Skip to Main Content
Have library access? Log in through your library
German Literature in a New Century

German Literature in a New Century: Trends, Traditions, Transitions, Transformations

Katharina Gerstenberger
Patricia Herminghouse
Copyright Date: 2008
Edition: NED - New edition, 1
Published by: Berghahn Books
Pages: 272
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    German Literature in a New Century
    Book Description:

    While the first decade after the fall of the Berlin wall was marked by the challenges of unification and the often difficult process of reconciling East and West German experiences, many Germans expected that the "new century" would achieve "normalization." The essays in this volume take a closer look at Germany's new normalcy and argue for a more nuanced picture that considers the ruptures as well as the continuities. Germany's new generation of writers is more diverse than ever before, and their texts often not only speak of a Germany that is multicultural but also take a more playful attitude toward notions of identity. Written with an eye toward similar and dissimilar developments and traditions on both sides of the Atlantic, this volume balances overviews of significant trends in present-day cultural life with illustrative analyses of individual writers and texts.

    eISBN: 978-1-84545-866-9
    Subjects: History, Anthropology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledgements
    (pp. vii-x)
    Katharina Gerstenberger and Patricia Herminghouse
  4. German Literature in a New Century: Trends, Traditions, Transitions, Transformations: An Introduction
    (pp. 1-12)
    Katharina Gerstenberger and Patricia Herminghouse

    In a “new century” that is still less than a decade old, it may seem presumptuous to try to identify “Trends, Traditions, Transitions, and Transformations” on the German literary scene. However, as observers from another continent, the contributors to this volume keenly sensed that the status of literature in contemporary German society is undergoing significant changes, marked by the emergence of a new generation of writers who not only pursue different topics than their more established predecessors, but who also write differently about traditional topics and often reach their readers in nontraditional ways. The articles contained in this volume are...

  5. I. Trends:: Literature in the Public Sphere

    • [I Introduction]
      (pp. 13-16)

      The much greater role played in Germany by “high culture” and specifically by literature, particularly when compared with the relative isolation of “serious” literature on the American scene, is often a source of considerable fascination to US observers of German cultural life. Germany’s high level of public funding for cultural institutions is represented, for admirers and critics alike, by the existence, for example, of three government-subsidized opera houses (plus the independent Neuköllner Opera) in Berlin. By contrast, residents of many major American cities count themselves fortunate if in the course of a year, rather than on one evening alone, they...

    • 1 The Literary Public Sphere: A Case for German Particularity?
      (pp. 17-33)

      From the perspective of a humanities scholar in the United States, the degree of development of the German-language literary public sphere is remarkable. The vibrant cultural debates and long essays by prominent public intellectuals regularly appearing in the feuilleton pages of any one of several excellent newspapers and magazines is enough to register a significant difference from intellectual life this side of the Atlantic. For the bird’s-eye establishing shot one need only to, a Web site that summarizes and links feuilleton articles and book reviews from a large selection of well-regarded newspapers such as theFrankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung,...

    • 2 Intellectuals in the Public Sphere: An Interview with Josef Joffe
      (pp. 34-38)
      SEAN M. McINTYRE and Josef Joffe

      As the former editor and current publisher ofDie Zeit, a weekly paper respected in particular for its expansive feuilleton pages and essays with detailed analysis, Josef Joffe is in a unique position to observe and comment upon the phenomenon of German public intellectuals and their discursive habits. Moreover, with a PhD from Harvard University and teaching and research appointments at Stanford University, Dr. Joffe is also much at home in the American intellectual environment. In this interview, conducted by Sean M. McIntyre at Stanford on 29 November 2006, Dr. Joffe offers candid views on the public discourse of Germany’s...

    • 3 “Literatur findet . . . nicht nur auf Papier statt”: The Eventization of Literature in Hamburg
      (pp. 39-55)

      Slam poetry, reading stages, literary jubilees such as theHeinejahr, theGoethejahrand theSchillerjahr(Heine, Goethe, and Schiller Years), and a multitude of literary festivals throughout Germany paint the picture of a literary industry infused with event character. And, the industry is booming, if the 2006 “lit. Cologne” is any indication, which boasted more than fifty thousand visitors over nine days, or “Leipzig liest” (Leipzig Reads), where tens of thousands of people attended eighteen hundred separate events during the Leipzig Book Fair in March. The “event” has become an integral part of the cultural and marketing landscape in Germany,...

