The above oil painting was produced in the early eighteenth century in the Austrian region of Styria. The unknown artist's work is titled "Kurze Beschreibung der In Europa Befintlichen Völckern Und Ihren Aigenschafften"1 and depicts different European nationalities arranged on an axis running from the Spaniard to the Levantine (the latter identified rather undifferentiatedly as "Turk or Greek"). The various nationalities are distinguished according to geographical, social and moral qualities, and thus the painting reveals the belief in "national character" as a moral collective-psychological motivation for assumed national features and cultural differences. The character traits ascribed to the peoples are stereotypes, that is, "fixed, frozen, and often false images we retain about an individual or a group of individuals" (Kumaravadivelu 50). As "pictures in our heads" (Lippmann 1) these attributions of a moral or characterological nature to collectives reduce an unmanageable reality to a manageable label. According to the group identified, it is common to differentiate between stereotypes concerning, for example, religion ("Hindus are vegetarians"), profession ("lawyers are greedy"), age ("young people are reckless"), gender ("women are weak") and, as on the Völkertafel, nationality ("Spaniards are proud") (cf. Kumaravadivelu 50). The Völkertafel, as an invaluable historical document in the history of national characterisation in Europe (cf. Stanzel, Europäer 13), displays national stereotypes that are anything but outdated, since some images such as the proud Spaniard or the German drunkard as 'typical' representatives of that particular country still play an important role in how we perceive other nations and our own. Indeed, national stereotyping has not ended with the breaking down of national barriers in the age of globalisation; on the contrary, due to growing regionalisation, intense provincial interest and greater internecine strife (cf. Cullingford 1), stereotyping "has particular salience in our time" (Cullingford 3).
Though the Völkertafel is widely known and researched in imagological and historical studies (cf. in particular Stanzel Europäer and Europäischer Völkerspiegel), there has been little discussion about one aspect that is as significant as it is obvious – the interrelatedness of national stereotypes and gender.2 The table of European nationalities portrays a striking gender dimension of national characters – in a twofold manner: Firstly, all nationalities are exemplified by men, although the national categories, such as Spaniard or Frenchman, in fact include both men and women; the Völkertafel, however, represents the nation as a masculine collective with a nobleman as its typical representative. Secondly, in order to compare the different people and assign them a particular profile, they are viewed in gendered terms, or, to be more precise, they are classified by gender-specific characteristics. As figure 1 shows, the "masculine" Spaniard contrasts with a "feminine" Englishman, and the "Turk or Greek" dresses in an effeminate manner. In addition, another historical source from this era, the copperplate series Laconicum Europae Speculum, provides further evidence of the gender dimension of national characters by employing a new category in order to contrast the peoples: "Wie sie [die Völker] es mit ihren Eheweibern zu halten pflegen",3 which demonstrates, not only are the peoples imagined in gendered terms as on the Völkertafel, but a national specific relation between the sexes is constructed in order to draw national boundaries between them and maximise their supposed differences. In general, what the two classic sources indicate is that the idea of national characters and the origin of national stereotypes were highly intertwined with culturally prevalent notions of gender roles and characteristics.
So far, however, Image Studies,4 a specialism in Comparative Literature and one of the most significant approaches to the critical study of national identity and national stereotypes as represented in literary texts, has mostly studied its object of research as a gender-neutral phenomenon.5 Only recently has Image Studies become aware of the complex and crucial gender dimension of national characters, as is suggested in one of the most important and most recent publications in the field (cf. Beller and Leerssen). This first encyclopaedic compendium of Image Studies assembles concepts of various cultural fields and scholarly disciplines that are relevant to the study of attitudes and judgements between nations as fixed in texts. It contains, among others, a short article on "gender". This entry proclaims that "every perception of national identity is implicitly or explicitly gendered" (Verstraete 330). As promising as that sounds, however, the relevance of gender to imagological research is outlined only briefly.6
Not so in other disciplines. In historical research, the complex connections between gender and nation have grown in importance in light of recent studies. Initially, important studies on nation-building in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries have provided ample evidence that the nation is, in fact, "an imagined community (Anderson 1983), which draws on collective memories of perceived common experiences (Gellner 1983) and invented traditions (Hobsbawm and Ranger 1983)" (Walby 120), and is not, as nationalist ideology is eager to propagate, naturally given. Following the constructivist assumptions of these works, various studies with titles on Gender and Nation or Gendered Nations7 have proliferated during the last decades that witness to a general critique of gender-blind approaches to the treatment of nations and nationalism, as "gendered in complex and varied ways" (Walby 218), claiming that "nationalism is thus constituted from the very beginning as a gendered discourse, and cannot be understood without a theory of gender power" (McClintock 63). Gender approaches to nationalism stress the fact that stereotypical images of national women and men are a key aspect in the process of building and maintaining national identity. Hence, Armstrong labels gender stereotypes as symbolic "border guards" in the construction process of national identity:
The mythical unity of national 'imagined communities' which divides the world between 'us' and 'them' is maintained and ideologically reproduced by a whole system of what Armstrong (1982) called symbolic 'border guards'. [...] Gender symbols play a particularly significant role in this, and thus constructions of manhood and womanhood, as well as sexuality and gendered relations of power, need to be explored in relation to these processes. (Armstrong qtd. in Yuval-Davis 23)
From an imagological point of view, national stereotypes—which refer to a number of perceived aspects of a nationality such as temperament, intelligence, or the sense of humour (Pryke 534) about the native country (auto-image), usually by contrast with those that characterise other national identities (hetero-image)—merge with culturally established assumptions on gender roles and characteristics. In this vein, the gender category undermines the stereotypes given at the beginning of this article.
