Daughter Courage and Her Mother: Affect, Gesture, Voice

Document Type


Publication Date


Publication Title

The Brecht Yearbook / Das Brecht-Jahrbuch


This article concentrates not on Brecht’s most famous play’s protagonist, Mother Courage, but on her daughter Kattrin Haupt. Her rape preceding the play puts a traumatic story in motion which continues with further acts of violence inflicted upon her before her life ends in her murder and self-sacrifice. By way of wordless expression, Kattrin recalls the creative potential of her suffering whose genealogy reveals neglected aspects of war history and Courage’s essentially empathic relationship to her mute daughter. Focusing on affect, gesture, and voice I analyze the family portrayed in Brecht’s antiwar play as a complex institution, where Kattrin’s female perspective is deliberately included. While Brecht effectively defamiliarizes the codified construct of intimate motherhood, he nevertheless also creates a humane space to enable empathy as a reflective agent beyond mere emotional embroilment. Through Kattrin, who expresses affect in gestures, underscores them with her nonverbal voice, and is understood by Courage, empathy, memory, and dignity are sustained in a tragicomic play that requires our considerable tolerance for shattering dilemma and painful paradox.

This document is currently not available here.