteles, Ho- raz -eine systematische Form annimmt, und deren Normen seit dem Humanis- mus in zahlreichen Landern weithin Giil- tigkeit erlangen. (VEE 714

Wolfs unsystematic, discursive construc- tion of the four lectures supports her de- nial of a systematic approach to literary theory. This point would be almost super- fluous, however, for two reasons: first, un- like lyric, epic, and drama, the prose forms Wolf writes in were never governed by a consistent poetics; and second, very little contemporary theorizingcan be called sys- tematic. The death knell ofpoetics as a sys- tematic project was sounded in the late eighteenth century by Kant, who relo- cated aesthetic norming from external, rhetorically and ethically based systems into individual works when he argued that art is produced by genius, "welches der Kunst der Regel gibt" (307). Kant's state- ment marked a shift to individual expres- sion after centuries of poetizing on the ba- sis of rhetorical norms, Aristotelian and Horation poetics, and other "objective" criteria.

The state-encouraged socialist realism of the GDR, in the context of which Wolf wrote for much of her career, provides one of the rare examples of a unified poetics of prose. Socialist-realist aesthetics was con- sistently understood in the GDR as an at- tempt to create a totality in art -an ideology of unity that was transferred from po- litical discourse to aesthetics. This poetics combined an understanding of history rooted in dialectical materialism with a valorization of the style and forms of lgth century realist literature. Although West German critics considered socialist real- ism to be static and confining (Emmerich 1211, some argued that this theory of liter- ary production slowly lost the character of a closed system as official definitions even- tually gave way to a

sich dynamisch entwickelndes System von Prinzipien urid Zielsetzungen der kiinstlerischen Aneignung der Wirklich- keit vom Standpunkt der revolutiontiren Arbeiterklasse und der sozialistischen Gesellschaft. (Berger 591)

Despite attempts to redefine itself in the 1970s as dynamic, DDR socialist realism remained heavily rooted in the writings of Georg Lukacs. Lukacs developed a "reflec- tion theory" (based on Hegelian philoso- phy) in which literature should appropri- ately reflect all of the aspects that determine the represented reality, so that ultimately the work of art appears as a to- tality. Central tenets of (literally) textbook definitions of socialist realism in the DDR required a depiction of the human as a sub- ject in history and a depiction of reality firmly situated within the progression of history towards socialist utopia (Berger; Kasper). Formally, the theory in the 1970s retained Lukacs' insistence that the most appropriate form for such depictions is the

realist narrative.

While Wolfs earliest critical work and her first extended narrative, Moskauer Novelle (1961), are clearlypositionedin the socialist-realist tradition, she began to cri- tique the theory indirectly soon after her first publication. Already in 1970 and 1971 her humorous satires, "Die neuen Ansich- ten eines Katers" and "Ein kleiner Ausflug nach H.," demonstrate Wolfgang Emme- rich's comments that "die Kiinstler selbst nehmen [den sozialistischen Realismusl als Doktrin nicht mehr ernst" (121). In 1974 Wolf published an essay in the collec- tion Eroffiungen. Schriftsteller iiber ihr Erstlingswerk, in which she condemned the formal unity of her own novella, setting the stage for more experimental works, Nachdenken iiber Christa T. (1968) and Kindheitsmuster (1976), which use the po- litically consecrated form of the Entwicklungsroman for critical rather than social- ist purposes (Rider 361).

We may thus hear a silent "heute" in Wolfs disclaimer that would emphasize the author's evolution away from the tenets of socialist-realist poetics. However, in her Frankfurt lectures Wolf also locates a model to be theorized against in GDR-author Bertolt Brecht's didactic poetics of engage- ment through alienation. Brecht, after all, deliberately chose the system-invoking title Organon (1949) for one of his theoretical works on theater. Paradoxically, however, Wolf invokes Brecht's name only to indicate his lack of influence over her:

Ich leugne selbstverstandlich den Einflulj nicht, den herrschende asthetische Nor- men auf jeden haben, der schreibt. [...] Aber den wiitenden Wunsch, mich mit der Poetik oder dem Vorbild eines groljen Schreibers auseinanderzusetzen, in Klammern: Brecht, habe ich nie verspiirt. Dies ist mir erst in den letzten Jahren merkwiirdig geworden, und so kann es sein, dalj diese Vorlesungen nebenbei auch die gar nicht gestellte Frage mitbe- handeln, warum ich keine Poetik habe.


With the exception of Brecht's name ev- erything else in the passage -for exam- ple, the unasked ("gar nicht gestellte") question concerning the absence of a poetics -appears only as negation, as trace. For James Porter the process of ne- gation constitutes the main strategy of "the lectures, the narration, and the non-narration of a non-aesthetics" which is "Kassandra" (384). The frequent nega- tions of this passage help Wolf claim (by not claiming) that

poetics, narration, and questions can build a structure through their arrange- ment of gaps -a structure that is never even constructed (gestellt), a subject that prevents itself from being viewed as an object or simply prevents itself, by exten- ding itself through a narration of its own going into view, its own coming into ex- tinction. (Porter 384)

Porter sees the theoretical dimension of Wolfs Kassandra narrative in its resis- tance to narrative, in its self-erasure, so to speak. This passage relocates the site of theoretical inquiry from the objective to the subjective, allowing us to read the meditations of both Wolf and Kassandra, rooted in personal experience, as an exer- cise in theory. In this sense Kassandra the visionary is a mise en abyme ofwolf the au- thor.

The move from the objective to the sub- jective requires a theoretical stance that rejects the autonomy of literature. Wolfs invocation ofAristotle suggests that Poetik presupposes an essentialist view of litera- ture as an independent realm of aesthetic discourse which can be isolated and ana- lyzed separately from other social prac- tices. If, on the other hand, one takes a nominalist approach to the term "litera- ture," regarding it as a convenient handle for discussion while discounting its ability to designate anything isolatable from other human endeavors such as politics and history, then the very object of poetics melts away. Given the long and powerful history of theories of literary autonomy from Aristotle through Kant and Schiller to the Russian Formalists and RenQ Wellek, this change of optics is anything but intu- itive. Even "orthodox" Marxist literary theory such as that developed by Lukacs, for example, insists on literature as the product of social relations, but maintains a degree of literary autonomy through con- cepts such as "typology." Though such the- ories often see literature as mere reflec- tions of historical and social realities, they still maintain generic boundaries between theory, philosophy, and fiction, and be- tween readership and text. Wolf, however, not only situates literature in its political and historical contexts, but also rejects tra- ditional generic boundaries as well as those separating author, reader and text.

Thus, if Wolf has no poetics, she does have a "poetologisches Problem," which is that literature's autonomy works in a monolithic and politically damaging fash- ion: "Es gibt keine Poetik, und kann keine geben, die verhindert, dalj die lebendige Erfahrung ungezddter Subjekte in Kunst- Objekten ertijtet und begraben wird" (VEE 8). Wolf links this problem to the larger political theme her lectures will also examine: "Sind also diese Kunst-Objekte ('Werke') auch Produkte der Entfremdung innerhalb dieser Kultur, deren andere perfekte Produkte zum Zweck der Selbst- vernichtung produziert werden?" (8). The lectures will speak about or rather "gegen das unheimliche Wirken von Entfremdungserscheinungen in der hthetik, auch in der Kunst" (8; emphasis added). Wolf has entered the well-known dilemma of de- construction, which in this case has two levels: how to produce a narrative that does not alienate the reader (the answer being "Kassandra"), and how to write an anti-poetics without using the language of poetics (the answer being the changing form of the VEE, plus the critifiction, "Kassandra"). When Wolf uses the term "Entfremdung" she immediately and un- ambiguously links her project with a par- ticularly German aesthetic position that can be traced from Schiller through Hegel, Marx, Brecht, and Adorno. This view of lit- erature maintains the following:

[dd] alles mit allem zusammenhangt; und daS strikte einwegbesessene Vor- gehn, das Herauspraparieren eines "Stranges" zu Erzahl- und Untersuchungszwecken das ganze Gewebe und auch diesen "Strang" beschadigt. Aber eben diesen Weg ist doch, vereinfacht ge- sagt, das abendlandische Denken gegan- gen, den Weg der Sonderung, der Analyse, des Verzichts auf die Mannigfaltigkeit zu- gunsten der Geschlossenheit von Weltbil- dern und Systemen; des Verzichts auf Subjektivitat zugunsten gesicherter "Ob- jektivitat." (139)

Wolfs trip to Greece and her grim predic- tions of the future in her diary point to the "Sackgasse" of Western rationality, one of whose products is the reification of con- cepts such as "literature" and "aesthet- ics." In his Briefe, Schiller lamented the splitting of the subject into two opposing drives, Formtrieb and Stofftrieb, which he believed only art had the power to unify and reconcile. For Marx, turning subjec- tivity and nature into objectivity was part of the universal process of alienation, nec- essary due to the constant labor carried out by humans on their environment. Adorno and Horkheimer nuanced Marx's idea as a "dialectic of enlightenment," the inexorable rationalization of the subject to the rhythm of the constantly accelerating rationalization of labor. Nature, myth, and the irrational, associated with the femi- nine in "Kassandra," are progressively de- stroyed by culture, enlightenment, and object-oriented, rational thought, associ- ated with the masculine. Kassandra dies precisely at the moment Greece triumphs over Troy; masculinity subordinates the feminine, and rationality destroys myth- Kassandra's death is an allegory of this de- struction.5 Reading the preconditions to- gether with the narrative highlights Wolfs paradoxical use of logic to critique rationality. In the lectures, for example, she suggests that the mereuse of statistics about atomic weapons does nothing but numb ("1st diese Miidigkeit, sich zu en- gagieren, nicht eigentlich Hoffnungsmiidigkeit?" VEE 941, and that an alterna- tive aesthetics of resistance must be developed. In "Kassandra," however, Wolf employs a typical logical tactic: Kassandra points out the logical flaw in Anchises' thought:

Dahinter steckt ein primitiver Trick, ein Denkfehler [...I. Er setzt voraus, was er erst schaffen mul3te: Krieg. 1st er soweit gekommen, nimmt er diesen Krieg als das Normale und setzt voraus, aus ihm fiihrt nur ein Weg, der heil3t: der Sieg. (Kassandra 120)

She thus uncovers the rational as irratio- nal, and indeed, suggests that construc- tions of irrationality and madness exist partly as weapons (91). With these aspects juxtaposed, we see that there is no single aesthetic (in the sense of a formal tech- nique) to resist war. Rather, the resistance itself serves as the primary aesthetic point.

The search for an anti-poetics that will counteract reification of normative con- cepts of literature is, for Wolf, intimately connected to two more urgent projects: a critique of women's place in contemporary society; and a condemnation of the nuclear arms build-up. By linking her examination ofpoetics to contemporary events, Wolf im- plicitly critiques socialist-realist aesthetics in a way that has some surprising affinities with the reception aesthetics of Hans Rob- ert Jaul3, who seeks to turn literary criti- cism from an examination of a work's im- manent features to one of its position within social practices of demand, produc- tion, and consumption. In his 1967 essay "Literaturgeschichte als Provokation der Gesellschaft" Jaul3 proposes a dialogic re- lationship between existing works, audi- ence, and new work -the already written works pose questions, which, when medi- ated through the audience, may be an- swered in the new work (JauS 127). Jaul3 harshly criticizes socialist-realist aesthet- ics (which he conflates with the term "Marxist") for its dogmatic understanding of the role of literature, which is to influ- ence the reader in a unidirectional way. While Jaulj views the literary text as a me- dium between literary history and current literary experience, Wolf insists on the role of text, author and reader in mediating his- tory in the larger sense. For both Jaulj and Wolf, recognition of these mediating fac- tors calls for the necessity of recovering the reader's role in the literary experience.

The best examples of this recovery clus- ter around Wolfs discussion of the Cold War, much of which takes place in the third lecture and was censored in the GDR edi- tions of the text. Wolf is using her encoun- ter with Greece to "reread" and rethink the myth of Kassandra at the same time she critiques the narratives of the Cold War. Her trip to Greece provides her with space for a discussion where it is pointed out that words like "freedom" and "social- ism" are most dangerous when used as jus- tification for war (VEE 108). Furthermore, the accelerating Cold War forces Wolf to re- think the writer's role in GDR society. The Cold War in her eyes destroys the hope of action, of affecting the public through writ- ing (VEE 97). Even though these sections of the lecture were censored from the Aufbau edition (see Appendix), the cri- tique remains in the narrative of "Kas- sandra" where the war of Troy is described as "Ein Krieg, um ein Phantom gefuhrt" that can only "verlorengehn" (VEE 80). However, Wolf-Kassandra's critique, in this crisis of purpose for literature, re- quires reader participation to be effective -she no longer is able nor does she desire to merely provide readers with a simple an- swer fit for consumption. Readers of the text are engaged in the process of making meaning from Wolfs texts much in the same way that Wolf actively "reads" the Kassandra myth. Wolf, on the other hand, simultaneously positions herself as liter- ary theorist, critic, and writer.

We are not suggesting direct influence by JauS as the source of these parallels. However, the advent of reception aesthet- ics in the GDR led to a crisis of meaning much the same as that which Wolf attrib- utes to the Cold War. Socialist Realism, of course, already had its own "reception" theory, but one in which production and cultural object strictly determine reception (Macainsh 47). The reaction to reception aesthetics on the part of the State was not likely to be positive; indeed, in 1970 a "Projekt Kultur des Lesens" was planned to ensure that readers were appropriately guided by the text in their interpretations rather than by their own arbitrary reac- tions (Schandera 369; Macainsh 47). In 1973, however, literary criticism took off in a different direction. Manfred Naumann, et al., published the volume Gesellschaft, Literatur, Lesen which succeeded in couch-. ing reception aesthetics in Marxian termi- nology acceptable to the central institute that published it, thus lending it a certain authority in the GDR (Schandera 369-70). Gunter Schandera suggests that as a re- sult, Austausch as a concept began to re- place Leitbild, contributing to the weaken- ing of Lukacsian reflection theory's influ- ence (369). Schandera also suggests a contradiction that arose from this volume: the more autonomy the subject has, as is called for by socialist-realist aesthetics, the less likely the subject's reading is to be sim- ply determined by the text itself (371). While this reception of reception theory meant at first a simple tendency to transfer the aesthetics of representation to the level of reception, this eventually led to a crisis in the 1980s around the Sinn of literature (371). JauD himself eventually came to see Naumann as well asRobert Weimann, both members of the Berliner Akademie der Wissenschaften, as practitioners of a the- ory where there

no longer [stands LukBcs'] reflection mo- del, but rather Marx' circulation model [...] which demands and legitimates the analysis of the literary process as a medi- ation among production, consumption, and distribution or exchange. (Segers 89)

Jaufl, in other words, saw in the "New Marxism" elements analogous to his own conception of literature. It is appropriate in this light that Weimann's book on Greek mythology is also listed in Wolfs bibliography.

Perhaps we can trace the similarities between Wolfs and JauD's theories, which were developed almost simultaneously, in part to a common ancestor: Walter Benja- min.6 BothWolf and JauD openly acknowl- edge Benjamin's influence on their views. Benjamin's essay "Ther den Begriff der Geschichte" describes the creation of his- tory as givingpower to memory "wie sie im Augenblick einer Gefahr aufblitzt" (253). In this formulation, the past is not an ob- ject, but rather something cognized and mediated through present experience. Narratives of the past, for Benjamin, exist as images or constellations of images rather than as a unified and linear narra- tive.