But how, as one may be tempted to ask, can these theoretical assumptions informed by gender approaches to nation and nationalism be translated into actual imagological practice? A first answer shall be given as a preliminary case study in the following. In the course of this article I focus on the interrelatedness of national stereotypes with gender as it can be exemplified in the production and dissemination of the image of Germany in the English media on the eve of World War I, ranging from literary texts to journal articles. I argue that not only are gender stereotypes essential for the definition of the English national self and the German 'Other' in the English media between 1890 and 1914, but that gender may even be seen as a "structural pattern" (Leerssen 2000: 275) in the construction of national characters.
2. Anglo-German Relations on the Eve of World War I – A Brief Historical Contextualisation
It is a fundamental assumption of Image Studies that no text can be "interpreted in a timeless, aesthetic never-never land" (Leerssen 2007: 28). Hence, before addressing the questions raised above, it seems advisable to historically contextualise the sources to be discussed. As various studies have shown,8 relations between Germany and England changed considerably in the last thirty years of the nineteenth century. The main reason is frequently seen in the new political and economic power that Germany gained with the foundation of the German Reich:
As Germany's might grows from the conglomerate of operetta states around 1800 to the Bismarckian Reich of 1880s and after, the imagery follows suit. In the early century, Germany is charming, picturesque, the abode of enthusiastic thinkers, poets musicians and scholars, who live in quaint, medieval-style cities or statelets with strongly feudal political structures. A century later, Germany is the land of Prussian monocled officers and ruthlessly technological scientists, men who have state loyalty instead of human loyalty. (Leerssen 1995: 214)
Germany came to be thought of as a political and military enemy in the period in question, as Firchow claims in his extensive study on representations of Germans as formulated in English literature from 1890-1920:
Germany, a supposedly ruthless power bent on world domination as an end in itself, trusting to blood and iron alone [...] haunted the British imagination of the period like an evil spirit, and in a narrow sense the Holiness of the Great War is explicable only in terms of a bitter struggle to exorcise German Satan. (31)
According to Firchow, literature was not passive or simply a reflection of the intellectual and social currents of its time, but contributed substantially to English perceptions of Germany:
An important part of my argument is that literature is also active, that it helps to create - or, as here, often to hinder – the mutual understanding of nations. Literature does not only mirror national stereotypes; it shapes them, changes them, and makes them respectable. There is a continual interplay between 'reality' and consciousness; and literary consciousness can and does affect the way we act in it. Literature matters; and the subject matter of literature matters. (10)
So far, however, there has been little discussion of the gender dimension of these representations. In order to illustrate the points made above, I turn now to a brief analysis of the Anti-German discourse burdened with prejudices and spawning stereotypes from the perspective of gender, as formulated and perpetuated in the English media ranging from literary works to selected magazine articles and a popular scientific text.9
3. Gender and National Stereotypes in the English media 1890-1914
In the years between 1890 and 1914 the English media disseminated stereotypical images of German women and their supposedly oppressive and patriarchal male counterparts in order to evoke the almost propagandistic threat of German gender relations, sexual practices and alien moralities (or rather the lack thereof).
