German Expressionism has been dominated by the works of males—in the visual arts and literary texts, as well as in the secondary literature. The movement was largely defined through poetry included in Kurt Pinthus’s seminal collection Menschheitsdämmerung (1920), in which Else Lasker-Schüler was the sole female voice to appear alongside many key male figures. Despite the excavation of Expressionist works by women in recent decades, scholarly research on these artworks and texts remains lacking. Few female Expressionists in the German context have received sustained attention, except for Lasker-Schüler and, to some degree, Claire Goll and Henriette Hardenberg. As a result, works by male artists and authors continue to characterize the canon a century after the Expressionist decade of 1910-1920.
Although female figures are prevalent in the works of male Expressionists, particularly in the roles of the New Woman, mother, and prostitute, their possibilities for self-expression and self-sufficiency are decidedly limited in these works. This collection of articles will explore women’s self-conceptions and representations of their roles in society in their own Expressionist works. Oskar Kokoschka’s depiction of a brutal “battle of the sexes” in his 1907 play Mörder, Hoffnung der Frauen introduced a motif that was taken up by many male Expressionists. But how did women interpret this “battle” and depict gender relations? How did women approach themes commonly considered to be characteristic of the Expressionist movement, and did they address other themes or aesthetics and styles not currently represented in the canon? How do the language and imagery employed by female Expressionists compare to that of their male counterparts? Is the historical and socio-political context reflected differently in the writings of females and males? In what ways do intersections of race, class and gender play a role? Finally, how might the consideration of texts and artworks by women enrich our understanding and/or alter our definition of German Expressionism? Do current perceptions and receptions of German Expressionism shift once the works of women artists and authors are more thoroughly taken into consideration?