Mothers, Comrades, and Outcasts in East German Women's Film merges feminist film theory and cultural history in an investigation of "women’s films" that span the last two decades of the former East Germany. Jennifer L. Creech explores the ways in which these films functioned as an alternative public sphere where official ideologies of socialist progress and utopian collectivism could be resisted. Emerging after the infamous cultural freeze of 1965, these women’s films reveal a shift from overt political critique to a covert politics located in the intimate, problem-rich experiences of everyday life under socialism. Through an analysis of films that focus on what were perceived as "women’s concerns"—marital problems, motherhood, emancipation, and residual patriarchy—Creech argues that the female protagonist served as a crystallization of socialist contradictions. By framing their politics in terms of women’s concerns, these films used women’s desire and agency to contest the more general problems of social alienation and collectivism, and to re-imagine the possibilities of self-fulfillment under socialism.
Note on Translation
Introduction: Rescuing History from the Ruins
1. Happily Ever After? The Emancipatory Politics of Female Desire in Lot’s Wife
2. The Lonely Woman? (Re)production and Female Desire in The Bicycle and On Probation
3. Pleasure in Seeing Ourselves? All My Girls
4. Real Women: Goodbye to Winter and the Documentary Women’s Film
Conclusion: After the Fall
Not only is this monograph sure to become an essential resource for Germanists and historians of socialist media and East German culture, but it will also make rewarding reading for feminist scholars keen to explore the implications of the public/private dichotomy and possibilities for women’s emancipation under socialism. With this well-researched and skillfully argued study, Creech undertakes the critical intervention of rescuing East German women’s films from the dustbin of history.
This volume is recommended to film enthusiasts and scholars as well as anyone interested in the history of DEFA and the complex relationship between cultural politics, feminism, and cinema. In her innovative and internationally oriented approach to DEFA, Creech demonstrates the enduring relevance of these films and their critical engagement with the feminine as mother, comrade, and outcast.
Feminist German Studies
Overall, Creech practices a form of critical film analysis that also attends to aesthetic and formal aspects. She combines thorough and insightful analysis with a rich catalogue of intertextual references to other films. The book is relevant for scholars and students of women's studies, film studies, and GDR studies.
German Studies Review
With this well-researched and skillfully argued study, Creech undertakes the critical intervention of rescuing East German women’s films from the dustbin of history.
Creech has delivered a well-written and fascinating study of feminist films under state socialism. Her descriptions and analysis of the films are rich and convincingly argued in elegant prose.
Mothers, Comrades, and Outcasts in East German Women’s Film provides new readings on East German women’s films and raises important questions about the cross-border continuities of feminist discourse played out on East German cinema screens.
Modern Language Review