Foreign Languages & Literatures ETDs


Elvine Bologa

Publication Date



In her strongly autobiographic work, Herta Müller examines various aspects of homelessness and explores ways to understand her unstable, transitory subject positions. Due to the constant movement as a result of overdetermination and subversion of these positions — the Banat Swabian, the Romanian, and the German, Müller's identity is characterized by a lack of stability and continuity, and, consequently, by the absence of a center. Furthermore, since each of these subject positions is imposed upon her by others, and the construction of self-defined subjectivity is being suppressed by the authoritarian agencies in these communities, Müller rejects all three positions. Under these circumstances, writing becomes for Müller, as I argue in this work, a means of self-assertion. Through writing, Müller attempts to liberate her Self from the identities imposed upon her by her oppressors, whereby she lays the foundation of a self-constructed subjectivity. Both the author and the first-person narrator in Müller's work gain a certain agency, which empowers them to put up resistance against their oppressors. Additionally, Müller constructs a narrative agency, whose 'authority' regains some of the lost continuity and stability. Finally, although Müller considers language as being a rather insufficient means of communication, in extreme situations of homelessness, such as deportation, one's native language emerges as a nodal point or seeming center of one's identity. To examine identity in Müller's life and work, I build upon a theoretical framework given by poststructural theories of identity. In addition, my argument is in part based on Donald W. Winnicott's object relations theory, which supports the analysis of objects in Müller's works and their impact on identity, as well as the claim that writing — as a creative, playful activity — can function as self-assertion. In the light of Winnicott's theory, the act of writing can be seen as a transitional phenomenon: through writing, Müller enters a transitional space in which she is able to negotiate different identity positions.


Herta Müller, Identity

Document Type




Degree Name

German Studies

Level of Degree


Department Name

Department of Foreign Languages and Literatures

First Advisor

Schroeter, Katrin

First Committee Member (Chair)

Baackmann, Susanne

Second Committee Member

Wilby, Jason