3.1. Sybil Spottiswoode's Her Husband's Country
Let me turn to a literary example first. As Firchow stresses, much of the fiction of this period dealing with Germany was written by women (78). Indeed, Elizabeth von Arnim's very popular and frequently reprinted novel Elizabeth and her German Garden (1898) and Katherine Mansfield's satirical sketches of German characters in her short story collection In a German Pension (1911) spring to mind immediately. And yet, imagological research on Anglo-German stereotypes in the period in question has mainly focused on the works of male, canonical authors such as Joseph Conrad, E.M. Forster, H.G. Wells or D.H. Lawrence. Hence it may not come as a surprise that, while Elizabeth von Arnim wrote far more novels featuring Germany and the Germans,10 and while there are also a couple of other female writers whose writings are very informative for the literary response to the strained relations between England and Germany on the eve of World War I11, these have been neglected in pertinent discussions so far. A case in point is Sybil Spottiswoode's novel Her Husband's Country (1911), which deals with the marriage between an English girl, Patience Thaile, and a German officer, Helmuth Rabenstedt. This novel, which according to Firchow is "virtually forgotten today" (81), "deserve[s] to be remembered as symptomatic of contemporaneous attitudes towards Germany" (79), since "a vaster and more ominous shadow of impending international conflict" (80) lurks behind the narrated relationship of its protagonists. Patience is an attractive young woman who decides to leave her home in England to visit friends in Pomerania. Soon she gets engaged to officer Helmuth Rabenstedt, which marks the beginning of a devastating and unhappy marriage for both: At first particularly attracted by his display of emotions for her— "one of the advantages of the Teuton temperament" (Her Husband's Country 65)—Patience's feelings for her husband soon turn into sheer disgust. Helmuth shows early signs of developing into an archetypical German who likes his beer and wine altogether too well (Firchow 80), and, what is worse, treats her as his home help and as a sexual object instead of regarding her as an equal companion. As she finds Helmuth more and more repulsive, Patience begins to believe the German attitude towards women to be very different from that in England. In her view, German men despise women, who, due to the restrictive gender roles in Germany, "are either in the kitchen or else catering to the men" (Firchow 80). Likewise, Helmuth is desperate when he discovers that his wife is fundamentally different from the (Pomeranian) women he has met so far, thinking "with regret of the round, substantial, comfortable wives his comrades had so wisely chosen" (Her Husband's Country 360). The novel and hence Patience's nightmare come to a sudden end with her husband's death in a riding accident. Back in England, the protagonist then enters into a happy second marriage with Captain Roper, one of her former admirers.
The characters illustrate the interrelatedness of gender and national stereotypes Since "stereotypes are more likely to occur in minor 'flat' characters" (Rigney 289) rather than in the more complex and developed 'round characters', it is important to note that all German characters in Her Husband’s Country tend to be flat—they are sketched with just a few brushstrokes and do not develop significantly in the course of the novel. What is more, told in an authorial narrative mode, the novel’s strategic focalisation directs the sympathy of the reader against the German characters and establishes a hierarchy between the latter and the English protagonist. Patience as the main focaliser invites the reader to perceive events (and the German characters) from her point of view. "Thinking along" (Rigney 289) with her in the course of the story, the reader learns that all German women remain unchanged throughout the novel and possess traits of the stereotypical housewife rather than being presented, like the character Patience herself, as individuals with a large number of characteristics that undergo a certain development. For instance, Patience informs us about the gender socialisation of her female German acquaintance, Adelheid:
And so her beloved Adelheid was trained most carefully in every branch of cookery; she was taught to wash and iron, to embroider and knot, and to regard the male as an entirely superior, dominating creature, whose right it is to be pandered to and waited on by the inferior female. (Her Husband's Country 73)
The stereotypical portrayal of German female characters as it takes shape in the course of the novel is occasionally affirmed in explicit self-characterisations. This can be seen in an episode in which Adelheid reflects upon her situation, having accepted the submissive role of the German woman:
That the wife should bear all the brunt of the work, economies, worries and hardships of the household, was only natural, and was the rule which obtained in most of the families she knew intimately. (Her Husband's Country 72)
Likewise, Mrs. Winkmar, one of the minor characters in the story, aptly explains the condition of the German women to Patience as it is presented in the novel:
'My dear child,' she [Mrs. Winkmar] once observed, 'we all live with a halter round our necks. If we continue cheerfully and patiently along the path of duty - or necessity, whichever you call it - it does not press unbearably, but if we turn and twist, and struggle to free ourselves from it, it frequently strangles us to death.' (Her Husband's Country 401)
As these characterisations show, salient features concerning German women are constructed as 'typical' and boil down to a nationalised gender stereotype, the oppressed German housewife.12 It contrasts with the image of English women as depicted in the novel. Patience informs us that "she could not in a short time acquire domestic knowledge which is inculcated into the German maiden from her earliest years, and which, for the most part, is entirely alien to the English mind" (Her Husband's Country 352). Her views regularly provoke shock in the little German village she lives in:
'The nations who treat their women as inferior slaves can never be the most highly civilized. And what chance have you ever given your women? They have never played big roles in the world's history. It would be impossible to imagine a German Cleopatra, or Madame de Maintenon or Queen Elizabeth.' The men looked at her with undisguised amazement. Vorbach's eye-glass and jaw dropped, and only the advent of the ice-pudding restored him somewhat to his usual equilibrium. (Her Husband's Country 338)
As the quotations indicate, not only are the different perspectives of English and German women comparatively juxtaposed with each other, but the resulting opposing images of the German housewife and the more progressive English woman are exploited to symbolise asymmetrical "fundamental differences" (Her Husband's Country 400) and to demonstrate England's hegemony and superior civilizazion.
