Under Glass Bells: Passages between literature, architecture, and material culture.
Anaïs Nin mit dem Cover von „Under a Glass Bell“ von Ian Hugo, 1944 © The Anaïs Nin Trust
2:00 pm

Lecture (for members only)

Under Glass Bells: Passages between literature, architecture, and material culture.

Szilvia Gellai

Anaïs Nin, Sylvia Plath, and Marlen Haushofer are among a number of female authors who use the glass bell as a trope in prose texts and novels to depict the precarious inner and outer realities of their protagonists. Previous interpretations understand the metaphor of the glass bell as an expression of claustrophobic confinement and oppressive psychological states – from existential loneliness to melancholy and depression to psychosis – that are primarily attributed to the social repression of women. Although this interpretation cannot be denied, it is nevertheless one-dimensional. By virtue of the practice of writing, the female characters not only pass through unstable states of consciousness that are connoted with hysteria, but at the same time constitute spaces of radical self-determination, ‘spaces of their own’ (Virginia Woolf). In order to develop such a nuanced perspective, biographical or text-centered approaches are not sufficient. The multi-layered visual and material culture of the postwar period also deserves special attention, especially as the arrangement in question permeates the ‘positive unconscious’ (Michel Foucault) of the twentieth century from modernity to the present. As a prelude to the project, the line of tradition of female-encoded ‘glass’ narratives is presented within the larger framework of the habilitation project.

Szilvia Gellai is a fellow in the LOEWE research cluster “Architectures of Order” from January to March 2021. This talk marks the start of her fellowship.