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Generational Shifts in Contemporary German Culture

Generational Shifts in Contemporary German Culture

Laurel Cohen-Pfister
Susanne Vees-Gulani
Copyright Date: 2010
Edition: NED - New edition
Published by: Boydell and Brewer,
Pages: 336
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    Generational Shifts in Contemporary German Culture
    Book Description:

    In the debates since 1945 on German history and culture, the concept of generations has become ever more prominent. Recent and ongoing shifts in how the various generations are seen -- and see themselves -- in relation to history and to each other have taken on key importance in contemporary German cultural studies. The seismic events of twentieth-century German history are no longer solely first-generational lived experiences but are also historical moments seen through the eyes of successor generations. The generation, seen as a category of memory, thus holds a key to major shifts in German identity. The changing generational perspectives of German writers and filmmakers not only reflect but also influence these trends, exposing both the expected differences between generational views and unexpected continuities. Moreover, as younger artists reframe recent history, older generations like the 1968ers are also contributing to these shifts by reassessing their own experiences and cultural contributions. This volume of new essays applies current discourse on generations in German culture to contemporary works dealing with major sociohistorical events since the Nazi period. Contributors: Svea Bräunert, Laurel Cohen-Pfister, Friederike Eigler, Thomas C. Fox, Katharina Gerstenberger, Erin McGlothlin, Brad Prager, Ilka Rasch, Susanne Rinner, Caroline Schaumann, Maria Stehle, Reinhild Steingröver, Susanne Vees-Gulani. Laurel Cohen-Pfister is Associate Professor of German at Gettysburg College, and Susanne Vees-Gulani is Assistant Professor of German and Comparative Literature at Case Western Reserve University.

    eISBN: 978-1-57113-726-5
    Subjects: Language & Literature, Sociology, History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-x)
    Laurel Cohen-Pfister and Susanne Vees-Gulani
  4. Introduction: A Generational Approach to German Culture
    (pp. 1-24)
    Susanne Vees-Gulani and Laurel Cohen-Pfister

    More than a century ago Friedrich Nietzsche wondered why it was suddenly possible to speak openly about the “recent past.” The answer, he believed, could be traced to a new generation — one that felt unrelated to this past and thereby empowered to criticize it. Nietzsche’s point about new generations bringing new perspectives is seen as so fundamental that a 2008 study on the concept of generation judiciously sports the quotation on its back cover.¹ Each generation, though it stands in the legacy of its predecessors, decides for itself what from the past is relevant to the demands of its own...

  5. Part 1: Victim Legacies and Perpetrator Postmemory

    • 1: Generations and German-Jewish Writing: Maxim Biller’s Representation of German-Jewish Love from “Harlem Holocaust” to Liebe heute
      (pp. 27-55)
      Erin McGlothlin

      When one considers the concept of generations with regard to post-Second World War history and culture, the immediate reference point that comes to mind is that of the “second generation” of the Holocaust. Originally referring to the sons and daughters of Jewish Holocaust survivors, this term developed above all in the American context beginning in the 1970s to designate what psychologists, journalists, and children of survivors themselves identified as a unique legacy of the history of the Holocaust transmitted from survivor parents to their postwar children. During this time a number of texts endeavored to define the second generation as...

    • 2: Between Reevaluation and Repetition: Ulla Hahn’s Unscharfe Bilder and the Lasting Influence of Family Conflicts about the Nazi Past in Current Literature of the 1968 Generation
      (pp. 56-76)
      Susanne Vees-Gulani

      In a unified Germany, defining a German nation and what it means to be German have once again become key issues within culture and society. The wish for a national communal identity that accommodates both the new situation in Germany and the larger European context goes hand in hand with a current shift in self-view: Germans today often characterize themselves within their society by what connects them with others, what they have communally lived and suffered through, rather than by what distinguishes them from each other.¹ Revisiting the Nazi past and the Second World War in both the former East...

