Thursday, February 24, 2005

Maria Tatar - myth, mayhem, and murder

A professor of German at Harvard University, Maria Tatar is also a scholar and writer whose unusual books include Spellbound: Studies on Mesmerism and Literature and Lustmord: Sexual Murder in Weimar Germany. (This later book discusses Wedekind's Pandora's Box and the films of Fritz Lang, but curiously, not Pabst's Pandora's Box.)  Tatar is also the editor of two recent volumes, The Annotated Brothers Grimm and The Annotated Classic Fairy Tales.

I spotted the author's name again in another recently released title, A New History of German Literature, edited by David E. Wellbery. In this new book, Tatar authored a very interesting essay on Frank Wedekind entitled "Eroticism and the Femme Fatale." What caught my eye was Tatar's discussion of Louise Brooks, her role as Lulu, and the "powerful afterlife" of Wedekind's play. Tatar comments, "Though Pabst's film was not a commercial success, it came to occupy a central position in the iconography of feminine evil and fed into discourses on sexual cynicism in Weimar Germany. . . . In crafting a tragedy of monsters and a monster tragedy, Wedekind was able to disclose phobic anxieties and desires that would lead to a broader understanding of what was at stake in cultural conflicts, large and small." Tatar's five page essay makes for interesting reading. Anyone interested in its subject matters might want to check it out.

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