Academic journal article German Quarterly

The Berlin Wall: Representations and Perspectives

Academic journal article German Quarterly

The Berlin Wall: Representations and Perspectives

Article excerpt

Schirer, Ernst, Manfred Keune, and Philip Jenkins, eds. The Berlin Wall: Representations and Perspectives. New York: Lang, 1996. 388 pp.

This volume combines twenty-six essays that were presented as papers at an international and interdisciplinary conference entitled "The Wall: Reality and Symbol" at the Pennsylvania State University in October 1991. The essays are framed by an introduction (billed as "A Short Chronology of the Berlin Wall" but actually more a chronicle of the GDR) and a conclusion presenting a succinct summary of events in united Germany after the fall of the wall. The volume concludes with a bibliography and an index. Unfortunately, a brief biography of the authors is missing.

The individual essays are arranged under six headings; they span a wide spectrum from the literary to the popular and employ a variety of approaches from feminist/post-modern to psychological, and traditional close reading.

Under I, "The Wall: Reality and Symbol," James Ward analyzes the ideological function of the wall in public discourse, Marylyn Sibley Fries sees the wall as an engendered symbol, Siegfried Mews and Jirgen Kamm interpret spy novels ofJohn Le Came and Len Deighton.

In II, "Representations of the Wall in Literature: Overviews," Wulf Koepke traces the "invisible" wall in texts by Neutsch, de Bruyn, Wolf, Kunze, Plenzdorf, Heym, Kant and Fuhmann. Carol Anne Costabile-Herring demonstrates how characters in short prose texts by BAIning, Heym, Rolf Schneider, Schlesinger, Schubert and Wolfgang MUller come to terms with the wall. Hera T. Leighton examines the fantastic element in wall-stories by Wolf, Schlesinger, Racholl, and Schubert. Gary Lee Baker provides a psychological interpretation of wall-texts by Peter Schneider, Plenzdorf, Heym, and Schubert in which he sees the wall "depicted as the metonymical father" in a Freudian sense. Bernhard H. Decker takes a look at a little known aspect of wall-literature: texts written by GDR border guards.

The six essays grouped under III, "Representations of the Wall in Literature: Individual Perspectives," are introduced by an excellent interpretation of Peter Schneider's Der Mauerspringer by Edward R. McDonald. This is followed by interpretations of Uwe Timm's novel Kerbels Flucht (Christopher R. Clason), one text in Hans Joachim Schadlich's Versuchte Nahe (Arminia M. Brueggemann), a deconstructive reading of Joyce Carol Oates's Berlin Stories (Dieter Saalmann), Christa Wolf's treatment of the wall (Nicholas Vazsonyi), and Wolfdietrich Schnurre's "raging against the Berlin wall" (Ilse-Rose Warg).

Section IV is devoted to "The Wall in Popular Culture with essays on Pink Floyd's rock opera The Wall (Philip Jenkins), a semiotic investigation of wall graffiti (Sigrid Mayer), the wall in contemporary songs and ballads (Miriam Jokiniemi), and in films by Peter Timm (Meier) and Helma Sanders-Brahms (Manbver) as well as ballads by rock superstar Udo Lindenberg (Thomas R. Nadar).

"The Fall of the Wall" is the subject of section V, with essays by Karen Annette Franz on local (i. …

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