    • 3: Beyond the Victims Debate: Flight and Expulsion in Recent Novels by Authors from the Second and Third Generation (Christoph Hein, Reinhard Jirgl, Kathrin Schmidt, and Tanja Dückers)
      (pp. 77-94)
      Friederike Eigler

      The post-unification period has witnessed a renewed interest in twentieth-century German and European history, an interest that is no longer shaped by the ideological struggles of the Cold War yet is still fraught with conflict. This memory boom, as some have termed it, is marked by a generational shift away from the first generation of witnesses, perpetrators, and victims¹ and toward the second and third generations, the last of whom are removed from any immediate exposure to the Second World War and its aftermath. The controversial attention to Germans as victims in public and literary discourses is part of this...

    • 4: Fictionalizations: Holocaust Memory and the Generational Construct in the Works of Contemporary Women Writers
      (pp. 95-114)
      Katharina Gerstenberger

      The beginning of the twenty-first century witnessed a resurgence of literary texts about topics pertaining to the German past. While German literature of the first post-Wall decade focused significantly on the present, responding to the transformations triggered by the twin processes of unification and globalization, even a cursory glance at publications since 2000 confirms that the question is notwhetherGerman history and its memory continue to be reflected in contemporary German literature, buthow. This renewed focus on history applies to authors of all generations. However, the age-cohort of writers whose parents experienced the Nazi period and the immediate...

    • 5: Play It Again, Traude: The Transgenerational Transfer of Wounds in Chris Kraus’s Vier Minuten
      (pp. 115-136)
      Brad Prager

      Chris Kraus’sVier Minuten(2006;Four Minutes)¹ begins with the sound of birds against a black background, followed by a low-angle shot that depicts birds passing overhead. The camera then pans down, revealing barbed wire stretched along the length of a prison wall. This contrast between the freedom associated with the open sky and an image of confinement recalls the opening shot of Alain Resnais’s Holocaust documentaryNuit et brouillard(1956;Night and Fog),² which first depicts the sky and then the barbed wire surrounding a concentration camp. Resnais’s film is a landmark in Holocaust cinema, and many subsequent directors...

  6. Part 2: 1968 and German Terrorism

    • 6: From Student Movement to the Generation of 1968: Conflicts in German Novels from the 1970s and the 1990s
      (pp. 139-160)
      Susanne Rinner

      The term 1968 marks nearly two decades of unrest, rebellion, and civil disobedience in Germany. Though long over, the sixties and seventies remain a piece of the German past that will not go away.¹ Since 1989 their meaning has gained renewed attention as Germans debate how to anchor the student movement within the history of a now unified Germany — especially in light of the legacy of the Third Reich and the Holocaust. Many interpretations consider 1968 the central event that marked the arrival of the Federal Republic in the Western world, an approach confirmed by the end of the a...

    • 7: Ghostly Sisters: Feminist Legacies in Second-Generation Perspectives on West German Terrorism; Judith Kuckart’s Wahl der Waffen (1990) and Kaiserstraße (2006)
      (pp. 161-183)
      Svea Bräunert

      In Nicolette Krebitz’s short filmDie Unvollendete(2009;The Unfinished),¹ sixteen-year old Helene Hegemann is witness to an imaginary encounter between two of the most controversial, well-known, and enigmatic women of the second half of the twentieth century: journalist and leading member of the Red Army Faction (RAF) Ulrike Meinhof and writer and public intellectual Susan Sontag. Although the film premiered well before the scandal surrounding Hegemann’s novelAxolotl Roadkill(2010) — with its debate over plagiarism and discussion of the Berlin Left’s children, (post-) feminism, and the ways in which (male) critics patronize young (female) writers² — Hegemann’s presence as a...

    • 8: The Generation Gap: The Reappropriation of the Red Army Faction in Contemporary German Film
      (pp. 184-204)
      Ilka Rasch

      Although theRote Armee Fraktion, or Red Army Faction (RAF), disbanded more than a decade ago, the recent Mohnhaupt-Klar debate, the media’s celebration of the thirtieth anniversary of the German Autumn, the success of Bernd Eichinger’sDer Baader Meinhof Komplex(2008;The Baader Meinhof Complex) and the numerous films on the RAF currently in production indicate that it has not lost its appeal. An analysis of the reappropriation of visual representations of the RAF by a generation of younger German filmmakers, the so-called “1989ers,” shows that iconic images of politically motivated violence are being used to question the RAF’s pivotal...