Likewise, the male German characters are represented as misogynist patriarchs, once more interlacing gender and national stereotypes. To Patience her husband "seemed some overwhelming animal of prey, preying upon her energy, her vitality, her beauty, growing every day more vast, strong and insistent, while she dwindled and weakened" (Her Husband's Country 353). In this vein, Helmuth is portrayed as the 'typical' German man, since it is his "national belief" (Her Husband's Country 376) that "all the feelings, interests, conversation and intercourse between a man and a woman must be of an entirely sexual nature" (Spottiswoode 376), not being able to imagine the possibility of any companionship between the two sexes. Again, the stereotyped characters' (here the German men) various sexist statements confirm Patience's characterisations. This can be seen in the case of Helmuth, whose views on women expose himself as a misogynist: "A woman who cannot cook is only half a woman, and is thought poorly of by her own sex and the other” (Her Husband's Country 186). On another occasion, he informs Patience that his "little mouse [. . .] must believe that her husband only uses his superior judgement and knowledge of the world to help and direct her" (Her Husband's Country 219). Other German characters, such as a professor, reveal similar opinions:
'Yes, yes,' the professor said, drawing a cheap cigar from his pocket, 'the wife must always share the opinions and sentiments of her husband. If only women knew how ill opinions of their own became them, they would never pretend to have any.' (Her Husband's Country 224)
Helmuth's and, as it might be added, all other German male characters' perspective on women is not an individual one, but, according to the novel, it is determined by their cultural background. The authorial narrator explains:
He [Helmuth] was neither heartless nor brutal, but he looked at Patience through the spectacles of his national conception of women, and he was not entirely to be blamed for trying to push her into the rut prescribed for wives by accepted German tradition. (Her Husband's Country 354)
Patience even suggests a collective-psychological motivation for the German men's attitude to women. Growing aware of the "radical and fundamental differences between the two nationalities" (Her Husband's Country 400), she reflects retrospectively, when back in England: "All along she had been grossly unjust in punishing the individual for the faults and characteristics of his nation" (Her Husband's Country 411). According to Patience, the apparently opposing gender systems in Germany and England indicate the scale of national difference between the two countries: "I think one difficulty is that Englishmen and Germans want quite different things from their wives" (Her Husband's Country 293). Whereas English men "like their wives to look attractive, to entertain them at dinner, and afterwards to sit together cosily talking by the fire, discussing things over their coffee, and feeling a real companionship for one another", German men "consider it waste to wear any but one's shabbiest clothes at home, and they expect the wife to be running in and out of the kitchen the whole time, seeing to her husband's food" (Her Husband's Country 293), an attitude beyond Patience's understanding, since according to her, "no decent man could remain sitting idly while the woman was jumping up and down attending to his wants" (Her Husband's Country 293). On the whole, the novel draws a national boundary between England and Germany by tying the image of 'typical' German and English characters to alleged gender roles and characteristics prevalent in these countries. The national gender stereotypes such as the oppressed housewife and the misogynist patriarch leave one with the sense that England is superior to Germany in terms of the status of its women. Moreover, it is necessary to point out that the importance of gender for the perception of Germans can be deduced from the fact that the specific nationalised gender characteristics are not merely mentioned marginally in the novel, but are a key aspect in the features of the literary characters.
