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Shifting Perspectives

Shifting Perspectives: East German Autobiographical Narratives before and after the End of the GDR

Dennis Tate
Volume: 9
Copyright Date: 2007
Published by: Boydell and Brewer,
Pages: 192
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  • Book Info
    Shifting Perspectives
    Book Description:

    A striking feature of today's German literature is the survival of an East German subculture characterized by its authors' self-reflexive concern with their own lives, not only in texts labeled as autobiography but also those in the more ambiguous territo

    eISBN: 978-1-57113-704-3
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. vii-vii)
    Dennis Tate
  4. List of Abbreviations
    (pp. viii-viii)
  5. Introduction: East German Autobiographical Narratives: Challenging Conventional Genre Distinctions
    (pp. 1-16)

    It is hard to imagine that anyone carrying out research into East German literature at any time over the last three decades would be other than hugely appreciative of the long-term commitment of Wolfgang Emmerich to the task of providing a concise, yet comprehensive, overview of the constantly changing cultural landscape in which it has evolved. The three versions of Emmerich’s steadily expanding Kleine Literaturgeschichte der DDR — the original volume of 1981, the “erweiterte Ausgabe” of 1989, and the “erweiterte Neuausgabe” of 1996¹ — have, in turn, been essential guides to a distinctive corpus of postwar German literature, each...

  6. Part 1: Historical Overview

    • 1: Autobiographical Writing in the East German Context and Beyond
      (pp. 19-74)

      Christa Wolf’s “Lesen und Schreiben”¹ was one of the most influential essays published in the lifetime of the German Democratic Republic. Setting out an unexpectedly radical program for restoring credibility to East German literature as a vehicle for the authentic representation of the experience of its authors, it exposed the limitations of the official cultural doctrine of socialist realism and helped to initiate an internal debate that gradually undermined its authority. It was to change the nature of the creative prose writing produced by East German authors, not just in the remaining two decades of the GDR’s lifetime but (for...

  7. Part 2: Case Studies in Autobiographical Writing

    • 2: Brigitte Reimann: The Constraints of First-Person Fiction
      (pp. 77-100)

      When Brigitte Reimann’s Franziska Linkerhand first appeared in print in the GDR in 1974 as an uncompleted posthumous novel,¹ at the height of the “no taboos” cultural liberalization that Erich Honecker initiated after taking office as SED leader, it provoked extraordinary interest throughout the German-speaking world. For readers who had noted the move toward a more subjective and politically critical perspective between her two short novels Ankunft im Alltag (1961) and Die Geschwister (1963), it finally fulfilled the expectation, fueled since the publication of initial extracts from it in 1964–65,² that she was capable of producing a significant full-length...

    • 3: Franz Fühmann: The Deconstruction of an “Exemplary” Biography
      (pp. 101-127)

      Like Brigitte Reimann, Franz Fühmann died within the lifetime of the GDR, in his case in July 1984 at the age of 62. In terms of their current literary reputations, however, they appear to have little in common. There is no single work of Fühmann’s to place alongside Franziska Linkerhand as evidence of his continuing importance, and no postunification resurgence of interest to compare with the Reimann renaissance since the middle 1990s, stimulated by the new insights into her life provided by her posthumously released diaries and correspondence as well as by the publication of the uncensored text of her...

    • 4: Stefan Heym: Strategies of Self-Concealment in Fictional and Autobiographical Mode
      (pp. 128-158)

      Stefan Heym provides our first case study of an author who appeared to have little time for autobiography before the watershed of 1979, when he was the most prominent of the authors expelled from the GDR Writers’ Union following the infamous tribunal in East Berlin’s Rotes Rathaus. He then spent most of the 1980s working on the longest of the works discussed in this volume, Nachruf (1988). Along with his near-contemporary Stephan Hermlin, who was also Jewish, born in the Saxon industrial town of Chemnitz, and among the youngest of the literary exiles from Hitler’s Germany, Heym is often viewed...

    • 5: Günter de Bruyn: From the “Lies” of Fiction to the “Truth” of Autobiography?
      (pp. 159-193)

      Since the collapse of the GDR, Günter de Bruyn’s literary standing has grown in a way that sets him apart from the other East German authors of his generation.¹ The dramatic change in his fortunes in unified Germany is attributable to various factors. Primarily, of course, it reflects the strong impact that his two-volume autobiography, Zwischenbilanz (1992) and Vierzig Jahre (1996), has made both in the cultural media and among the general readership, a rare case of critical praise being accompanied by widespread public interest. De Bruyn has also enjoyed a moral bonus resulting from the open and self-critical manner...

    • 6: Christa Wolf: “Subjective Authenticity” in Practice: An Evolving Autobiographical Project
      (pp. 194-236)

      Christa Wolf is of particular importance to this study both as the author who, in her essay “Lesen und Schreiben,” most effectively articulated her generation’s aspiration toward “subjective authenticity” and as the most consistent exponent of this aesthetic in the sequence of her first-person prose works that begins with Nachdenken über Christa T. in 1969. More than any other of the five authors examined in detail here, Wolf has also remained in the spotlight of critical analysis since the late 1960s, attracting controversy in the GDR and establishing an international reputation with Christa T. and Kindheitsmuster (1976), working through a...

  8. Bibliography
    (pp. 237-258)
  9. Index
    (pp. 259-267)
  10. Back Matter
    (pp. 268-268)