  7. Part 3: East German Pasts

    • 9: Post-Communist Fantasies: Generational Conflict in Eastern German Literature
      (pp. 207-224)
      Thomas C. Fox

      Following the Second World War, communist authorities in the Soviet Zone of Occupation and subsequently in East Germany constructed a symbolic politics of paternity. In order to fill the ideological and emotional vacuum left by the collapse of fascism and the rupture of the often unacknowledged libidinal attachment to Hitler, the communists encouraged identification with the “ antifascist father,” with Stalin as patriarch. In the cultural realm, as Julia Hell has shown in herPost-Fascist Fantasies,¹ a number of foundational novels, structured around generations and centering on the figure of the father, narrated the pre-history of East Germany. Although little...

    • 10: From Father, from Son: Generational Perspectives in Christoph Hein’s Mama ist gegangen (2003) and Jakob Hein’s Vielleicht ist es sogar schön (2004)
      (pp. 225-244)
      Caroline Schaumann

      While literature that spans multiple generations most commonly depicts family history from the viewpoint of children and grandchildren, the reversed, forward gaze from parents and grandparents to their offspring is far less common. Even more unusual and exceptional are literary texts by multiple family members that allow insight into several generational perspectives. In this essay, I analyze and juxtapose two works that complement each other in their seemingly opposite familial perspective while treating the same subject matter. Both the renowned GDR playwright and writer Christoph Hein and his son, physician and writer Jakob Hein, base their worksMama ist gegangen...

    • 11: No Questions Asked: Intergenerational Silence in Stasi Victim Families; Jeder schweigt von etwas anderem (2006)
      (pp. 245-266)
      Laurel Cohen-Pfister

      The past, writes Maurice Halbwachs, is created through talking about it. Only through communicating with others, through narrating lived events and experiences, can memories begin to be formed, let alone fix themselves in individual or shared memory. The social act of repeating these stories influences what is remembered by successive generations and orders their understanding of the past.¹ How memories endure beyond the lifetime of the individuals and groups that recall them relies on their transmission through cultural forums, such as photographs, survivor testimonials, novels, or films.² Even then, only with the tacit agreement, as Susan Sontag writes, “thatthis...

  8. Part 4: Globalized Identities

    • 12: Transnationalism Meets Provincialism: Generations and Identifications in Faserland, Kurz und schmerzlos, and Selam Berlin
      (pp. 269-286)
      Maria Stehle

      When it comes to generational models, critics tend to analyze so-called “migrant literature” as part of a different cultural context and subject it to different systems of evaluation. Studies of minority and immigrant cultural productions often describe the tensions and confrontations depicted in “migrant literature” or by “minority filmmakers” as sites of cultural conflict and manifestations of the difficulties of living “between two cultures” or “between two worlds.”¹ Such an approach to generational experience and cultural production reproduces social and political exclusions, is grounded in an essentialized concept of cultural identity, and fails to recognize more fluid models of identification...

    • 13: From Farbe bekennen to Schokoladenkind: Generational Change in Afro-German Autobiographies
      (pp. 287-310)
      Reinhild Steingröver

      Over the past ten years a remarkable increase in publications by black German writers, mostly in autobiographical form, has occurred. These texts represent a diversity of voices from different generational and geographical backgrounds, including the former East and West Germanies and unified Germany. The authors’ birth dates range from 1931 to 1970. The publication of all these texts seems to be motivated by their authors’ desire to share the unusual life experiences of an under-recognized German minority. As such, all of them thematize race as an important factor of their identity formation as black Germans, either in the narratives themselves...

  9. Notes on the Contributors
    (pp. 311-314)
  10. Index
    (pp. 315-326)
  11. Back Matter
    (pp. 327-327)