3.2. Magazines and Popular Science Writing
Having considered how ideas of femininity and masculinity inform national stereotypes as they are articulated in the literary characters in Her Husband’s Country, I now turn to the anti-German discourse as represented in non-fictional texts, such as contributions in magazines and popular science writing. The focus on a range of varied sources and text types serves two functions. Firstly, since it is a premise in Image Studies that "national characters are a matter of commonplace and hearsay rather than empirical observation or statements of objective fact" (Leerssen 2007: 26), imagological research "cannot be undertaken on the basis of incidental, individual text samples” (Leerssen 2007: 28) and should be "extended to non-literary documents illuminating how cultural images are generated" (Stockhorst 354, see also Müllenbrock "Trugbilder"). To be more specific: In order to determine if the characters in Her Husband's Country represent culturally prevalent stereotypes or, rather, uncommon, singular notions about Germany and the Germans, the imagological analysis must "cast the net far and wide, reaching from history writing to political discourse and from cultural criticism to entertainment 'pulp'" (Leerssen 2000: 287).14 Secondly, provided that the gender dimension is a recurrent pattern of national stereotypes, as emphasised in the introduction of this article, this pattern must be evident not only in literary texts, but in the other media as well.
With regard to magazines and popular journals,13 a lot of contributions even allege in their headlines that the position of German women looks bleak. An article titled "The Evil Lot of the German Girl", published in the Review of Reviews, equals her ostensible plight with that of an African slave: "The supreme right of German Women is not freedom but obedience - a right which they enjoy in common with the African slave [...]. The German woman is primarily a cooking animal" ("Evil Lot" 493). According to the anonymous author, in Germany the female sex is raised to be obedient and subordinate to men from childhood on: "The duty of the German girl is entire obedience and complete self-sacrifice, even as the nuns in the cloister - whose lot, indeed, is much to be preferred in many respects to that of the sisters" ("Evil Lot" 493).
Likewise, another contribution published even earlier (1874) in the Illustrated Review on "The Position of Women in Germany" already supports the image of the German woman as an oppressed housewife. Apparently, the ordinary German woman "has no influence whatever, she is little better than an English upper servant, scarcely the companion of her husband, but simply the minister of his temporal requirements" ("Position of Women" 230). Since a German woman "with any ideas above commonplace, does not appear to be over-welcome in German society", the German man flies for "mental companionship [...] to his club, or in a lower grade of society to his Wirtshaus" ("Position of Women" 230). The author goes on to gauge the quality of the German nation by the way the women are treated:
We believe that her [the woman's] power lies in the quiet but strong home and personal influence, and that through this influence she can mould her sons to nobility, and can raise a feeling of respect for the pure, the good, and the true in every man who comes within her reach, thus taking her place in the nation as an important and inseparable power. ("Position of Women" 231)
The idealised image of women as reproductive bearers of the nation and keepers of the home14 is employed not only to maximise the differences between England and Germany, but to discredit the latter owing to the alleged lack of a womanly influence in German society, "The German nation will never be a really great nation: will never arrive at maturity until its women hold a higher place in society, and are held in a higher estimation than at present" ("Position of Women" 230). Finally, the oppression of German women and their lack of power in society are made responsible for certain traits of the "German national character" like "want of faith" or "want of truth" ("Position of Women" 230). In order to 'prove' the latter flaw, the author draws on the German vocabulary, filled with indignation about the word "Ehrenlüge", "An honorable lie! What can be more anomalous than the combination of terms, for how can any lie be aught else than dishonourable?" ("Position of Women" 231).
A particularly remarkable example in the English pre-war perception of Germany is a 350-page study from the field of popular science journalism: The Soul of Germany: A Twelve Years Study of the People from within 1902-1914 by Thomas Smith, which, though published in 1915 (both in England and the US), was written before the outbreak of the war and captures pre-war attitudes towards Germany prevalent among the English public (Dose 33). While the book was very influential when published, it has been widely neglected in studies on the image of Germany in England before and during World War I (Dose 33). In the foreword, Smith asserts that German culture is the "greatest and bitterest enemy [of England?]" (xv). Despite the fact that he had only lived a couple of years in Germany, but owing to his German language skills, Smith is confident enough to claim that he can "describe the life-blood pulsating beneath it all" (Smith vii) and has a concrete and empirically confirmed knowledge about the German character, which, as he frequently maintains, "has always been of the brutal type in the Fatherland" (Smith 104).
