Beyond 1989: Re-Reading German Literary History since 1945

Beyond 1989: Re-Reading German Literary History since 1945

Beyond 1989: Re-Reading German Literary History since 1945

Beyond 1989: Re-Reading German Literary History since 1945

Synopsis

"This volume makes abundantly clear the fact that the cultural unification of Germany...is as arduous and painful as the political/economic merger... An excellent collection, well-conceived and highly informative." - Choice

With the fall of the Berlin Wall in November 1989, four decades of separation seemed to have been brought to an end. In the literary arena as in many others, this seemed to be the surprising but ultimately logical end to the situation in which, after the extreme separation of the two Germanies' literatures during most of the period up to 1980, an increasing closeness could be observed during the 1980s, as relations between the two German states normalized. With the opening up of the East in the Autumn of 1989 claims were being made, on the one hand, that German literature had never, in fact, been divided, while others were proclaiming the end of East and West German literatures as they had existed, and the beginning of a new era. This volume examines these claims and other aspects of literary life in the two Germanies since 1945, with the hindsight born of unification in 1990, as well as looking at certain aspects of developments since the fall of the Wall, when, as one East German put it in 1996, rapprochement came to an end.

Excerpt

When I was asked by Gerald Kleinfeld to edit this, the first volume by Germanists in the new GSA series, it immediately struck me that the only possible subject for such a volume published by the German Studies Association was that which is now contained in its title. I also had to face the fact that, having had my own initial say on this matter in my The Future of German Literature (1994), I would have to play an essentially background role in the project, letting others individually and collectively now have their say. More by happenstance than design, the contributors to this volume make up a representative crosssection of the Germanists: within the GSA in terms of age range, gender, and geography (one is from Europe), with only the West Coast not represented (mea culpa). I would also like to think that the range of the essays in the volume reflects the way in which German Studies has emerged in the last two decades from a traditionally more narrowly focused Germanistik.

The re-reading of the history of German culture since 1945 is necessary, in that the collapse of the Eastern Bloc and the unification of Germany so fundamentally challenged the way in which the modern and contemporary areas of our discipline had focused on German culture since 1945. We had divided more or less neatly into FRG and GDR Germanists, and our emphases on major writers, works and themes reflected the prevalent socio-political climate of West or East Germany during the four decades of German division. It has been argued since 1989 that Germany remained unified during that time through literature, an idea very similar to the notion of the Kulturnation (cultural . . .

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