Literature as incarnation: form and content in Elisabeth Langgässer's novels
Edwards, Elizabeth Weber
Elisabeth Langgässer (1899-1950) was a German-Catholic writer banned from publishing by the Nazi regime because she was classified as half-Jewish. This dissertation sheds new light on Langgässer’s final works by reading the novels through the lens of the original intention of the author, and considering the works as both a response to individual circumstance and an ongoing prescription for the German people’s return to the Church. Specifically, I look at Elisabeth Langgässer’s final two novels and her interpretation of the Incarnation, key to her Catholic worldview, to constitute a single German Christian community during and after the Nazi regime. The first chapter provides a theological background for reading Langgässer’s work, analyzing the early unpublished essay Die Welt vor den Toren der Kirche (1922) and a number of speeches from the late in Langgässer’s career. In these texts, Langgässer develops a theory of Incarnation in and through fiction, where content and form, modeled on Christ’s humanity and divinity, become inseparable to create the Catholic novel. A response to the era, the Catholic novel helps constitute community among readers and across space and time, in spite of and in response to the political moment.