Smith's study is an ideal example to account for the centrality of gender in the Anti-German discourse in general and of the use of women as an emblem of the nation's civilising values in particular. Along with chapters on "German Universities – High Schools of Kultur and Brutality", "The German Army and Courts Martial" or "The Germs of Aggression from Kant to Nietzsche", one of the most significant parts with respect to my topic is the book’s opening chapter on "The German Home". In order to understand the gender component of the national images as fixed in this first chapter, it is necessary to have a closer look at how the home features as a symbol of nationhood. The home is a highly gendered zone, since it constitutes what in domestic ideology16 is called the 'private' or the 'woman's sphere’. According to this ideology, the woman is positioned inside the house as the spiritual and moral centre of society (Blair 32). As the "Angel in the House"—the popular Victorian image of the ideal wife/woman that derives its name from the title of a poem by Coventry Patmore—the woman "exercised a gentle and improving sway over her husband and forged the next generation, breast-feeding and brainwashing her children into patriotic virtue" (Colley 239). The importance of the private sphere as a national asset becomes clear when Smith stylises England as the "home of homes" (2) and refers to English literature as a source of the great narrative about "the gospel of home", "an essential part [...] of England's message and mission to humanity" (2). Smith claims that the private sphere is "the foundation of social and national existence" (230) in all nations and interprets the number of divorces in Germany as "anti-moral forces at work”. [MSOffice19]His cult of the home culminates in the assertion that all differences between England and Germany converge on the essential contrast between the supposed statuses of the home in both countries:
Nevertheless, the writer believes the differences between English and German standards of honour, morality, commercial honesty, reverence for womanhood, sympathy for the downfallen, chivalry to the weak, conceptions of right and wrong as well as susceptibility for religious faith, are mainly due to the different positions which the home occupies in the life of the two peoples. (Smith 3)
Having established the link between the home and the moral condition of the nation, it is only a small step for Smith to employ a juxtaposition of opposing national character traits in the women of both countries to foster the contrast between England and Germany. The basic problem of the German national character allegedly roots in the subordinate position of German women within the private sphere, since her obedience spoils the male offspring’s character:
But it is just that, she has missed a still higher mission, the right and power to form the character and opinions of her children. Her sons look to her as a housekeeper, and therefore never learn that reverence for womanhood which inspires the noblest chivalry. Hence she fails utterly to instil any higher respect for her sex in the youth's heart than that which allows him to treat waitress and shop-girl as his plaything - to be replaced later by a "wife-housekeeper" of his won social standing. (Smith 5)
According to Smith, the German woman is "too docile" and unassertive, and sets "too low a price upon herself" (6). Her only goal in life is to get married and find a husband "who will make her his housekeeper and slave". Smith proceeds by asserting that the "German system" (4) forces women into the role of the "Hausfrau" (5), making her "better equipped for the kitchen than the drawing room" (4). Marriage finally seals her deplorable and pitiable fate:
In that domain [the kitchen] she forgets modern languages, maths, and other plagues of school life in order to fulfil her mission in life, i.e., mother and housekeeper. With sparen as her motto she devotes and sacrifices herself to the household and her children's welfare. (Smith 5)
In general, Smith's study provides ample evidence that gender is a crucial factor in defining national identity and, even more important, a key element in constructing denigrating German hetero-images. By representing the German woman as an oppressed housewife, Smith draws on an existing national gender stereotype and exploits it ideologically to discredit Germany.
This article has sought to illuminate the important, in imagological research somewhat neglected role of gender in the discursive construction of national imagery and national identity. Drawing on gender approaches to nations and nationalism, I have brought the category of gender to bear on the imagining of national characters through literature and non-fictional writing. Specifically, in a preliminary case study on German stereotypes articulated in the English media in the last two decades preceding World War I, I argue that notions of femininity and masculinity become an influential dichotomic and hierarchic model of polarity to imagine the English national self and the German other. The national self-assurance, and, most notably, the affective, almost propagandistic stigmatisation of Germany are first and foremost achieved through the presiding images of the oppressed German housewife and her counterpart the German patriarch as shaped in the English media, thus merging national stereotypes with images of gender.