    • 4 The Deutsches Literaturinstitut Leipzig and the Making of an Author: Tobias Hülswitt Hits the Road for Literature and Ends Up a Writer
      (pp. 56-72)

      The Deutsches Literaturinstitut der Universität Leipzig is singular among institutions of higher learning in postunification Germany, building on a tradition of educating young writers established by the Institut für Literatur “Johannes R. Becher” in the former German Democratic Republic between 1955 and 1990.¹ Born in the wake of postunification educational restructuring, the Deutsches Literaturinstitut opened in 1995, seeking to provide its students with “a professional writing competency and the ability to author literary texts, as well as knowledge of literary history and literary theory” (Deutsches Literaturinstitut 2007).² With this stated goal, the Deutsches Literaturinstitut does not differ that much from...

  6. II. Traditions:: History, Memory, and Narrative

    • [II Introduction]
      (pp. 73-77)

      Perhaps no greater dichotomy influences cultural memory in the Federal Republic today than the drive to present a “normal,” democratic German nation within the context of a European Union concurrent with the need to recognize and validate different German pasts in the last century. While the former trend transcends national borders even as it seeks to transcend history, the latter remains rooted within the country’s historical, geographical, and social boundaries (cf. Eigler 2005, 18). Their dialectical interplay in the cultural landscape of the Berlin Republic connects with a literary tradition of questioning German identity in the postwar period just as...

    • 5 Degrees of History in Contemporary German Narratives
      (pp. 78-98)

      It is not often that normality makes headlines. Yet in his work on contemporary literature, Stuart Taberner focuses on the processes that have established a new political “normality” since unification. Normality informs a discourse beyond the traumas of German history, genocide, and subsequent division into two nations with their respective oppositional ideologies. Unification provides the historical basis of a national self-awareness that insists on an ethos of the present. In other words, some aspects of German normality rely on a kind of forgetting, underwritten by the aesthetics of the moment. While it is unproductive to question the grounding of the...

    • 6 Luftkrieg Revisited: Contemporary Responses to the Allied Bombings of German Cities
      (pp. 99-118)

      Literary treatment of World War II subject matter has, as a rule, waned with the passing of time and the coming of age of a younger generation of German-speaking authors. Images of women and children making their way through the rubble, trading valuables on the black market for the fundamental necessities of life, or of the defeated soldier returning spiritually bereft to an annihilated homeland, have receded from the German literary landscape. In their place, the reader encounters varied narratives that reflect the conditions of a transformed and more complex modern Germany. Numerous contemporary plays and novels, for example, depict...

    • 7 An Aesthetics of Memory for Third-Generation Germans: Tanja Dückers’s Himmelskörper
      (pp. 119-134)
      Laurel Cohen-Pfister

      Pierre Nora has been much quoted in the last decade—no doubt because he recognized a fundamental truth underlying the hunger for recording memories and recollections of the past: “We speak so much of memory, because so little of it remains” (1984, 1, xvii).¹ This observation finds universal application, for there exists in each society at any time a generation that faces extinction. With the passing of this generation pass, too, the first-hand memories of lived history that are both the private history of individual families as well as the shared history of a nation. In the Federal Republic, Nora’s...

    • 8 The Continuation of Countermemory: Emine Sevgi Özdamar’s Seltsame Sterne starren zur Erde
      (pp. 135-152)

      Early reviews of Emine Sevgi Özdamar’s recent novelSeltsame Sterne starren zur Erde(Strange Stars Gaze toward Earth, 2003) stress its narrative focus on Germany and its concomitant neglect of the author’s Turkish homeland (see, for example, Saalfeld 2004). While this perspective ignores the first-person narrator’s repeated flashbacks to Turkey, it is indeed the case that the main focus—as the subtitleWedding—Panko 1976/77makes clear—is on the years Özdamar spent shuttling between West and East Berlin in the late 1970s. Özdamar’s shift in attention is natural, given thatSeltsame Sterneis the third novel in an autobiographical...

  7. III. Transitions:: Form and Performance after 1989

    • [III Introduction]
      (pp. 153-157)

      One of the most significant features of literature after 1989 is the emergence of forms and plots that not only reflect the sociocultural changes brought about by the Wall’s fall but also challenge some of the political assumptions and narrative patterns that dominated postwar German literature. As we approach the twentieth anniversary of the fall of the Wall, the transition period from divided to united Germany has come to an end. But the experience of unification continues to reverberate in literature. Importantly, these echoes are felt in literary form as well as in content and, as the essays in this...

    • 9 A Path of Poetic Potentials: Coordinates of German Lyric Identity in the Poetry of Zafer Şenocak
      (pp. 158-177)

      Biographical introductions are commonplace in the presentation of an author’s work and have, at least historically, played a role in the reception and understanding of the author’s work and its canonization. Usually it is through a writer’s biography that critics and readers seek to understand the context of a writer’s literary achievement, searching perhaps for some clue that points to life circumstances, situations, and conflicts that served as inspiration and motivation for the literary work. This search is not always misguided, as authors often do draw upon their own life experiences and acknowledge these experiences as part of the creative...

