The root of all evil?: the Mandrake myth in German literature from 1673 to 1913
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From its first appearance in the Ebers Papyrus to its reference in Goethe's Faust II and Hanns Heinz Ewers bestseller Alraune at the beginning of the 20th century, the plant-human mandrake has been notorious for its presence in folklore and superstitious beliefs, as well as in literary works and films among different epochs and cultures. Therefore, this study approaches mandrake and its myth in German literature and culture from 1673 to 1913. Central for my argument is the assumption that the potential of the mandrake as the anthropomorphic being par excellence allows insightful readings concerning the relations of myth, literature, and language. By combining a historico-anthropological background with an analysis of German literary texts from the late 17th to early 20th century, I generally aim to provide a closer look at both the content of the mandrake myth and its discursive aspects. On this meta-level, this study is predominantly concerned with the status of the mandrake myth: to what degree does the mandrake myth allow for readings of texts that differ from their conventional interpretations? What kind of myth is mandrake in literature?