The Tragedy of Fatherhood (New Directions in German Studies)
Theories of power have always been intertwined with theories of fatherhood: paternity is the oldest and most persistent metaphor of benign, legitimate rule. The paternal trope gains its strength from its integration of law, body, and affect-in the affirmative model of fatherhood, the biological father, the legal father, and the father who protects and nurtures his children are one and the same, and in a complex system of mutual interdependence, the father of the family is symbolically linked to the paternal gods of monotheism and the paternal ruler of the monarchic state.
If tragedy is the violent eruption of a necessary conflict between competing, legitimate claims, The Tragedy of Fatherhood argues that fatherhood is an essentially tragic structure. Silke-Maria Weineck traces both the tensions and various strategies to resolve them through a series of readings of seminal literary and theoretical texts in the Western cultural tradition. In doing so, she demonstrates both the fragility and resilience of fatherhood as the most important symbol of political power.
A long history of fatherhood in literature, philosophy, and political thought, The Tragedy of Fatherhood weaves together figures as seemingly disparate as Aristotle, Freud, Kafka, and Kleist, to produce a stunning reappraisal of the nature of power in the Western tradition.
In this highly reflective and provocative study, Weineck offers a series of consummate literary analyses, which interrogate conventional truisms of psychoanalytic discourse and political theory. With a brilliant shift in perspective, The Tragedy of Fatherhood demonstrates to what extent the figure of the father has been reduced to mere instances of the filial imagination. The result is a richly nuanced and theoretically sophisticated assessment of conceptualizations of paternity throughout the literary and political traditions of the West, which calls for an entire reconsideration of how notions of sovereignty, authority, and legitimacy have been and continue to be formulated. --John T. Hamilton, Professor of Comparative Literature, Harvard University, USAThe Tragedy of Fatherhood is a tour de force that will open new avenues of research. Although the pater familias is generally considered the model for all figures of authority, his position has gone largely unaddressed in criticism except from the vantage point of the son or the subservient subject. Silke Weineck's elegant and thought-provoking study lifts the father from the shadows and lets him speak as a figure that is at once powerful but vulnerable, the bedrock of the social order but also its most contested member. The book combines an enormous wealth of learning with grace and wit, and is written in a manner that should be the envy of all scholars in the humanities. --Rochelle Tobias, Professor of German, Johns Hopkins University, USAThe subject of Silke-Maria Weineck's The Tragedy of Fatherhood is central and compelling-the vicissitudes of the 'paternal triad,' the authority vested in family fathers, kings, and gods as concretely imagined in myth, literature, and psychoanalytic theory. Weineck's erudition, especially where Greek and German writers are concerned, her gracious sensibility, theoretical finesse, and writerly flair hold this threatening matter at bay: her critical imagination is a continual source of revisionary insight and complex pleasure. --Stanley Corngold, Professor Emeritus of German and Comparative Literature, Princeton University, USA
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