Thumbnail Image

Lorelei and the beautiful Lau: The portrayal of water nymphs in seminal works of 19th century German literature

This thesis focuses on Lorelei and the beautiful Lau in its analysis of the portrayal of women in 19th century works of German literature with regards to water, love and death. It explores theories around the origins of a woman’s connections with these elements, including her biological functions and her roles in society, as well as important historical influences on the (male) authors. Lorelei and the beautiful Lau are two key figures within this discourse, as these water nymphs provide distinctive gender roles and enable an in-depth study into identity constructs and gender relations. This thesis compares the images of Lorelei within seminal works of her saga and contrasts these depictions of dangerous femininity with Mörike's domesticated and relatively harmless water woman, Lau. In addition, the study of Lorelei brings with it aspects of European cultural and intellectual paradigms, as well as constructs of German cultural and national identity. The analysis of these fictional characters exposes areas of significant friction in male-dominated Western culture. The water nymphs’ portrayal reveals subtle and discernible forms of male dominance through the degradation, marginalisation and ostracism undergone by the female figures. It also reveals discord in societal standings and religious affiliations, as well as the dichotomy of nature and culture. Through an understanding and analysis of these issues, the reader can better come to terms with humanity’s differences and, like Lau, go on a journey of self-discovery, in which the reader may embrace parts of themselves they never knew they had or were missing.
Type of thesis
Lawrie, B. S. (2017). Lorelei and the beautiful Lau: The portrayal of water nymphs in seminal works of 19th century German literature (Thesis, Master of Arts (MA)). University of Waikato, Hamilton, New Zealand. Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10289/11081
University of Waikato
All items in Research Commons are provided for private study and research purposes and are protected by copyright with all rights reserved unless otherwise indicated.