Wolf brings these views to fictional lit- erature. Supplementing Benjamin's emphasis on present experience as mediator of past, Wolf points to author and reader as additional factors in the literary experi- ence. The text is no longer an autonomous object but something affected by authorial experience and read through the reader's experience. Literature has a certain power to alter the reader's own lens, as we see through Wolfs own experience. Her en- counter with the mythological figure of Kassandra has had a profound effect on the way she views life:

Alles scheint, [mit Kassandra] zusam- menzuhangen [...I. Mit der Erweiterung des Blick-Winkels, der Neueinstellung der Tiefenschlirfe hat mein Seh-Raster, durch den ich unsere Zeit, uns alle, dich, mich selber wahrnehme, sich entschieden verandert. (WE131)

Wilke's claim that Wolf redialecticizes Benjamin's view of history as "thinking during a moment of stand-still" to a more continuous dialogue (58) might be extended to the relationship between reader and text. Reader and text engage in an on- going and creative dialogue; text and reader continuously create each other in a way that permits the reader to claim agency in the process of making meaning.

Wolf had articulated this project of coor- dinating the experience of memory, history, and literature in an earlier novel, Kindheitsmuster:

Die Beschreibung der Vergangenheit [...I

in objektivem Stil wird nicht gelingen.

Der Doppelsinn des Wortes 'vermitteln'.

Schreibend zwischen der Gegenwart und

der Vergangenheit vermitteln, sich ins

Mittel legen. HeiSt das: versohnen? Mil-

dern? Glatten? Oder: Eins dem anderen

naherbringen? Der heutigen Person die

Begegnung mit jener vergangenen mog-

lich machen, vermittels geschriebener

Zeilen? (192)

Wolf sees the writer as existing in Benjamin's "Augenblick der Gefahr" in which the past is experienced. The medi- atory role of the author points once more to Wolfs emphasis on subjectivity as op- posed to objectivity as a means of under- standing history, an emphasis that is repeated and transferred to the under- standing of literature in "Kassandra." Wolf understands and retells the Kassan- dra myth through the lens of her present experience, which in turn aids her in un- derstanding her own place in history and provides the reading subject with an op- portunity to experience history as well. Wolfs inclusion of topics such as the then current nuclear arms race in her lectures exemplifies the way Kassandra is affecting her understanding of the contemporary world. Open recognition of the reader's role explains in part Wolfs creation of such notoriously difficult narratives. Note, for example, the many time levels on which the narration "Kassandra" takes place -she is, shortly before her death, re- calling her past, a time in which she pre- dicts the future. The narrative "ich" often becomes confusing to the reader; Kas- sandra frequently uses free indirect dis- course, removing any clues for the reader that another voice might be speaking. "Kassandra" provides ample opportunity for the reader to participate actively in the making of its meanings. It thus suggests a theory of reading literature without being normative.

Gaining Voice: 
"Kassandra" as Feminist Literary 

Christa Wolf sworks fituneasily within the categories critics apply to them, whether the label be "GDR literature" or "feminist writing." Those who have identi- fied Wolfs work as feminist have not agreed on the salient features that make it so. Numerous essays think through Wolfs works as re-interpretations of myths and of canonical literature from a "female" per- spective. Much criticism has sought to bring out the utopian aspects of Wolfs fic- tion, as imagininga world "beyond patriar- chy." In an early analysis Anna Kuhn in- terpreted the Kassandra narrative as rep- resenting the development of an autono- mous subject who could fulfill Wolfs crite- ria for utopian literature. Myra Love, analyzing Wolfs pre-Kassandra texts, lo- cates her feminism in the subversion of "patriarchal models of dichotomous op- positions" (33).Sara Lennox, on the other hand, has focused on epistemological is- sues:

Wolf hebt fiauenspezifische Eigenschaf- ten hervor, die sie nicht nur einfach als entschieden anders, sondern als wertvol- ler im Vergleich zu mannerspezifischen Eigenschaften betrachtet" ("Der Ver- such" 217).

Suzanne Legg emphasizes the similarities between Wolfs approach and French fem- inist theory, as do Sonja Hilzinger and Madeline Lutjeharms, who analyze spe- cific formal features of Wolfs "l'kcriture fkminine." With the exception of Kuhn these readings all view Wolfs fictional works as embodying or reflecting feminist theoretical concepts developed by others; none emphasizes Wolfs role as a theorist in her own right. Wolfs originality as a theorist, as we present it here and as it has been overlooked in previous readings, is not so much conceptual nor thematic as it is formal: Wolf deliberately theorizes in textual forms that escape the currently ac- cepted discursive modalities of Western aesthetic theory.

For example, the opportunity to experi- ence history through literature, as we have outlined it above, is an important part of a larger exploration of female subjectivity. As we have indicated before, Wolf echoes much feminist writing of the 1970s by em- phasizing experiential knowledge over ob- jective scientific knowledge, subjectivity over objectivity. However, Wolfs project also addresses female subjectivity in an- other sense -the female reader will have an opportunity to create herself through the experience of reading. Catherine Belsey expresses this process of self-cre- ation as follows:

It becomes apparent that literature as one of the most persuasive uses of language may have an important influence on the ways in which people grasp themselves and their relation to the real relations in which they live. The interpellation of the reader in the literary text could be argued to have a role in reinforcing the concepts of the world and of subjectivity [created in that text]. (50)

The responsibility placed on the reader to interpret the text, as well as the interpel- lation of the reader into the text, has fur- ther implications. Rather than alienating the reader from the text in the hope of stim- ulating political action, as Brecht would have it, Wolf hopes to move her readers to act outside of their literary experience as a result of their textual participation. Len- nox points out that the engagement with Bachmann, rather than with Brecht, has implications not only for the role of the reader but also for a feminist understand- ing of voice ("Difficulties of Writing the Truth"). Bachmann saw in literature the opportunity for "sehend werden, sehend machen" (Wolf, "Die zumutbare Wahr- heit" 256).As a "Seher" Kassandra is the literal personification of Bachmann's uto- pian vision for literature:

Unvermeidlich der Moment, da die Frau, die schreibt (die im Falle Kassandra, 'sieht'), nicht und niemanden mehr ver- tritt, nur sich selbst, aber wer ist das. Gibt es das ominose Recht (oder die Pflicht) zur Zeugenschaft? Zahlebige Unterstel- lung, es miisse immer geschrieben wer- den. (VEE90)

Kassandra demands that someone be sent to either write down or listen to her words to be passed on (Kassandra 93). Despite the potential uselessness of this goal -after all, Kassandra's words go largely un- heeded -Wolf feels the need to write on.

Although Wolf has broken with social- ist-realist tenets, she retains her Marxist heritage in ways that are central to her conception of literature. Author, reader, and text cannot escape the burden of cul- tural critique. Throughout her works, Wolf has never forgotten Ingeborg Bachmann's goal, "etwas zu bewirken" (VEE 971, while at the same time frequently admitting her frustration as an author attempting to work social change: "Wer konnte das iindern?" (VEE 97). Her critique of con- temporary patriarchal society, in particu- lar of the patriarchal nature of the nuclear arms race, is doubly reflected in the VEE: in the record of her own feelings and dis- cussions of imminent nuclear apocalypse in the third lecture, and in the ancient con- flict between Greece and Troy whose profit motives Kassandra exposes. Just as Wolf must continue to attempt to work societal change in the face of impossibility, so must Kassandra continue to speak her predic- tions in the face of the curse that nobody will believe her.

Positive societal transformation and ac- tivism for peace as understood in the lec- tures requires, in part, eliminating a sys- tem of patriarchy. Behind the normative poetics Wolf invokes we may find the coer- cive system of gender differentiation. Ear- lier writers in the tradition had managed to alter the system of poetic norms, but had left this important aspect intact:

Die Poetik des Aristoteles [...I hatten Goethes Vorlaufer und er selbst, der junge Burger, mitsamt dem franzosisch-aristo- kratischen Regelkram aul3er Kraft ge- setzt, ohne dalj sie doch, soviel ich weil3, je gegen jene Stelle aus dem funfzehnten Kapitel [der Poetik]: die Charaktere, pole- misiert hatten. (134)

In the fifteenth chapter of the "Poetics," which speaks of propriety in assigning speech or action to particular characters, Aristotle compares women and slaves un- favorably to men, and notes that courage is an admirable characteristic in a male char- acter, but out of place in a woman: "Even a woman may be good, and also a slave; though the woman may be said to be an in- ferior being, and the slave quite worthless [...I. There is a type of manly valor; but valor in a woman, or unscrupulous clever- ness, is inappropriate" (643). The eigh- teenth-century revolution against aesthetic norms, culminating in Kant's liberating sentence, did not recognize its own dependence upon the continuation of gender norms and stereotypes so cogently expressed by Aristotle. Wolf argues that masculinity is the very "Voraussetzung einer Erzahlung" in the West.

