Date of Degree
PhD (Doctor of Philosophy)
This dissertation evaluates the career and work of the underappreciated Austrian-Jewish-American novelist, dramatist, essayist and screen writer Gina Kaus (1894 - 1985). The dissertation's approach is interdisciplinary in nature, drawing from the fields of German, American, exile, literary, feminist, performance, global, cultural as well as film studies. The unusually diverse corpus of Kaus's work in both the literary and filmic medium makes such an interdisciplinary approach indispensable. The dissertation argues that Kaus's specific female and little visible exile experience was shaped and accompanied by a significant, social, cultural, political, linguistic and geographical change. It reconstructs and consciously reinserts Kaus' transatlantic accomplishments into the larger exile history.
My dissertation offers close reading of Gina Kaus's second play Toni (1928) and positions her piece within the larger landscape of the Weimar Republic and Vienna during the 1920s. The analysis incorporates a feminist reading, which focuses on the performances of gender and the representation of femininity and illustrates the destabilization of gender and sexual identities during the Weimar period. The analysis of Die Überfahrt (1932), Kaus's second bestseller novel, discusses her novel as a Zeitroman (novel of the times). It contextualizes her book in terms of its readership and the literary market while examining it as a comment on the political, financial and social circumstances of 1920s Weimar culture.
A thorough investigation of two films for which Kaus invented the story and collaborated on the screenplay, namely The Wife Takes a Flyer (directed by Richard Wallace, USA, 1942), an Anti-Nazi comedy, and Three Secrets (directed by Robert Wise, USA, 1950), a melodrama, challenges the persistent idea that Kaus's work for Hollywood was incapable to live up to her earlier literary and theatrical successes as an author of the Weimar period. My particular focus on the representation of femininity and female agency sheds light on how the émigrée Kaus, who had been known as an ardent feminist in Europe, successfully managed to subvert ideas of heteronormative gender and power discourses even within the restrictive limits of the Hollywood apparatus.
The dissertation further investigates the understudied text form screenplay and the practice of screenwriting. It examines for the first time various unpublished film script versions of the The Wife Takes a Flyer and Three Secrets and thus promotes the film script as a textual form worthy of investigation and integration in both literary and film studies. The script analysis pays attention to the collaborative nature, considers the various versions and revisions the script underwent, offers a comparison to the movies and evaluates the script in its multi-functionality, style, and aesthetics. The scripts also give insight into the ways in which Kaus's exilic consciousness permeates her scriptwriting.
My close analysis of Kaus's autobiography, which was published in 1979 and targeted at a German-speaking readership, uncovers the ways in which exile is reflected in the practice of autobiographical writing. The dissertation focuses foremost on the narrative strategies as well as omissions in Kaus's attempt to re-inscribe herself into the literary and artistic scene of Vienna and Berlin; and her effort to position herself among the prominent and predominantly male German-Jewish diaspora in Hollywood. I also shed light on her ability to adapt to the United States and her decision to remain and become a citizen. Her perception of exile as an opportunity, rather than as a limitation is an important new aspect in the existing exile research. Among the Jewish-German exile community in Hollywood, Gina Kaus had a truly transnational career and deserves more credit for her filmic works.
Copyright 2012 Regina C. Range
Range, Regina Christiane. "Positioning Gina Kaus: a transnational career from Vienna novelist and playwright to Hollywood scriptwriter." dissertation, University of Iowa, 2012.