Mignon’s Modern and Postmodern Survivals
Mignon’s fortunes in the twentieth century are explored in this chapter primarily through works in which she passes over the threshold of sexual maturity and encounters exploitation and corruption, e.g. Wedekind’s Lulu plays (and Berg’s opera), Gerhart Hauptmann’s novella Mignon, and Angela Carter’s Nights at the Circus: the fall of Lulu and the short-lived ‘rescue’ of Aga-Mignon by Hauptmann’s unreliable narrator are counterbalanced by a more positive denouement in Carter’s magic realist plot. This chapter also discusses an allusion to Thomas’s opera in Joyce’s ‘The Dead’ and the interest of Maria Kaschnitz for Mignon, whom she turns in an early novel into a figure of eternal return. Films featuring Mignon (including Wim Wenders’s Falsche Bewegung) are reviewed, and the chapter ends with an American novel (by Kim Chernin) of the dawning twenty-first century in which Mignon appears as an object of homoerotic desire.
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