    • 10 Performing GDR in Poetry?: The Literary Significance of “East German” Poetry in Unified Germany
      (pp. 178-195)

      Seventeen years after 1989, the debates about the aesthetic value of GDR literature have come to a close, and the politically motivated re-evaluations of individual texts and authors have entered into the revised literary histories of the 1990s. The majority of texts that have become a part of the literary canon in German schools are those that either refer directly to political events or whose authors have a known history of persecution or censorship. In the US as well as in Germany, this diminishing of an extensive literary legacy, of generally high aesthetic quality, has been accompanied by a decrease...

    • 11 Feridun Zaimoglu’s Performance of Gender and Authorship
      (pp. 196-214)

      German literature in the twenty-first century reflects the reevaluation and contestation of German national identity that has followed not only in the wake of reunification, but also as part of the ever-increasing discussion of the meaning of immigration for Germany’s cultural identity. In spite of the literary successes of authors of immigrant backgrounds, neither Germany nor the German literary public sphere has become a multicultural paradise: just as such authors continue to be received differently than their counterparts without an immigrant background, their writing continues to thematize inequalities and persistent cultural essentialism in German aesthetic and political discourse.¹ The texts...

  8. IV. Transformations:: Women Writing in the New Century

    • [IV Introduction]
      (pp. 215-219)

      Readers of this section may initially be surprised to note how minor a role terms such as “feminism,” “Frauenliteratur” (women’s literature), or the recently popular “literarisches Fräuleinwunder” (literary girl wonder) play in the individual chapters. On the one hand, the present-day absence of a widespread women’s movement in Germany, characterized by the proliferation of women’s groups, women’s bookstores, and women’s book series in the 1970s and 1980s, may be taken as prima facie evidence that the feminism of that era is now considered passé. On the other hand, the years since the turn of the new century have witnessed increased...

    • 12 From Frauenliteratur to Frauenliteraturbetrieb: Marketing Literature to German Women in the Twenty-First Century
      (pp. 220-236)

      In summer 2004, the Zweites Deutsches Fernsehen conducted a survey to determine Germans’ favorite books. The results were aired onUnsere Besten—Das große Lesen(Our Best—The Big Read), on 1 October of the same year. Of those who responded, 66.4 percent were women (“Wie haben die Zuschauer” 2004), suggesting that women make up the majority of Germany’s reading public. In a related study, the opinion polling instituteforsafound that Germans in their forties read the most books, with women more likely than men to read “amusing novels [heitere Romane], cookbooks, fairy tales/legends, women’s literature [Frauenliteratur], as well...

    • 13 Social Alienation and Gendered Surveillance: Julia Franck Observes Post-Wende Society
      (pp. 237-252)

      Born in East Berlin in 1970, author Julia Franck has published four works, in which one can trace her critique of social alienation in post-WendeGerman society.¹ Franck’s project employs unreliable first-person narrators who believe that their acts of gendered surveillance will give them access to symbolic and social capital, which these narrators lack, in the vacuum of meaningful relationships in which they find themselves in contemporary Germany. Examples of the desired symbolic capital include honor, prestige, and having a voice to which others listen, and the sought-after social capital consists of networks, reciprocal connections, and trust.² But this analysis...

    • 14 Small Stories: The Novels of Martina Hefter
      (pp. 253-267)

      WhenSpiegelcritic Volker Hage (1999) created the termliterarisches Fräuleinwunder(literary girl wonder), he did not propose a return of feminism or a renewed critical attention to gender. Rather, he suggested that young women writers, whose presumed artistic naïveté and uncomplicated attitude toward sex and eroticism Hage underscored in his essay, had succeeded in making German literature attractive again for readers in Germany and beyond. Hage’s was an intervention in the debates about the status of contemporary German literature, much of which revolved around the repeatedly expressed demand for a “new readability” and an insistence on literature’s obligation to...

    • 15 The Young Author as Public Intellectual: The Case of Juli Zeh
      (pp. 268-284)

      In a tart commentary on the long-overdue award of the Georg-Büchner Prize in German literature to poet Friederike Mayröcker in 2001, literary critic Iris Radisch attributed the striking underrepresentation of women receiving this honor to their invisibility in the public sphere. Which women writers, she asked, would publish something as controversial as “Bocksgesang”;¹ debate with Ignatz Bubis, head of the Central Council of Jews in Germany;² travel to the Balkans;³ or speak out on other contended topics such as Rwanda, the crisis at Volkswagen, or in vitro fertilization? Indeed it is usually the male senior citizens of the German literary...

  9. List of Contributors
    (pp. 285-288)
  10. Index
    (pp. 289-300)