How is it possible to represent the tumultuous history of the German-speaking peoples in culture? What challenges do authors face when dealing with issues of history, memory and identity in fiction? This module explores these and related questions by focusing on a selection of the most significant post-war and contemporary texts that engage with these issues. It considers how major authors have responded to events such as the end of the Second World War and the Holocaust; the division of Germany into East and West and its Reunification in 1989/1990; life and politics under Socialism in the GDR; and experiences of oppression, dictatorship and exile in German-speaking communities beyond Germany, as well as migrant communities within. Exploring a dynamic range of literary forms, from the graphic novel to innovative approaches to language and narrative, the course assesses the different ways and to what effect aesthetic depictions relate the present to the past. In doing so, it highlights the problematic nature of representation in the aftermath of the Third Reich and totalitarianism, and the creative ways in which authors have responded to this challenge in the post-1945 era.
3-hour examination (100%).
Assessment for study abroad semester 1 only students: One 4000 word essay (100%)
Educational aims & objectives
This module aims to:
- introduce you to some of the most important post-war and contemporary literary voices that have engaged with the tumultuous history of the German-speaking peoples in the 20th Century.
- encourage you to reflect critically on the relationship between culture, identity, politics and aesthetics.
- familiarise you with a range of innovative literary forms and critical theories of cultural memory, in order to explore the power and limitations of culture in representing turbulent pasts in the present.
By the end of the module, you will be able to:
- demonstrate an in-depth knowledge of post-war and contemporary German-language literature, across a range of innovative forms.
- analyse culture within a range of thematic contexts including the relationship of between literature, ethics and aesthetics; the portrayal of gender and sexual identity; the individual versus society; and the relationship of politics to aesthetics.
- discuss critically the relationship between cultural production and the creation of cultural memory and identity.
2 hours per week
Suggested reading list
- Jenny Erpenbeck, Heimsuchung (Frankfurt am Main: btb Verlag, 2010); ISBN-13: 978-3442738946.
- W.G. Sebald, Die Ausgewanderten (Frankfurt am Main: Fischer, 1992); ISBN-13: 978-3596120567.
- Art Spiegelman, The Complete Maus (London: Penguin, 1996); ISBN-13: 978-0141014081.
- Olivia Wenzel, 1000 Serpentinen Angst (Frankfurt am Main: Fischer, 2020); ISBN-13: 978-3103974065.
- Christa Wolf, Nachdenken über Christa T. (Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp, 2007); ISBN-13: 978-3518459133.
Please note that students will need to buy their own copies of the primary texts.