EN 2011 Lecture Notes - Lecture 1: Frank Wedekind, Crass, Gender Studies
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July 2, 2014 -- Reading Frank Wedekind: An Introduction – Scenes to
follow – July 4
An Introduction by H. Donner
If you do not as yet own the play, please use the online Gutenberg version. It is
severely flawed with some terrible translations, for example , the stirrings of
manhood are called the Emotions of being a man. That sure is lamenable. But
perhaps you can still recognize that you are reading a master piece on sexuality
and gender, and moreover enjoy its humor.
The world of the slave girl is dominated by a crass and inhumane contrast.
However, the world of the boys and girls ( biologically already men and women) in
Wedekind’s play is one of many veils disguising and diverting sexuality – either by
rendering it merely scientific and biological, or, more prevalently, as a fearful
taboo, connected to their undoing as respectable and “good” persons.
If, in Spring Awakening, you have enjoyed the first few acts and scenes, you
remember how Wendla was sad at leaving girlhood and becoming a “woman”,
therefore surfeiting her freedom. You have noticed that the boys, in anticipation
of their manhood, are governed by a very powerful sense of a group self –
independent of teachers, parents or adults. This striving to be equal to the others
while also in rivalry with all of them. The group does not solve the boys’ individual
loneliness and despair, in short, does not prevent but rather cause suicide.
In adulthood too the power of these boys will come from other men, other
influential men helping them “up”. “Boyhood and manhood” are what the
playwright knows best. The boys that line up after class are in a pecking order
with some intimation of violence. Melchior knows he cannot afford to break with
them. They are witnesses to Moritz’s humiliation and see him as a scape goat type