Masters Theses

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts



Major Professor

Stefanie Ohnesorg

Committee Members

Chauncey Mellor, Carolyn R. Hodges


Special Topics in Calamity Physics (2006) by Marisha Pessl and Das Blütenstaubzimmer (1997) by Zoё Jenny both feature strong female characters who go through difficult times because they experience genuine disillusionment with regard to their friends, the opposite sex, and, especially, their family.

The focus of this thesis was to analyze if the authors depict their characters in such a way that one can see correlations between the emotional behavior of these characters and a phenomenon that is often referred to as adolescent angst. The theoretical foundation for defining adolescent angst and for understanding mechanisms that trigger adolescent angst was provided by Rapoport and Ismond’s internationally appraised DSM-IV Training Guide for Diagnosis of Childhood Disorders (1996) and Reinherz et al.’s ground-breaking study on „Depressive Disorders“ (2006).

In my thesis, I was able to show that the depictions of difficult relationships between the protagonists and their parents and friends show characteristics of adolescent angst. Contrary to that, positive influences like reliable friends who are understanding and lend support, function as motivational forces which decrease the protagonists’ anxieties and frustration in both texts.

The analysis of the final scenes showed that after all hardships, the protagonists do not give up hope and open themselves up to a once unimaginable future. Although Pessl and Jenny dismiss the concept of a clear didaxis in their texts, they nevertheless imply a motivational message; namely that adolescent angst can be conquered and overcome.

I was able to demonstrate that the concept of adolescent angst serves as a catalyst for the development of the protagonists in both Special Topics in Calamity Physics and Das Blütenstaubzimmer . The bestseller status of both novels underlines that the authors’ decision to conclude these novels which are centered around adolescent angst with an open ending seems to cater to a modern young adult readership, especially within the context of pop culture.

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