While this article has hopefully provided some intriguing insights and areas of interest, I am not suggesting for a moment that it resolves the analytic problems raised by taking up gender as “a matter of course” (Sluga qtd. in Kandiyoti 494) in imagological research, nor that it exhausts the range of questions that can be addressed in this vein. Clearly more work is needed on the subject. In order to follow the intriguing question as to whether the interrelatedness of national stereotypes and gender is not case-specific, but a structural pattern that can be extrapolated from the changeable mechanism of national character formulation, it might be useful to seek further insights that the gender approaches to nations and nationalism may bring to Image Studies. A gendered analysis of national characters may then look at how gender, as well as sexuality (referring to the imagination of sexual desires and putative sexual behaviour), are part of the way nations are thought to endanger each other (cf. Pryke 537). This concerns especially the use of rape as an aspect of warfare. With respect to this article’s case study, for example, one might then explore the gendering of English invasion fantasies. According to Firchow, in much of the literary response to the Great War the persistent contrast between opposing pairs of national characteristics is informed by gender: “Many of the supposedly characteristic German traits are habitually associated with masculinity, just as the British traits are usually conceived as female” (77). Seen in this light, invasion fantasies, even though rather implicitly, take on the meaning of an “unsuspecting, innocent woman overwhelmed by the desires of a ruffian whose aim is to penetrate and desecrate her inmost self” (Firchow 77). The metaphor of rape and its evocation of a specifically sexual meaning comes closest to consciousness in the English media when the actual reporting of the German invasion of Belgium was almost immediately dubbed “The Rape of Belgium” in the British press. A third suggested research topic concerns the way that gender features in the nation-building discourse, for example in national myths and symbols.xviii Finally, another, rather vexed question is whether women’s relation to the nation and in consequence their (fictional) response to national stereotypes may be qualitatively different from men’s. Since “women and men typically occupy different social positions, it is likely that their experience of the world will be different, and hence that their preferences may diverge” (Walby 119.) In the context of nationalism, this may mean “that women and men, or more accurately, gendered people, will attempt to inflect the project with their own potentially divergent preferences”[MSOffice22]. Be that as it may, an important step in this vein is to recuperate women writers in view of their specific sociopolitical context (especially in historical perspective women were often excluded from direct action as national citizens and had less power in the political domain than men) from their present position of marginality in imagological research. To conclude, I hope that the evidence of the complex gender dimension of national stereotypes as they occur in literary and non-fictional texts given in the course of this article will challenge the neglect of gender in imagological research and promote challenging and promising perspectives for future investigations on the discursive construction of national characters.
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1 Trans.: "Short description of the Peoples in Europe and their Characteristics."
2 To sharpen the focus of the ensuing discussion, I briefly indicate the definition of gender adopted in this article. In her seminal article "Gender as a useful category of historical analysis", Joan W. Scott pays attention to the complex and differentiated nature of gender and gives a bipartite definition of gender. Both definitional parts prove useful for addressing the questions raised in this study: The first component sees gender in a constructivist sense as a "constitutive element of social relationships based on perceived differences between the sexes" (Scott 42). With regard to Image Studies, this concerns, as Verstraete explains, "someone's self-perception as being male or female and the images of masculinity and femininity that go with it. These self-images are always related to how someone perceives the opposite sex but also to how others perceive one's own sexual identity." (328-329). Scott's second part defines gender as "a primary way of signifying relationships of power", for this is a somehow incomplete sentence or quote "established as an objective set of references, concepts of gender structure perception and the concrete and symbolic organization of all social life" (Scott 45). This latter meaning of gender is especially useful when explaining the ascription of gender characteristics to different nationalities (the masculine Spaniard and effeminate "Turk or Greek") as for instance on the Völkertafel.
3 Trans.: "How they [the people] handle their wives".
4 In English Image Studies is often used alongside the term Imagology (see Leerssen 2009).
5 One significant exception is Florack ("Weiber sind wie Franzosen geborene Weltleute"), who interprets the discursive interlacing of national and gender stereotype by instancing mutual perceptions of Germany and France.
6 Since this article is a preliminary attempt to illustrate the gendering of national stereotypes as represented in the English media, it is beyond its scope to debate in depth the various theoretical and methodological assumptions of Image Studies. These are covered in the seminal works of Dyserinck ("Komparatistische Imagologie", "Zum Problem der 'images' und 'mirages'", Komparatistik), Fischer ("Beitrag zur Theorie der komparatistischen Imagologie", "Komparatistische Imagologie", "Literarische Imagologie am Scheideweg"), Leerssen ("Imagology: History and Method", "The Rhetoric of National Character") and Florack (Tiefsinnige Deutsche, frivole Franzosen, Bekannte Fremde). Beller and Leerssen offer extensive bibliographies for further critical reading on Image Studies and related topics, such as national identity and stereotype.
