Lustmord: Sexual Murder in Weimar Germany

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Overview

In a book that confronts our society's obsession with sexual violence, Maria Tatar seeks the meaning behind one of the most disturbing images of twentieth-century Western culture: the violated female corpse. This image is so prevalent in painting, literature, film, and, most recently, in mass media, that we rarely question what is at stake in its representation. Tatar, however, challenges us to consider what is taking place--both artistically and socially--in the construction and circulation of scenes depicting sexual murder. In examining images of sexual murder (Lustmord), she produces a riveting study of how art and murder have intersected in the sexual politics of culture from Weimar Germany to the present.

Tatar focuses attention on the politically turbulent Weimar Republic, often viewed as the birthplace of a transgressive avant-garde modernism, where representations of female sexual mutilation abound. Here a revealing episode in the gender politics of cultural production unfolds as male artists and writers, working in a society consumed by fear of outside threats, envision women as enemies that can be contained and mastered through transcendent artistic expression. Not only does Tatar show that male artists openly identified with real-life sexual murderers--George Grosz posed as Jack the Ripper in a photograph where his model and future wife was the target of his knife--but she also reveals the ways in which victims were disavowed and erased.

Tatar first analyzes actual cases of sexual murder that aroused wide public interest in Weimar Germany. She then considers how the representation of murdered women in visual and literary works functions as a strategy for managing social and sexual anxieties, and shows how violence against women can be linked to the war trauma, to urban pathologies, and to the politics of cultural production and biological reproduction.

In exploring the complex relationship between victim and agent in cases of sexual murder, Tatar explains how the roles came to be destabilized and reversed, turning the perpetrator of criminal deeds into a defenseless victim of seductive evil. Throughout the West today, the creation of similar ideological constructions still occurs in societies that have only recently begun to validate the voices of its victims. Maria Tatar's book opens up an important discussion for readers seeking to understand the forces behind sexual violence and its portrayal in the cultural media throughout this century.

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Editorial Reviews

Art in America - Patrice Petro
A remarkable book. [It] is both a study of German avant-garde and modernist art and a sustained reflection on the relationships between gender, crime, violence and representation. . . . Lustmord breaks new ground in our understanding of German art and culture during this turbulent period between the two world wars. . . . A brilliant book of art and cultural criticism. . . .
The Women's Review of Books - Barbara Kosta
Tatar investigates the chilling motives behind representations that aestheticize violence, and that turn the mutilated female body into an object of fascination. . . . Above all, she explores the complex relationship between gender roles, sexuality, violence and representation. . . . Tatar's book is particularly relevant today, amid the heated debates over violence, even as the images become more brutal and sensational, and the camera more voyeuristic and merciless. The story of sexual murder is all too common—and not just during the brief period of the Weimar Republic. It's precisely the commonplace nature of such brutal and misogynistic crimes that Maria Tatar seeks to expose.
The Bloomsbury Review - Leslie Kitchen
A brilliant and energetic exploration of a subject that has gone for too long ignored, a profound and provocative contribution to our understanding of sexual combat and the aestheticization of violence in modern culture.
German Politics and Society - William Collins Donahue
Lustmord is an unsettling study, rich both in documentation and speculation, that will change the way we look at Weimar as well as contemporary art. . . . All this in prose that is all the more enviable for its precision, lucidity, and pithiness.
The Nation - John Leonard
Not for the first time—though seldom so brilliantly as in Tatar's slender book—fascism and modernism are conjoined; they correspond; they are letters from the same camp. . . .
The Historian - Andrew Lees
This volume is intriguing, puzzling, illuminating, and depressing.
From the Publisher

"A compelling chronicle of Weimar Germany's disturbing and pervasive fascination with the sexually motivated murder of women, Lustmord breaks new ground in our understanding of German art and culture during this turbulent period between the two world wars.... Tatar has written a brilliant book of art and cultural criticism, a book that scholars and theorists of the Weimar period will have to contend with for some years to come."--Patrice Petro, Art in America

"Tatar's book is particularly relevant today, amid the heated debates over violence, even as the images become more brutal and sensational, and the camera more voyeuristic and merciless."--Barbara Kosta, The Women's Review of Books

"A profound and provocative contribution to our understanding of sexual combat and the aestheticization of violence in modern culture."--Leslie Kitchen, The Bloomsbury Review

"Lustmord is an unsettling study, rich both in documentation and speculation, that will change the way we look at Weimar as well as contemporary art. . . . All this in prose that is all the more enviable for its precision, lucidity, and pithiness."--William Collins Donahue, German Politics and Society

"Not for the first time--though seldom so brilliantly as in Tatar's slender book--fascism and modernism are conjoined; they correspond; they are letters from the same camp. . . ."--John Leonard, The Nation

"Tatar investigates the chilling motives behind representations that aestheticize violence, and that turn the mutilated female body into an object of fascination. . . . Above all, she explores the complex relationship between gender roles, sexuality, violence and representation. . . . Tatar's book is particularly relevant today, amid the heated debates over violence, even as the images become more brutal and sensational, and the camera more voyeuristic and merciless. The story of sexual murder is all too common--and not just during the brief period of the Weimar Republic. It's precisely the commonplace nature of such brutal and misogynistic crimes that Maria Tatar seeks to expose."--Barbara Kosta, The Women's Review of Books

"This volume is intriguing, puzzling, illuminating, and depressing."--Andrew Lees, The Historian

"A remarkable book. [It] is both a study of German avant-garde and modernist art and a sustained reflection on the relationships between gender, crime, violence and representation. . . . Lustmord breaks new ground in our understanding of German art and culture during this turbulent period between the two world wars. . . . A brilliant book of art and cultural criticism. . . . "--Patrice Petro, Art in America

