Date of Award

Spring 5-15-2018

Author's School

Graduate School of Arts and Sciences

Author's Department

Germanic Languages and Literatures

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Degree Type



The dissertation investigates melancholy in the novels "Rot" and "Morenga" by Uwe Timm presenting major topoi of the melancholic tradition as structuring elements of both novels. The discussion of the melancholic motifs of death, emptiness, philosophy and deficiency of language, building and architecture in the novel "Rot" reveals melancholy as a useful lens for understanding the novel’s reference to prevalent discourses of our time: construction of cultural memory and the Holocaust memory in particular, biological versus social determination, (im)possibility of utopia. But beside the melancholic topoi, another underlying element of the novel is the title color red with all it stands for: liveliness, energy, growth, revolution. I use the melancholic lens to expose the existentialist opposition between despair and appreciation of life as a major characteristic of Timms poetics. The employment of color in his late novel "Rot" proves to be part if his agenda of “sensual enlightenment”.

My analysis presents "Morenga" as an early work in Timm’s project of “sensual enlightenment”. The melancholic motif of death in the novel concerns the attempted German genocide against the Herero and Nama in Southwest-Africa in the early 20th century. It sets links

to the later genocide of the century, the Holocaust. The protagonist who gradually recognizes the committed evil he is involved in has a sensual interest in African culture, and his development toward seeing through the events brings about his melancholy. I show that the dichotomy of order versus disorder that has been central to the notion of melancholy since its establishment in antiquity underlies the structure of the novel. In "Morenga", melancholy appears as a cultural parameter that renders established orders as disputable. I apply the dichotomy of order versus disorder for a reading of the novel that encompasses all three elements of its poetics: documentary and fictional part, as well as “applied geography” chapters standing for the lack of representation on the side of the Africans.


German (de)

Chair and Committee

Paul Michael Lutzeler

Committee Members

Matt Erlin, Erin McGlothlin, Lynne Tatlock, Anika Walke,


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