Gaby Pailer


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Graduate Student Supervision

Doctoral Student Supervision (Jan 2008 - May 2021)
"Daskind" by Mariella Mehr - Unveiling a Subjugated History: A First Draft of an Archae-Genealogical History of WVHPKL/OHGFRI People (2015)

In German fiction, depictions of characters who are, or have been “wards of the state,” i.e., orphans, contracted-out, children and youth living in institutions such as residential schools, children’s homes or group homes, or foster children, are often drawn as asocial or antisocial characters. Many of these characters are seen by critics as metaphorical figures that have no foundation in the extra-literary world. They are perceived as being created to enhance readers’ understanding of social issues that are unrelated to these characters’ unique situation of growing up “without family.” Such a reading is problematic as it ignores centuries of marginalization, exploitation and other forms of abuse, most of which are particular to the status of “growing up in care.” My point of departure is Mariella Mehr’s novel Daskind, whose main topic is the history of this large group of “un-familied” people, and the silencing of their history. Mehr creates a highly intertextual text full of historical, international, socio-cultural and literary allusions. This calls for a theoretical framework which combines notions of power structures, including their subversion on a societal as well as an individual level, with notions of intertextuality.In order to investigate the historical context and plight of “un-familied” people, which has mostly been ignored in literary studies, I introduce the new acronyms WVHPKL (German), OHGFRI, (English) so as to accurately and respectfully address the literary representatives of this very diverse group of people, as listed in the first paragraph. Using the acronym/s does not deny the differences within this group, rather, the acronym/s highlights the differences without invisibilizing the common thread that runs through the different forms of state and community “care,” and deprived and in many cases continues to deprive children and youth from growing up in either any kind of family of origin or in a non-enforced adoptive family. I read Daskind as a critique of the notion of “foster care” and as an autonomous, non-centralized Foucauldean kind of theoretical production.This thesis hopes to provide the foundation to open up a broader interdisciplinary field of study dedicated to WVHPKL/OHGFRI people.

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Master's Student Supervision (2010 - 2020)
Metamorphoses of Snake Women, Melusine and Madam White (2015)

By comparing the European literary character Melusine with her Chinese counterpart Madam White, my thesis aims to demonstrate that the metamorphosis of females into snakes is presented in both myths as the literary reproduction of the social and historical process whereby men’s power oppressed women’s. The serpentine metamorphosis will be argued to have a mechanism, which consists of three key elements, namely a specific date, religious context, and forced metamorphosis. To do this, first, I will explore the symbolism of snakes in central European and far eastern Asian traditions. Second, in a close reading, I will analyze and compare the negative impact of serpentine metamorphoses of Melusine and Madam White in their stories. Finally, by addressing the connection to real-life contexts (social, cultural and religious) in the development of these characters, I will provide new insights into the role and status of women in China and German-speaking Europe since early modern times as well as the possible roots of their image as femmes fatales in modern literature.

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