The Bicycle (1980)

Jennifer Creech, Assistant Professor of German, University of Rochester
Jennifer received her Ph.D. in Germanic Studies from the University of Minnesota in 2006, and is currently Assistant Professor of German at the University of Rochester. She is also an affiliate faculty member in the Film & Media Studies Program, and at the Susan B. Anthony Institute for Gender and Women’s Studies. Her research and teaching interests include late 20th-century German literature, film and culture; cinema studies; Marxist and feminist theories. She has published and presented on East German, Austrian and post-unification cinema. Jennifer’s current research explores the critical impulses in East German women’s films, and the revolutionary and reactionary aspects of post-unification representations of the former Eastern bloc.

“Reproduction as Resistance: Motherhood in the East German Cinema.”
This talk is based on Professor Creech’s book manuscript, Mothers, Comrades and Outcasts: East German Women’s Films 1965 and Beyond, wherein she explores the function of these films as an alternative public sphere, in which official ideologies of socialist progress and utopian collectivism are resisted. Emerging after the cultural freeze of 1965, women’s films reveal a shift from overt political critique to a covert politics located in the intimate, problem-rich experiences of everyday life under socialism. Through an analysis Evelyn Schmidt’s The Bicycle (1980), Professor Creech shows how films that focus on so-called “women’s concerns” – marital problems, motherhood, the “second shift,” emancipation and residual patriarchy – use female protagonists to critique dominant ideologies of socialist subjectivity. As the site of distinctions between the “personal” and the “political,” the female protagonist serves as a crystallization of socialist contradictions. Following Julia Kristeva’s assertion that “socialist ideology has been compelled . . . to believe that the specific nature of women is unimportant, if not nonexistent,” Professor Creech argues that The Bicycle problematizes production as the foundational moment of socialist subjectivity by focusing instead on reproduction. Schmidt’s film articulates motherhood as an alternative discourse of subjectivity that compensates for the protagonist’s lack of fulfillment in her romantic and professional endeavors, and provides a respite from an otherwise alienated existence marred by social and economic marginalization and hopelessness.

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