Wolf provides a gendered reading of the conflictual nature of aesthetic norming. Like Jaulj she recognizes that only norms can produce counter-norms. She then per- sonalizes the conflict between norm and creativity ("den wiitenden Wunsch, mich mit der Poetik oder dem Vorbild eines

groljen Schreibers auseinanderzusetzen") in a manner reminiscent of Harold Bloom, yet simultaneously excepts herself from the model. There is a contradiction in in- voking a poet and denying competition with his poetics only if one assumes a Bloomian theory of a conflictual relation- ship between authors and their literary predecessors. Wolf thus erases Bloom's theory as she invokes it. In doing so, she fol- lows the path several early feminist liter- ary theorists, including Sandra Gilbert, Susan Gubar, and Adrienne Rich have taken in substituting Bloom's Oedipal model of literary creation, in which the son must rebel against the father, with a less conflictual relationship to previous writ- ers. This relationship to her predecessors belies the comments made by Weigel that Wolf ultimately replicates Western ratio- nal concepts such as teleology, unified form, and autonomous subject. The many intertextualities provide one of several strategies Wolf employs to undermine pre- cisely this autonomy. Weigel argues that the "Geschlossenheit und Eindeutigkeit" of the narrative subsume the critique of scientific and rational reason contained in the lectures (186). However, this happens only if one insists on reading the VEE as separate from the narrative. Even if one does not read the VEE, the continual para- doxes within the narrative, many around gender, undermine such an understand- ing. Silence, for example, is often under- stood as strategic means of protest (Kassandra 104). Yet, Kassandra speaks the story we have before us; her voice in- sists on the potential for female agency. Vi- olence is critiqued as male, but a female will kill Kassandra. She valorizes the femi- nine life of the caves, but refuses to join it. Once we widen our view to include the VEE, the contradictions increase. Wolf herself, of course, was troubled by the con- flict between form and content of the nar- rative, as we mentioned above. However, rather than efface that conflict she high- lights it.

Ryan, on the other hand, reads the vari- ous potential for female subjectivities exis- tent in the lectures as experimental postmodern poetics. While this approach appears to us more productive than Weigel's, Ryan's exclusive focus on the lec- tures leaves out the problematic of acquir- ingvoice within the narrative. Reading the narrative together with the lectures sug- gests to us a more complex understanding of female subjectivity. While the lectures theorize subjectivity, the narrative insists on the strategic importance of voice even in the face of failure. Since the practical impli- cations of givingup voice in the interest of a more postmodern aesthetics are unaccept- able within the context of the narrative, the aesthetics of resistance remain a guid- ing principle. Reading the VEE together with the narrative also reminds us of the number of authors with whom Wolf stands in dialogue.

Opposing Bloom's model of a single au- thoritarian father-figure against which the poet struggles, Wolf provides a list of "aus den Buchersacken ausgeschiitteten" (126) books which she will read in Mecklenburg -most without authors' names attached. Oddly enough, several of the titles, such as Virginia Woolf s A Room of One's Own and Luce Irigaray's The Sex Which is Not One, do not appear in Wolfs bibliography. Yet Roland Barthes's Mythologies (1957) does, though it is difficult to discern any Barthesian influence on Wolfs appropria- tion of myth. Wolf seems to imply a poetics woven of a tapestry from various predeces- sors and one's own thought, rather than from the confrontation with individual personalities and legacies.

In A Room of One's Own, one of the books Wolf shakes from her bag, Virginia Woolf emphasizes the difficulty of writing in the face of an almost exclusively male lit- erary tradition:

Then it matters far more that I can prove in an hour's discourse that women [...I took to writing [...I. For masterpieces are not single and solitary births; they are the outcome of many years of thinking in common, of thinking by the body of the people, so that the experience of the mass is behind the single voice. (Woolf 113)

Like Woolf, Wolf seeks out feminine prede- cessors. In various works she pays homage to women writers such as Ingeborg Bachmann, Anna Seghers, and Karoline von Giinderrode. In "Kassandra" she turns to feminist theorists and a mytho- logical Seher as role models.

We have noted that the forms Wolf chose for her lectures recall the practice of literary criticism in the early modern pe- riod, at a time when literature and literary criticism were not considered autonomous realms of aesthetic consumption. These forms also link Wolf to her project of redis- covering a tradition of German women's literature. As Sonja Hilzinger points out, the choice of such forms as travel narra- tive, diary, and letter can be seen as Wolfs own response to the problem of women's alienation within more "masculine" liter- ary forms:

Mit dieser Problematik -die Authentizi- tat ihrer Erfahrung und Empfindung in vorgegebenen asthetischen Formen zu bewahren -waren und sind schreibende Frauen vertraut. Die Romantikerinnen [...I wahlten deshalb aus den vorhande- nen vorwiegend diejenigen Gattungen, die, auf Selbstaussage, Anrede und Dialog gegriindet, zu den personlichsten und subjektivsten Literaturformen gehoren: Tagebuch, Brief, Reisebeschreibung, Ge- dicht. (Hilzinger 219-20)

Hilzinger cites from Wolf s essay, "Nun ja! Das nachste Leben geht aber heute an. Brief uber die Bettine [von him]," where Wolf discovers in the Romantic women writers the "Ansatz zu einer anderen Asthetik, deren Splitter wir sammeln sollten" ("Nun ja!" 609). The mention of fragments in this sentence is indicative of the formal difference some feminist literary theory strives to achieve: it often consists of fragments, and does not attempt to construct a complete and self-contained propositional edifice. The verb "sammeln" recalls the pile of books tumblingout of the sack. Etymologically, it is the opposite of "lesen." While "lesen" implies critical selection, analysis, a tak- ing apart, "sammeln" collects and recon- nects the pieces.

This re-collection of her literary prede- cessors is important to Wolf; "sammeln" implies Wolfs active role as a reader searching for relevance in the texts she reads. Wolfs placement of herself within a constellation of women writers answers the call of many of her contemporaries for recognition of a feminine and feminist lit- erary tradition. Adrienne Rich points out that

one serious cultural obstacle encountered by any feminist writer is that each femi- nist work has tended to be received as if it emerged from nowhere; as if each of us had lived, thought, and worked without any historical past or contextual present.


By working to establish her context, in re- lationship to literary fathers and mothers, Wolfjustifies the place of women's work in the literary tradition, firmly situating it in the web of life which appears so frequently as a metaphor in her work. The impor- tance of this literary lineage is also re- flected in the choice of the letter form for the fourth lecture after discovering its im- portance for Bettina von Arnim, whose most important works, Goethes Brief- wechsel mit einem Kinde (1835) and Die Giinderode (1840), were epistolary fic- tions based closely on the author's actual correspondence, thus blurring the distinc- tion between Alltiiglichkeit and aesthetic discourse. In her essay on Bettina, Wolf notes these works' absence from the tradi- tional canon of German Romantik. Their relative neglect, Wolf argues, stems from their preference for non-autonomous forms and their resulting inability to be subsumed under the traditional rubrics of literary or aesthetic discourse:

[Eline der Errungenschaften dieser AS

thetik, zur Zeit der Romantiker eben

durch die Klassik ausgebaut und befes-

tigt, ist ja die Methode, das "Werk" von

seinem Hervorbringer zu trennen und es,

losgelijst von den Lebenszusammenhiin-

gen, aus denen heraus es entstand, in eine

andere Sphiire, die der Kunst, entschwe-

ben zu lassen. ("Nun ja!" 600-01)

The realm of "bthetik," as accompanying nouns such as "Regelsystem" ("Nun ja!" 600) indicate, is inseparable from a "Poetik." Wolf makes clear here, as she does in her Frankfurt lectures, both that this system of norms is masculine, and that it kills the lived experience of women who are thus confined to non-literary pro- duction in order to express themselves: "Die Briefe, die Bettine und Karoline miteinander wechseln, erheben nicht den Anspruch, 'Kunst' zu sein, und sind, als Buch, in ihrer Formlosigkeit eben jene Form, in der sie ihre Erfahrungen iiber- liefern konnen, ohne sie deformieren zu miissen" ("Nun ja!" 601). Silvia Boven- schen, another of the authors present in Wolfs bookbag, has provided an analysis of this image of the "Schrankenlosigkeit der Frauen" as applied to Bettina's own chosen form, the letter (Bovenschen 200-20).

