Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



First Advisor

Mieder, Wolfgang


Abstract In our postmodern world of relativism, it is tempting to discount proverbs and proverbial expressions as worn-out absolutisms. However, using the works of Gisela Steineckert, this thesis demonstrates the relevance of such language in modern communication and in modern poetry in particular. As is appropriate for contemporary thought, these expressions are not always used in a straightforward manner as perhaps they were originally intended. Because proverbs are so well known, Steineckert is able to make use of the depth of associations with them to expand her content. In her writing, proverbs not only explore essential truths, but Steineckert is able to use the deep associations in her readers’ minds to play with wit and irony. Gisela Steineckert was born on May 14th, 1931 to a working class family in Berlin at a time of great political and social upheaval in Germany. Formal education and academics were not promoted in her home. Although she began writing in 1943 at the age of 12, nothing was available to the public until her first book appeared in 1976. She dedicated her life to writing and has published over 2500 poems and at least 10 books. Steineckert was only 18 years old when the German Democratic Republic was established among the ruins of the Third Reich in 1949. Given her terrible experiences as a youth in the Nazi era, Steineckert whole-heartedly identified with the socialist ideals upon which the new republic was founded. Because of her age and upbringing, Steineckert was particularly well placed to play a literary role in East German society and has been able to connect people to her own personal thoughts and experiences. She fulfilled this role in East German society during the cold war and has continued to do so since German reunification in 1989. The broad based recognition, which her poems and literary work enjoy, testifies to the fact that she speaks the language of the people and understands their thoughts and concerns. This thesis explores Steineckert’s use of proverbs and proverbial expressions in her poetic discourse of love, human nature and society. It addresses their use in regards to both platonic and romantic love, our relationships to our own bodies, as well as the societal themes of religion and politics. It demonstrates how these expressions greatly enhance the depth of meaning in Steineckert’s writing and help make her works and thoughts more accessible to a broader spectrum of society. Proverbs and proverbial expressions are clearly still relevant in modern literature.