7 See Yuval-Davis as well as Blom, Hagemann and Hall; moreover, see Kandiyoti, McClintock, Pryke, Goldstein, Mosse and the works listed as references in Walby.
8 See Blaicher, Dose, Enkemann, Firchow and Müllenbrock (Literatur und Zeitgeschichte, "Trugbilder"), for the mutual images of England and Germany as constructed in English and German cartoons, see Hünig; for an analysis of English attitudes towards Germany in the British press, see Schramm.
9 Even though this article focuses on English images of Germany, the ubiquity of discriminating and denigrating images or even hate-figures is by no means specific or even unique to England. The discursive dissemination of such stereotypes to manipulate opinions in times of national crisis should rather be seen as a transnational phenomenon, and has its counterpart even in the supposed enemy itself: In Germany "kein anderes Land im Lager der Alliierten war so sehr Objekt emphatisch bekundeten kollektiven Hasses wie gerade England" (Dose 22) [trans.: "no other country within the allied camp was so much an object of emphatically evinced collective hatred as was England itself”].
10 For example, The Adventures of Elizabeth in Rugen, The Caravaners, The Pastor's Wife and Christine.
11 For example, Richardson (Pointed Roofs), Wylie (Dividing Waters), Blythe ("Sketches Made in Germany") or Wilmot ("En [sic!] Familie in the Fatherland")
12 It is important to note that the representation of the German woman as an oppressed housewife relies on an existing reputation of German women in England and is deeply ingrained in its cultural knowledge. One of the earliest examples that this culturally established stereotype can be traced back to is the travelogue Itinerary (1617) by Fynes Moryson, who attributed to German women a disposition to housewifeliness: "The Italian women are said to be sharp witted, the Spanish blunt (I should hardly think it) the French simple (I should rather say most crafty, as most women are euery [sic!] where), the Germans good mothers of family (yea exceeding good)" (Moryson qtd. in Blaicher 40). According to Leerssen, it is exactly the diachronic dimension of stereotypes, the textual tradition that accounts for their effectiveness: "The historical force of national stereotypes lies more in their recognition value than in their pretended truth value. National stereotypes provoke something which in German is called an Aha!-Effekt: a commonplace (stupid Belgians, proud Spaniards) sounds familiar, and the audience confuses the sense of familiarity with a sense of validity" (Leerssen, "National identity and national stereotype"). See also Nünning who proclaims that stereotypes are rooted in a nation's cultural memory.
13 A more elaborate analysis of the text and a more complex study including a greater range of text-types and sources will be given in my dissertation.
14 It is worth noting that even broadsheets, such as The Times, put forward stereotypical views on German women. An article on "The Higher Education of Women in Germany"” asserts: "Regarding the 'emancipation' of women, as it is jeeringly called, the German is Conservative to the backbone [...]. In the eyes of most Germans the terms 'woman' and 'wife' are synonymous with 'Hausfrau'. The duty of the German, like that of the Spartan women, is to be mothers and provide for the animal comforts of their husband" (4).
15 The 'home' as it is conceptualised in the post-eighteenth century doctrine called 'domestic ideology' and its relevance to the assertion of national identity is discussed more fully later in this articler. You need to adjust this footnote for this article. As your article does not thoroughly discuss domestic ideology, I would suggest you simply delete this footnote.
16 Domestic ideology split the social order of Great Britain into a public sphere—a realm of commerce, education, politics, and the professions assigned to the men—and a domestic sphere, that of hearth and home where the women are located (cf. Deirdre qtd. in Shillock 33).
17 It is worth noting that since the 18th century images of men and women regarded as 'typical' for their cultural origin have been very prominent in the process of nation-building in Britain. As Colley asserts, the British exploited the image of women in order to distinguish themselves from the French: "Eighteenth century Britons [...] regularly defined themselves in opposition to what they saw as being French characteristics and manners. And, even before 1789, it had been common for writers on proper female conduct, whatever their politics, to invoke the supposed behaviour of Frenchwomen as exemplifying what must at all costs be avoided in Britain. Frenchwomen, John Andrews observed in 1783, had whiter teeth than their sisters across the Channel, but this small merit was cancelled out by their heavy use of cosmetics. Frenchwomen, Mary Wollstonecraft agreed, were too vain, too frivolous, too self-indulgent, too prone to sensuality to be the model for rational and modest womankind" (Colley 251).