The fact that we can only gather "Split- ter" (WE 609) from the women of the Romantik, however, reminds us that in or- der to read women's writings appropri- ately one must read their silences as well. To make Wolfs theory visible we must read its silences. Silences and gaps serve several functions, not all of them related to gender. There are, of course, the imminently prac- tical reasons for them: ifwolf wishes to cri- tique or complicate the prescriptive tenets of socialist realism, she must do so in a way that allows her text to pass the censors (which it mostly did: see Ap~endix). Cri- tique therefore exists frequently in the things not said.

In her discussion of Bachmann in the fourth lecture, Wolf continues the attempt to answer paradoxes of silence and voice first addressed in Kindheitsmuster. If Bachmann intended to write utopia through literature, why couldn't she find a voice in which to write? For Wolf, this translates into the question: if one is to ef- fect change through literature, what role does silence play -both silence as enforced violence and silence as mode of resis- tance? Wolf identifies the title character of the novel Malina as Bachmann herself (VEE 150). "Es war Mord," reads the last sentence of the novel, after Malina disap- pears into the wall. "Es war auch Selbst- mord," agonizes Wolf in the lectures (WE 149).However, in "Kassandra," despite the maid Marpessa's repeated offers to provide Kassandra with the dagger, the title char- acter does not kill herself. She continues talking to the very end despite her ap- proaching death. Another paradox lies, however, in that the narrative does end with Kassandra's death, suggesting the closed form which Wolf criticizes in her own work: "Empfinde die geschlossene Form der Kassandra Erziihlung als Wider- spruch zu der fragmentarischen Struktur [...I. Der Widerspruch kann nicht gelost, nur benannt werden" (VEE 120). Wolf presents the paradoxes to the reader in a way that permits the reader to exist as a subject rather than be created as an object of the text.

Silences, breaks, and ruptures occur throughout Kassandra's monologue. Her story is told in fragmentary fashion, not through a linear narrative, and her speech is frequently fragmentary as well, verging on speech patterns one might traditionally associate with madness, and certainly not with logic. While Wilke examines this frag- mentary nature in the context of the rela- tionship between history and story, others see Kassandra's interior monologue as an attempt to find a specifically feminine dis- course. After all, Wolf does find the Ger- man translation of Cixous's L'e'criture fe'minine, Die Weiblichkeit in der Schrift, in her pile of books (VE%127). Furthermore, Wolfs mention of an emotional or even "magical" giddiness which occurs upon fi- nally seizing the right to speak reminds us of Cixous' demand for woman's triumphant

shattering entry into history [...] to write and thus to forge for herself the antilogos weapon. To become at will the taker and initiator, for her own right, in every sym- bolic system, in every political process. (Cixous 880)

Karen H. Jankowsky finds that though Wolfs citations of Kassandra's illogical discourse in her other lectures point to- wards Cixous's seminal theories of L'e'criture fe'minine, the French writer re- mains unnamed in the lectures. Jankowsky suggests that this silence is produced by another, internalized form of censorship:

Ein gewisses Tabu unter manchen sozial- kritischen und sozialistischen Schrifstel- lern mag sie an der bewufiten Ausubung des sprachlichen Zaubers gehindert ha- ben. Hinter einen exaltierten Ausdrucks- form, um nur ein Beispiel dafur zu erwah- nen, wird von Seiten solcher Autoren all- zuoft die drohende Wiederkehr einer Ruckkehr des Faschismus in neuer Form vermutet (8).

Although the creation of a feminine dis- course, especially as it was understood in the '70s and early '80s, often included si- lences and breaks, the task of ending si- lence is also an important part of a woman's choice to speak. Cixous describes the way a woman's entire body becomes a part of breaking this silence:

she throws her trembling body forward; she lets go of herself, she flies; all of her passes into her voice, and it's with her body that she vitally supports the 'logic' of her speech. Her flesh speaks true.


a fashion speaks passionately before her father and rejects his demands, as she

hundertmal versucht, auf sein Gebot, ihm zuzustimmen, mit Ja zu antworten. Hun- dertmal habe ich wieder nein gesagt. Mein Leben, meine Stimme, mein Korper gaben keine andere Antwort her. Du stimmst nicht zu? Nein. Aber du wirst schweigen. Nein. Nein. Nein. Nein. (Kassandra 151)

This passage, which also echoes Ingeborg Bachmann, whose characters frequently repeated the word "nein" before descend- ing into silence, rejects the logos of the fa- ther in favor of the voice of the body.

Standing in mythical opposition to "en- lightened" Western patriarchy is Wolfs Urbild of a previous civilization infused with feminine values. Wolf describes this civilization objectively and retrospectively in her first and second lectures, while Kassandra describes it subjectively and to-the-moment in the fifth. The following passage demonstrates Wolfs theory, a bold and all-inclusive one about the literary forms of this feminist utopia preceding the appearance of "male" forms of narration. Narration itself, in thisview, is masculine:7

Nur wer Konflikte kennt, hat etwas zu er- zahlen. Der Chorgesang der Priesterin- nen, ganz und gar eingebettet in den Jah- resablauf einer wenig differenzierten Menschengruppe, ist ein Hymnos, erziihlt wird da nichts. Erst als Besitz, Hierar- chic, Patriarchat entstehn, wird aus dem Gewebe des menschlichen Lebens, das die drei Uralt-Frauen, die Moiren in der Hand hatten, jener eine blutrote Faden herausgerissen, wird er auf Kosten der Gleichmmigkeit des Gewebes verstiirkt: die Erziihlungvon der Heroen Kampf und Sieg oder Untergang. Die Fabel wird ge- boren. Das Epos, aus den Kiimpfen um das Patriarchat entstanden, wird durch seine Struktur auch ein Instrument zu seiner Herausbildung und Befestigung. Vorbildwirkung wird dem Helden aufer- legt, bis heute. Der Chor der Sprecherin- nen ist verschwunden, vom Erdboden verschluckt. Als Heroine kann die Frau nun Gegenstand der mannlichen Erziih- lung werden. (WE 147)

Note that Kassandra teaches choral chanting, again placing her in this "pre- narrative" tradition (Kassandra 112). Though Friedrich Nietzsche's name does not appear in Wolfs bibliography, her dif- ferentiation between the plotless hymns of the chorus and the roter Faden created by narrative resembles Nietzsche's dis- tinction between Dionysian and Apollo- nian forces in Greek culture made in the Geburt deer Tragodie. Both theorists think of the chorus as the older, more original el- ement of Greek tragedy -in line with archaeological evidence that the tragic stage began as a threshing floor where the work- ers sang with one voice and without a par- ticular story to tell. (AsOliver Taplin 1171 points out, this romantically tinged, nine- teenth-century theory of the "folk" origins of Greek tragedy finds little acceptance among classical scholars today). Whereas Nietzsche theorized that the Fabelof Greek tragedy is the dream of the Dionysian cho- rus, hence creating a dialectic between cho- ral and "epic" components of the play, Wolf sees a simpler opposition, the erasure of one element by the other. The passing of "primitive communism" into a society based on hierarchy and possession is the precondition for narrative to be born as such. For there to be events, there must be actants, and for there to be actants, there must be objects worthy of desire: posses- sion rather than production or reproduc- tion must become the basic mode of social life in order for the Apollonian outlines of epic plot to come into being.8

