Violence, masculinity and self: killing in Joseph Roth’s 1920s fiction

Hughes, Jon (2000) Violence, masculinity and self: killing in Joseph Roth’s 1920s fiction. German Life And Letters, 53 (2). pp. 216-230. ISSN 1468-0483

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This essay focuses upon a little considered aspect of Joseph Roth’s 1920s fiction – the depiction of the act of killing. I argue that this act should be viewed as central in Roth’s portrayal of the damaged psyche of young war veterans, whose strategies of self-denial and self-transformation have terrible consequences for themselves and others. With this in mind, I examine the actions and motives of the fascistic protagonist of Das Spinnennetz (1923), and the revolutionaries in Die Flucht ohne Ende (1927) and Rechts und Links (1929), in their historical and cultural context. The continuities between their actions reflect, I suggest, an awareness on Roth’s part of the continuum of male psychology. Drawing on concepts from the work of such cultural critics as Theweleit, Foucault, and Lacan, I discuss the significance of military training, the experience of combat, and political instability in displacing the masculine ego and creating the necessary conditions for violence. The essay concludes by challenging the assumption that Roth only intended to criticise his explicitly fascistic character, for all the texts considered close with personal misery for their characters: inability to relate to others, and dislocation from society.

Item Type: Article
Depositing User: EPrints Services
Date Deposited: 21 Feb 2012 10:04
Last Modified: 02 Aug 2012 11:23
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