Goethe's stalker snails

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"Crab and snail are both rare creatures to me," reads an epigram by Goethe. Th is article takes the subjective character of the epigram as a point of departure to investigate the curious insistence of snail fi gures throughout Goethe's oeuvre, with particular attention to their fl exibility, reversibility, and ultimate incoherence. Th is incoherence has to do with the versatility of the snail as an asexual, trans, queer, but for Goethe, above all, female fi gure of victimhood (the persecuted maiden, the debauched lover), which in turn triggers feelings of persecution in the libertine. Yet, when Goethe himself is confronted with the female libertine Mme de Staël, he draws on metaphors of snail seclusion to express his own desire for autonomy as well as protection. Th e encounter between de Staël and Goethe presents an exemplary attempt of hegemonic masculinity to hijack victimhood and to treat it as the last coveted privilege patriarchy lacks.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1-26
Number of pages26
JournalFeminist German Studies
Issue number2
StatePublished - Sep 2020

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Gender Studies
  • Cultural Studies
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Linguistics and Language


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