MuchasChrist.Wolf does, Ursula LeGuin correlates the structures of epic with the values of a culture which takes war and killing for granted: "It is the story that hid my humanity from me, the story the mam- moth hunters told about bashing, thrust- ing, raping, killing, about the Hero" (168). In opposition to the relative linearity of epic narrative, LeGuin proposes a narra- tive more shaped to resemble the carrier bags or baskets of the gatherers, tools of the economic role associated with women. Thus

the natural, proper, fitting shape of the novel might be that of a sack, a bag. A book holds words. Words hold things. They bear meanings. A novel is a medici- ne bundle, holding things in a particular, powerful relation to one another and to us. (169)

One is reminded again of the activity of sammeln as opposed to lesen. This, we think, offers insight into the structure of narration in "Kassandra," whose proper place then is at the end of Wolfs series of lectures, themselves a bundle of disparate elements rather than a linear discourse moving like an arrow from point A to point

B. Wolf defends this "carrier-bag" struc- ture directly:

Warum sollte das Gehirn, das doch oft mit einem Netzwerk verglichen wird, die Er- zahlung einer linearen Fabel besser 'be- halten' kijnnen als ein erzahlerisches Netzwerk? Wie sonst konnte ein Autor ge- gen die Gewohnheit angehn [...I, Geschichte als Heldengeschichte zu erin- nern? Die Helden sind auswechselbar, das Muster bleibt. Auf diesem Muster entwi- ckelte sich die ~sthetik. (117)

The idea of a semiotic "network" replacing the "thread" of narrative is an appropriate way to view the five texts of the Kassandra lectures.9

One way to avoid setting up Kassandra as "just another hero" would be to con- stantly deconstruct the autonomy of her narration by referring it back to Wolfs other lectures, particularly to the first two, in which the author depicts herself survey- ing the Greek setting for her stories. This would be analogous to watching a film in which the camera constantly turns around to film the director, crew, and "off-screen7' areas (the photos included in the Aufbau edition make this analogy even more apt). Wolfs own theory, then, posits the reading of all five Kassandra lectures as an experi- ence radically different from that of en- countering the story alone. Yet readers, teachers, and critics have recuperated Wolfs experiment back into the norms of "literature as usual" by isolating the story from its con-texts.

The vision of a carrier-bag or semiotic fiction also provides an alternative to the notion of logos, which Wolf sees as a "su- perstition" at the very center of Western culture:

Prophetenglaube ist, denke ich, groBen- teils Glaube an die Kraft des Wortes. Wie auf einer Anfechtung ertappe ich mich bei der Zuversicht, dieses fremde Chaos hier [in Greece], dem ich mich starker ausge- liefert fiihle als zu Hause, konnte um Worte herum eine geordnete Struktur an- nehmen, wie Eisenspane um einen Mag- neten. Die Zentrierungum den Logos, das Wort als Fetisch -vielleicht der tiefste Aberglaube des Abendlands, jedenfalls der, dem ich inbriinstig anhange. So dal3 die Sprachunmachtigkeit allein mir eine Ahnung moglicher Schrecken des Exils heraufruft. (25)

Kassandra should not be seen, then, as a prophetic hero, as a lone figure separated from the people surrounding her. To do so would be to pull out one strand of the web and isolate it from the others, just as the focus on logos has fetishized the word and removed it from its social context. (Again, this is also Cixous's argument.) So Wolfs rejection of logos amounts to a rejection of the internal logic of her own discourse, as well as implying a rejection of the separa- tion of Kassandra and her words from a larger context, which includesthe reader.

The third lecture of the VEE, purportedly an Arbeitstagebuch, most clearly reveals the resonances of this subversion of genre with feminist theory. ti^^ J ~ ~~-~F ~~

viewthat 'ctheories are themselves narratives, but dissimulated narratives" (Lyotard28),we can see a relation between the non-linear thinking of the diary form, its resistance to poetics, ture. Wolf sees the nuclear buildup occurring in the 1980s as the end of aesthetics "as usual":