"A brilliant and energetic exploration of a subject that has gone for too long ignored, a profound and provocative contribution to our understanding of sexual combat and the aestheticization of violence in modern culture."--Leslie Kitchen, The Bloomsbury Review

Art in America
A remarkable book. [It] is both a study of German avant-garde and modernist art and a sustained reflection on the relationships between gender, crime, violence and representation. . . . Lustmord breaks new ground in our understanding of German art and culture during this turbulent period between the two world wars. . . . A brilliant book of art and cultural criticism. . . .
— Patrice Petro
German Politics and Society
Lustmord is an unsettling study, rich both in documentation and speculation, that will change the way we look at Weimar as well as contemporary art. . . . All this in prose that is all the more enviable for its precision, lucidity, and pithiness.
— William Collins Donahue
The Women's Review of Books
Tatar investigates the chilling motives behind representations that aestheticize violence, and that turn the mutilated female body into an object of fascination. . . . Above all, she explores the complex relationship between gender roles, sexuality, violence and representation. . . . Tatar's book is particularly relevant today, amid the heated debates over violence, even as the images become more brutal and sensational, and the camera more voyeuristic and merciless. The story of sexual murder is all too common—and not just during the brief period of the Weimar Republic. It's precisely the commonplace nature of such brutal and misogynistic crimes that Maria Tatar seeks to expose.
— Barbara Kosta
The Bloomsbury Review
A brilliant and energetic exploration of a subject that has gone for too long ignored, a profound and provocative contribution to our understanding of sexual combat and the aestheticization of violence in modern culture.
— Leslie Kitchen
The Nation
Not for the first time—though seldom so brilliantly as in Tatar's slender book—fascism and modernism are conjoined; they correspond; they are letters from the same camp. . . .
— John Leonard
The Historian
This volume is intriguing, puzzling, illuminating, and depressing.
— Andrew Lees
The Nation

Not for the first time—though seldom so brilliantly as in Tatar's slender book—fascism and modernism are conjoined; they correspond; they are letters from the same camp. . . .
— John Leonard

The Bloomsbury Review

A brilliant and energetic exploration of a subject that has gone for too long ignored, a profound and provocative contribution to our understanding of sexual combat and the aestheticization of violence in modern culture.
— Leslie Kitchen

The Historian

This volume is intriguing, puzzling, illuminating, and depressing.
— Andrew Lees

Art in America

A remarkable book. [It] is both a study of German avant-garde and modernist art and a sustained reflection on the relationships between gender, crime, violence and representation. . . . Lustmord breaks new ground in our understanding of German art and culture during this turbulent period between the two world wars. . . . A brilliant book of art and cultural criticism. . . .
— Patrice Petro

The Women's Review of Books

Tatar investigates the chilling motives behind representations that aestheticize violence, and that turn the mutilated female body into an object of fascination. . . . Above all, she explores the complex relationship between gender roles, sexuality, violence and representation. . . . Tatar's book is particularly relevant today, amid the heated debates over violence, even as the images become more brutal and sensational, and the camera more voyeuristic and merciless. The story of sexual murder is all too common—and not just during the brief period of the Weimar Republic. It's precisely the commonplace nature of such brutal and misogynistic crimes that Maria Tatar seeks to expose.
— Barbara Kosta

German Politics and Society

Lustmord is an unsettling study, rich both in documentation and speculation, that will change the way we look at Weimar as well as contemporary art. . . . All this in prose that is all the more enviable for its precision, lucidity, and pithiness.
— William Collins Donahue

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780691015903
  • Publisher: Princeton University Press
  • Publication date: 5/5/1997
  • Edition description: REPRINT
  • Pages: 213
  • Sales rank: 1,062,146
  • Product dimensions: 6.08 (w) x 9.24 (h) x 0.68 (d)

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations
Acknowledgments
Pt. 1 Sexual Murder: Weimar Germany and Its Cultural Legacy
Ch. 1 Morbid Curiosity: Why Lustmord? 3
Ch. 2 "Ask Mother": The Construction of Sexual Murder 20
Ch. 3 Crime, Contagion, and Containment: Sexual Murder in the Weimar Republic 41
Pt. 2 Case Studies
Ch. 4 Fighting for Life: Figurations of War, Women, and the City in the Work of Otto Dix 68
Ch. 5 Life in the Combat Zone: Military and Sexual Anxieties in the Work of George Grosz 98
Ch. 6 The Corpse Vanishes: Gender, Violence, and Agency in Alfred Doblin's Berlin Alexanderplatz 132
Ch. 7 The Killer as Victim: Fritz Lang's M 153
Ch. 8 Reinventions: Murder in the Name of Art 173
Notes 185
Index 209
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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted May 17, 2010

    Very Interesting Facet of Weimar Culture

    This book is fascinating and well written. It includes a number of interesting pictures by George Grosz and Otto Dix and offers insight into the Weimar Republic. Since many of the artists of this period produced images of notable violence, especially against the female form, Tatar explores the question of why that is so. She cites the trauma suffered by men during the war as a prime example. Women were not exposed to the brutality of war, nor the disfiguring physical effects. In this way, sex murder (in English) was a way of seeking vengeance for what men had psychically and physically suffered. Many of Otto Dix's pictures, such as Card Playing War Cripples, depict the physical state of human beings exposure to warfare in the twentieth century. Tatar explores the various depictions of sex murder within the context of the Weimar Republic, the cultural environment as well as several case studies. This book would be useful for academics, but would also make compelling reading for someone interested in this time period in Germany or the artists of the Dada and Neue Sachlichkeit period.

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