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Orjinta, Aloysius-Gonzagas Ikechukwu (2011): Womanism as a method of literary text interpretation: a study of emergent women’s images under religious structures in selected works of Heinrich Böll. Dissertation, LMU München: Faculty for Languages and Literatures
Orjinta_Aloysius_Gonzagas_Ikechukwu .pdf



Researches on the image of women in religion and in literature are often a big topic in Judaism, Christianity and Islam. The literary image of women are created or made by male authors ab initio because the orient, the birth place of the three religions, was dominated by patriarchy for a long time. Most male authors were writing patriarchal oriented stories, where women were degraded or demoted to second class beings. This brought about stereotypes, prejudices and a prior condemnation of woman, and men placed themselves in the centre of leading stories as well as in literary canons. On the one hand, men were writing about what they thought about women; their image of woman, however, hardly corresponded with what women thought about themselves. On the other hand they were abusing the religious feelings of women and exploited them. This work deals with further research on the concept of women in the above religions and on their fictional portraits in selected novels and stories of Heinrich Böll. The goal of this work is to find out the efforts of feminist literary scholars in their discovery of the lost stories about woman. Feminine identity is more strongly developed in Europe than in Africa. The European women have fought over the years, in order to liberate themselves from patriarchal oppression and subjectivity. That notwithstanding, there remains desiderata. As already mentioned an analysis of the history of women in the religions and in the cultures shows many examples of injustice, prejudice and discrimination. Hitherto in most religions (Christianity “Catholic Church”), Islam, Judaism and African Traditional Religion, women have no chance of leading as chief celebrant in the services. They could always undertake lower functions, but when it is about a higher office, there is always a boundary. My first Ph.D. research: “Women’s Experiences in Selected African Feminist Literary Texts (part of which was published under the title: “Women in World Religions and literatures” (Munster, imprint Verlag ISBN 978-3-936536-25-5), is preoccupied inter alia with this issue: It is an exercise in solidarity with the outsiders, the marginalized and oppressed of the society. Literature can be taken as a reflection of the happenings in the society. In this sense, fictional texts play big roles in the idea of the societal events and experiences. Heinrich Böll’s trend literature represents literary engagement. He remains close to the masses and the oppressed gender/sex. This solidarity with the masses brought him negative Press of the Mass Media as well as the persecutions of the government. Feminist literary writing on one side and feminist political engagement on the other side are of the same opinion that the image of women in the predominant male literatures turned out to be one sided, stereotyped and negative to the advantage of the domineering gender. The ultimate writing of women and feminist activists; be it the left-wing extremists, the liberals or the conservatives, is to fight against this situation: they look for the female identity in the society as well as in literature. Extreme feminist and chauvinist groups in Europe, America and partly in the Third World countries, have made a strong influence through their words and actions, such that the church and the society are bearing the brunt: marital crisis, decline in population, neglect of maternal duties, erosion of family and social values, suicides, running amok and the decline of moral and religious values. According to Böll, these experiences are as a result of the mass reaction of the feminine gender against the tyranny of masculine gender, the church and its supporters. However, such a reaction should not be exaggerated. At this juncture, the argument is between the womanists and the Western feminists. For my case study, I will like to bring in the following fictional works of Heinrich Böll: Die Verlorene Ehre der Katharina Blum, Gruppen Bilm mit Dame, Ansichten eines Clowns and Frauen vor Flusslandschaft. The goal of this work is to proffer possible suggestions and to give some indication of a way forward towards the amelioration of the situation of women as shown by Böll. In order to achieve this goal, I prefer to apply the womanist theoretical frame-work as a solution that can be found in a multicultural society; a kind of recourse to the source (to nature, to the roots). One understands womanism as an ideology of African women, in which they see their interests as that of their children and husbands. Their needs are deeply rooted in the well-being of the community. In order to achieve their goal, African womanists prefer gender-supplement, dialogue and complementarities. Here, Complaints are rare, because the female Gender is part of an administrative system, which has a male and a female hierarchy and in which men and women share the power. When there is complaint, Dialogue and settlement is preferred to confrontation. Obviously, this method is social and historically based and therefore, is not contextual. The womanist method is originally African and considers man and women as complementary. The biological differences between the genders are as evident and undeniable as the need for their combined division of labour in the bearing of off-springs. Apparently, the genders should complement each other instead of confronting each other. In this context, no one is expected to talk about replacement, aping the other or pushing out the other. This world view exists also in Europe and only needs to be rediscovered. The image of the church and the society in Heinrich Böll’s work is womanist oriented, as exemplified by the themes and motives in his novels and stories like authority, love, moral and sexuality, the marry-able woman, the trinity of the female, aesthetic of the human, the pure lady, realism, humanism mercifulness and solidarity with the masses and the rejects. Here, we are quite far away from the l’art pour l’art trend. In these texts, that is the womanist literary texts, a hermeneutic contextual interpretation and aesthetics may not be applicable. As an African, I cannot afford the luxury of l’art pour l’art under the conditions shown above. Here one attempts therefore, to make certain German literature African. One may ask oneself: “How can one, with the above selected background, make the German authors accessible to the African recipients. Consequently, one tries to study how the African readers can read, understand and evaluate German literature – even when this has already been translated into English or French. In my own opinion, a womanist interpretation is step one in the arousing of interest of African recipients. This mediatory role should play the part of laying the foundation for literature readership – the reading of literature- being used as a means of mobilizing Africans to love German studies even at the University level. The question here is: if one wants to communicate to the Africans the feminist novels and stories of Böll, will it then be more appropriate and more result oriented to analyse these texts using womanism or the western feminism? In my own understanding, it is clear that womanism is more appropriate here. The above mentioned works of Böll, in my own opinion, belong to the trend literature Tendenzliteratur as well as the literature of ruins Trümmerliteratur, that is why it is more appropriate, to take them to Africans by means of womanism, an ideology that suites people who are in pains and whose spirits are wounded, and are been daily bruised by the Euro-Americans and their local collaborators – the so called ten percent of the contemporary African polity. In summary, it is worthy to say that Heinrich Böll proved his worth as a womanist in his literary creation. His male and female protagonists realized his vision of traditional community of people. The marriage between the church and the state constitutes or forms a great hindrance in the expected prophetic roles of the church in the society and the evils highlighted above. Religious structure should prevent paragraph-riding, materialism, casuistry, and hypocrisy from encroaching into their hierarchy and membership. Immediately after the Second World War, -1945, Böll himself experienced how inhuman and heartless the church was to the homeless and hungry population. The church committed the sin of conformity or should one say, she sinned by omission and by commission. Her meagre solidarity with the suffering masses – the women and the children and of course the men proved this.