Die Einsicht, daR unser aller physische 
Existenz von den Verschiebungen im

~~~d~ ~, ~

Wahndenken sehr kleiner Gruppen von Menschen abhangt, also vom Zufall, hebt natiirlich die klassische jisthetikend*ltig ihren Angeln, ihren Haltungen, welche, letzten Endes, an den Gesetzen


and Wolfs remarks against ~~~-~-ative. der Vernunft befestigt sind. (VEE84-85).

diary opens with the sentence,

Die Literatur des Abendlandes, lese ich,

sei eine Reflexion des weiRen Mannes auf

sich selbst. Soil nun die Reflexionder weioen F~~~auf sic-, selbst dazukommen? Und weiter nichts? WEE 84)

Here Wolf drops one of her strongest hints about the relationship between her resistance to poetics and the feminist rethinking of culture. Feminist thinking, she seems to be saying, cannot be achieved merely by placing white woman in the place of white man. Reflexivity itself which, like the word "theory," indicates the ability of thought to look back on itself from outside, as it were -must be substituted by another move, one which permits an understanding of subjectivity from within moments of experience, rather than through objective analysis.

Reading the work of Marie Luise Fleiljer (thesecondholder of the Frankfurt Dozentur) inspires Wolf to theorize about women's writing: "Schreiben fiir Frauen als ein Mittel, dassie zwischen sichund die Mannerwelt legen ('dann sollen sie mich wenigstens bewundern')" (90). This sentence alerts us to the purpose behind the formlessness of the lectures, to the relationship between linear thinking, theory, patriarchy, and to the looming nuclear catastrophe around which so much of the discourse in this lecture revolves.We see now that Wolf emphasizedthe axiomatic nature of poetics at the beginning of her lecture in order to make poetic theory part of the general Trugschlu~of modern Western cul-Although Wolf uses the word ~sthetik rather than Poetik here, as we've already

Seen, are a which have their basis in logical, goal-oriented thought. Not only does literature need rules,but reason needsliteratureas a site where logic, common sense, and humanity can be exercised. In support of this latter point, one could call to mind Aristotle's claim that poetry was "more philosophic and of graver import" than history (636).Aristotle's phrase hasbeen linked to another, where he prefers the "likely impossibility" to the "unconvincing possibility" (661). Interpreters have argued that rather than merely report what has happened, literature should use ideas of morality and reasonablenessto shapecharacters who never existed and events which never happened, but which for that very reason provide models of human behavior. Wolf predicts the end of such an aesthetic in an agewhen thought itself has had such dire consequences.

Indeed, language itself fails in the nuclear age:

es wachst das BewuQtsein der Unangemessenheit von Worten vor den Erscheinungen, mit denen wir jetzt zu tun haben [...I. Doch schreiben wir weiter in den Formen, an die wir gewohnt sind. Das heiRt: wir konnen, was wir sehen, noch nicht glauben. Was wir schon glauben, nicht aussprechen. (VEE 85)

These last sentences align Wolfs position with Kassandra's. Kassandra-like, Wolf repeats the statistic that the superpowers could annihilate each other more than a dozen times over with their arsenals, and notes that such statistics introduce a new kind of emotional and cognitive situation for which traditional aesthetic forms prove themselves inadequate:

Das "normale Gefiihl" bleibt taub gegen- iiber solchen Zahlen. Emporung, Aufbe- gehren wiiren unangemessen. Die Asthe- tik des Widerstandes dagegen ware erst noch zu entwickeln. Wem kann ich erzah- len, dal3 die "Ilias" mich langweilt? (94)

In this passage, Wolf undermines literary autonomy by jumping abruptly from the present political situation to her personal experience of a classic of Western litera- ture. In between the present and the past, the future is invoked: the development of an aesthetics of resistance. The fifth lec- ture, the Kassandra story, is both an anti-Iliad and an attempt at such an aes- thetic. While Kassandra is "die erste be- rufstatige Frau in der Literatur" (VEE 38), however, Wolf may see herself as the last professional woman writer, in the sense that she defines her project as that of bringing literature "as we know it" to a close.

Inasmuch as it represents a thinking "outside the system" or "through the body," women's literature may be the be- ginning of an aesthetic of resistance for Wolf. Women's writing is definable because it recovers experience (not to be mistaken for a feminine essence) outside of a mascu- line system:

inwieweit gibt es wirklich "weibliches" Schreiben? Insoweit Frauen aus histori- schen und biologischen Griinden eine an- dre Wirklichkeit erleben als Manner [...] und dies ausdriicken.(WE 114-15)

Against patriarchal narrative patterns which fulfill the conditions ofpoetics by ig- noring the reality of half of humanity, Wolf posits an alternative, subversive narrative which attempts

unauffdlig sein und Unauffalliges zu be- nennen [...] den kostbaren Alltag, kon- kret [...I. Es hatte sich in jedem Sinn 'von unten' an sein Material heranzuarbeiten, das, wenn man es durch ein anderes Ras- ter ansahe als bisher, doch noch bisher unerkannte Moglichkeiten offenbaren mag. (125)

Wolfs text opens to us the possibility of new literary experiences while at the same time recognizing the connections of those experiences to previous ones. In weaving a text that acknowledges its place in com- plex literary, social, historical and political networks, Wolf has also created a loose web of literary theories which together en- able a woman to speak, be heard, and to act.


'Since this paper emphasizes "Kassandra" as part of a series of lectures, we will generally give the title in quotation marks, as here. How- ever, references to separately published edi- tions of this "novel" will follow the convention of using italics.

Christa Wolf, Voraussetzungen einer Er- zahlung: Kassandra (Sammlung Luchterhand

456. Darmstadt: Luchterhand, 19831, 131. Hereafter cited as VEE.

Wolf repeats this claim in interviews, al- most word-for-word with her previous declara- tion: "Dieses Unternehmen heil3t 'Poetik-vor- lesung', aber mir ging es nicht darum, eine Poetik zu liefern" (Wolf, "Urspriinge des Er- zahlens," 912).

Curiously, the passage Wolf cites did not disclose itself to our perusal of the edition of the Lexikon given in our works cited list, which has no entry for "Poetik." As will be seen below, Wolf has a particular bone to pick with Aris- totle.

On the relation of Wolfs thought to Adorno and Horkheimer, see Risse 1-21.

For a thorough discussion of the relation- ship between Wolf s work and Benjamin's con- ception of history, see Wilke.

If we except Plato's typologies of narration in his Republic, the theory of narration (narratio)began as arhetorical figure, was first theo- rized in the rhetorical textbooks (Quintilian provides the best classical source), and public or- atory was an exclusively male domain.

Wolf alludes to another Nietzsche text when she speaks of "jene patriarchalische Umwertung derWerte [...I zu denen auch, eben im Bereich der Kunstgesetzgebung, die Poetik des Aristoteles ziihlt." (134). The allusion to Nietzsche's Jenseits von Gut und Bose: die Um- wertung aller Werte shows once again a similar- ity in position: both writers attempt to depict for us a world predating our own, "humanistic" one, in which an entirely different set of values reigned than do now. Oddly, however, the "gen- der" of each epoch is reversed: for Nietzsche, the masculine, warrior world of the Greeks has be- come feminized with concepts of guilt, remorse, morality, and the like. For Wolf, an originally feminized, natural world (identified with Minoan culture in the second lecture) has been suppressed and controlled by masculine ratio- nality.

This call for the replacement of narrative "thread" by semiotic "web" seen as more ade- quate to processes of human thought and com- munication provides the theme of Walter Hollerer's critifiction, Die Elefantenuhr. Like Wolf, Hollerer obeys his own theory of semiotic anti-rationalism by arguing for it through fic- tion.

Works Cited

Adelson, Leslie A. "The Bomb and I: Peter

Sloterdijk, Botho Strad, and Christa Wolf."

Monatshefte 78.4 (1986): 500-13. Aristotle. "Poetics." Trans. Ingram Bywater. In Introduction to Aristotle. Ed. Richard McKeon. New York: Random House, 1947.624-67.

Barthes, Roland. Roland Barthes par roland

barthes. Paris: Seuil,1975. Bachmann, Ingeborg. "Interview mit Gerda Badefeld." Ingeborg Bachmann. Wir miissen wahre Satze finden. Gespriiche und Inter-

views. Ed. Christine Koschel and Inge von

Weidenbaum. Munich: Piper, 1983.111-15.

Belsey, Catherine. "Constructing the Subject: Deconstruding the Text." Feminist Criticism and Social Change. Ed. J. Newton and D. Rosenfelt. London: Methuen, 1985.45-64.

Benjamin, Walter. Illuminationen. Frankfurt/ Main: Suhrkamp, 1977. Berger, Manfred, ed. Kulturpolitisches Worter- buch. Berlin (East): Dietz, 1978. Bloom, Harold. The Anxiety of Influence. New York: Oxford UT:1973.

Bovenschen, Silvia. Die imaginierte Weiblichkeit. Untersuchungen zu kulturgeschichtlichen und literarischen Priisentationsformen des Weiblichen.FrarMurCMain: Suhrkamp, 1979.

Cixous, HBlBne. "The Laugh of the Medusa." Signs 1.4 (1976): 875-93. Drescher, Angela, ed. Christa Wolf Ein Ar- beitsbuch. Studien-Dokumente-Bibliographic.

Berlin: Aufbau, 1989.

Eco, Umberto. "Pastille a1 Nome della Rosa." I1 Nome della Rosa. Milan: Bompiani, 1989. 505-33.

Emmerich, Wolfgang. Kleine Literaturgeschichte der DDR. Leipzig: EGepenhauer, 1996.

Fries, Marilyn Sibley, ed. Responses to Christa Wolfi Critical Essays. Detroit: Wayne State UT:1989.

Gallop, Jane. Thinking through the Body. New York: Columbia UT:1988. Geist, Rosemarie, and Maritta Rost. "Auswahl- bibliographie." Drescher 461482. Gilpin, Heidi. "Cassandra: Creating a Female Voice." Fries 349-66.

Graves, Peter. "Christa Wolfs 'Kassandra': The Censoring of the GDR Edition." Modern Lan- guage Review 81.4 (1986): 944-56.

Hilzinger, Sonja. "Weibliches Schreiben als eine hthetik des Widerstands. ijber Christa Wolfs 'KassandraY-Projekt." Drescher 216- 32.

Gilbert, Sandra M., and Susan Gubar. The Mad- woman in the Attic: The Woman Writer and the lgth Century Literary Imagination. New Haven: Yale UI:1979.

Hollerer,Walter. Die Elefantenuhr. Frankfurti Main: Suhrkamp, 1973.

Horkheimer, Max, and Theodor W. Adorno. Dialektik der Aufkl(irung. 8th ed. Frankfurt1 Main: Suhrkamp, 1981.

Irigaray, Luce. Ce sexe qui n 'en estpas un. Paris: Minuit, 1977.

Irmscher, Johannes, ed. kibn der Antike. Leip

zig: VEB Bibliographisches Institut, 1972.

Jankowsky, Karen H. Unsinnlanderer Sinnl neuer Sinn: Zur Bewegung im Denken von Christa Wolfs 'Kassandra' iiber den Krieg und die 'Heldengesellschaft. 'Philosophie und So- zialwissemchaften 15. Berlin: Argument, 1989.

JauB, Hans Robert. "Literaturgeschichte als Provokation der Literatunvissenschaft." Ed. Rainer Warning. Rezeptionsiisthetik: Theorie und Praxis. Uni-Taschenbucher 303. Munich: WFink Verlag, 1975. 126-61.

Kant, Immanuel. Kritik der Urteilskraft. Gesam- melte Schriften, Band 5.Berlin: Georg Reimer, 1913. 165-495.

Kasper, Karlheinz, ed. Sachworterbuch fir den Literaturunterricht. Berlin (East): Verlag Volk und Wissen, 1975.

Kuhn, Anna. Christa Wolf's Utopian Vision: From Marxism to Feminism. New York: Cam- bridge UT: 1988.

Le Guin, Ursula K. "The Carrier Bag Theory of Fiction." Dancing at the Edge of the World: Thoughts on Words, Women, Places. New York: Grove, 1989.

Legg, Suzanne. Zwischen Echos Leben: Christa Wolfs Prosa im Licht weiblicher Athetik- debatten. Essen: Blaue Eule, 1998.

Lennox, Sara. "The Difficulties of Writing the Truth." Fries 128-47. . "'Der Versuch, man selbst zu sein'. Christa Wolf und der Feminismus." Die Fmu als Heldin und Autorin. Neue kritische Ansatze zur deutschen Literatur. Ed. Wolfgang Paulsen. Bern: Francke, 1977.217-22.

Love, Myra. "Christa Wolf and Feminism: Breaking the Patriarchal Connection." New German Critique 16 (1979): 31-53.

Lutjeharms, Madeline. "'Doch schreiben wir weiter in den Formen, an die wir gewijhnt sind': ijberlegungen zum 'weiblichen Schrei- ben' aus sprachwissenschaftlicher Sicht am Beispiel der Kassandra von Christa Wolf." Christa Wolf in feministischer Sicht. Frank-furt/Main: Lang, 1992.115-25.

McDonald, W. E. "Who's Afraid of Wolfs Cassandra-r Cassandra's Wolf?: Male Tra- dition and Women's Knowledge in 'Cassan- dra."' Journal of Narrative Technique 20.3 (1990): 267-83.

Macainsh, Noel. "Literary Reception in East and West Germany." Quadrant 199.4 (1984): 44-47.

Nietzsche, Friedrich. Die Geburt der Tragodie aus dem Geiste derMusik. 1872. In Die Geburt der Tragodie, Schriften zu Literatur und Philosophie der Griechen. Ed. Manfred Landfester. FrankfurWain: Inse1,1994.

Porter, James I. "Resisting Aesthetics: The Cas- sandra Motif in Christa Wolf and Aeschylus." Fries 378-94.

Rich, Adrienne. Of Woman Born: Motherhood as Experience and Institution. New York: Norton, 1976. . On Lies, Secrets, and Silence. New York: Norton, 1979.

Rider, N. Ann. "Reconceptualizing Power and Resistence in the GDR: The Example of Gunter de Bruyn and the Socialist Ent- wicklungsroman." German Quarterly 68.4 (1995): 357-71.

Risse, Stefanie. Wahrnehmen und Erkennen in Christa Wolfs Erziihlung 'Xassandra." Reihe Sprach-und Literatunvissenschaft, 10. Pfaf- fenweiler: Centaurus, 1986.

Ryan, Judith. "Poetik als Experiment: Christa Wolf, Voraussetzungen einer Erzahlung: Kassandra." Poetik der Autoren: Beitriige zur deutschsprachigen Gegenwartsliteratur: Ed. Paul Michael Liitzeler. Frankfurtmain: Fischer, 1994. 80-94.

Schandera, Gunter. "Autoritares System -Autoritiit der Wissenschaft? Bemerkungen zur Rezeptionsasthetik in der DDR." Euphorion 92 (1998): 361-74.

Schlosser, Horst Dieter, and Hans Dieter Zim- mermann. Poetik. Essays iiber Ingeborg Bachmann, Peter Bichsel . . . Christa Wolf und andere Beitrage zu den Frankfurter-Vorle- sungen. Frankfix%: Athenaum, 1988.

Schoeber, Rita. "Rezeption und Realismus." Weimarer Beitrage 1(1982): 5-48.

Segers, Rien T. "Interview with Hans-Robert JauB." New Literary History 11.1 (1979): 83-95.

Taplin, Oliver. "Greek Theatre." The Oxford Il- lustrated History of Theatre. Ed. John Russel Brown. New York: Oxford Uf: 1995. 13-48.

Van Heurck, Jan, trans. Cassandra: A Novel and Four Essays. By Christa Wolf. New York: Noonday Press, 1984.

Weigel, Sigrid. "Vom Sehen zur Seherin. Christa Wolfs Umdeutung des Mythos und die Spur der Bachmann-Rezeption in ihrer Literatur." Drescher 169-203.

Wilke, Sabine. Ausgraben und Erinnern, zur Funktion von Geschichte, Subjekt und ge- schlechtlicher Identitat in den Texten Christa Wolfs.Wiirzburg: Konigshausen & Neumann, 1993.

Wolf, Christa. "Aus einer Diskussion an der Ohio State University. Gesprach mit Christa und Gerhard Wolf." Die Dimension des Autors 896-911. .Die Dimension des Autors. Essays und Aufsiitze, Reden und Gespriiche, 1959-1985. Darmstadt: Luchterhand, 1987. . Kassandra. Erzahlung. Darmstadt: Luchterhand, 1983; Leipzig: Reclam, 1984. . Kassandra. Vier Vorlesungen. Eine Erztihlung. Berlin: Aufbau, 1983. .Kindheitsmuster. Berlin: Aufbau, 1977. . "Nun ja! Das nachste Leben geht aber heute an. Ein Brief uber die Bettine." Die Di- mension des Autors. 572-610. . Voraussetzungen einer Erzahlung: Kassandra. Sammlung Luchterhand 456. Darrnstadt: Luchterhand, 1983. ."Die zumutbare Wahrheit." Fortgesetzter Versuch: Afsatze, Gespriiche, Essays. Leipzig: Reclam, 1985.25446. Wolf, Christa, and Jacqueline Grenz. "Urspriinge des Erziihlens." Die Dimension des Autors. 12-28. Woolf, Virginia. A Room of One's Own. New York: Harcourt Brace, 1929 [Rpt. San Diego: Har- court, Brace & Jovanovitch, 19911.

Appendix. Censored Portions of Kassandra in the AufbauEdition

All censored passages occur in the third lec- ture. Censored passages are marked with an el- lipsis [...] in the Aufbau edition; the end of the lecture reads "gekurzte Fassung."

1. Aufbau 110; Luchterhand 84: "Die Oberkommandos der NATO und des Warschauer Pakts beraten uber neue Rustungsanstrengungen, um der angenommenen waffentechnischen fherlegenheit des jeweiligen 'Gegners' etwas Gleichwertiges entgegensetzen zu konnen."

2. Aufiau 114; Luchterhand 88: Passage be- ginning llthline with: "Gibt es fiir uns eine Chance?" Entire passage missing down to "[. ..] mitzureden, ganz abwegig?" (Passage argues for disarmament, even in

light of the US build-up under Reagan.)

  1. Aufbau 120; Luchterhand 94: Last sen- tence in top paragraph: "1st diese Mudigkeit, sich zu engagieren, nicht eigentlich Hoffnungsmudigkeit?"

  2. Aufbau 124; Luchterhand 96: Entire first paragraph for 22 February, from "Die Nachrichten beider Seiten bombardieren uns mit der Notwendigkeit [...I" to "Der Wahnsinn geht mir nachts an die Kehle." (It is physically impossible to keep the ac- tual conditions of the world "vor Augen." The faster rockets are produced, the more difficult it is to maintain any hope of ef- fecting change through writing. Whom can one tell that the industrial society is turn- ing against its creators and supporters?, etc.)

  3. Aufbau 135; Luchterhand 106: Last half of last sentence in first full paragraph: "hasse jeden, der mit dieser Meldung weiterleben, weiter arbeiten wiirde, und weirj zugleich: Auch dieser Selbsthd ist es, den die Herrschenden dringend brauchen."

  4. Aufbau 138; Luchterhand 108: Halfway down, from "gefhlich, sagt R." to "[...] Rechtfertigung fk Kriegsvorbereitung benutzt wiirden." (It is most dangerous when words like "freedom" and "socialism" are used tojustify war preparations.)

  5. Aufbau 139; Luchterhand 110: Last por- tion of first paragraph, from "Sie &r ihren Teil [...I" to "sie habe aufgehort mit dem Reden und Schreiben mit gespaltener Zunge." (One woman insists that they canno lon- ger put off the most important books until "later," that censorship and self-censorship support war).

  6. Aui%au 142; Luchterhand 112: Paragraph beginning with "Zu Priamos' Zeit" to bot- tom of the page, "[...] das diesen Politikern zugeschoben wird." (Politicians' view of reality is censored and filtered, one which is based on "rational" forms of knowledge -including secret police reports -and one which has a basis neither in their own observations nor in their own "sinnliche" experiences. On the basis of such "knowledge" they make their destructive decisions.)

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