Issue 2/2005 - ISSN 1470-9570

Special Issue: Cultural Transformation in Eastern Germany after 1990.

Special Issue in conjunction with the Association for Modern German Studies (AMGS) [link opens in new browser window]

ARTICLES

Introduction: Transformation Processes in Eastern Germany: Politics and Society.

Klaus-Dieter Rossade, London (pages 1-4)

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The portrayal of the GDR in post 1990 German feature films.

Barend Schutte, Southhampton (pages 5-19)

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After the political unification of Germany in 1990, image-makers and creative minds in Germany set to work to come to terms with the past. In the first months after unification, former GDR directors attempted to capture the attention of a new German audience but failed due to their use of GDR imagery and language. Following this early phase, the feature films of the next ten years revealed a predominantly negative retrospective portrayal of the GDR; image-makers focused almost entirely on the oppressive SED dictatorship and all its abuses of human rights. At the turn of the century, a new development occurred in the retrospective image of the GDR when Leander Haußmann’s film Sonnenallee (1999) introduced a sense of normality to the portrayal of life in the GDR; people are finally shown to have lead average lives that were not dominated by an overwhelming fear of the regime. Along with Wolfgang Becker’s award winning film Good Bye, Lenin! (2003), the films made ten years after unification mark a definite turning point in the discourse relating to the GDR in that the films not only include, but also actively propagate a sense of nostalgia about the GDR.

“Denn wir sind anders”: “Zonenkinder” in the Federal Republic.

Owen Evans, Swansea (pages 20-33)

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The period since the fall of the Berlin Wall and the reunification of Germany has seen a dramatic flowering of literary talent from the old East. Over the past few years, following a trail blazed by authors such as Thomas Brussig and Ingo Schulze, a new group of younger authors has also emerged, whose autobiographical work has been striking for its apparent ambivalence about the Wende. While this reaction may not constitute Ostalgie, it remains sceptical of life in the new Germany. This article explores debut publications by Jana Simon, Jana Hensel and Claudia Rusch, all members of the so-called “Zonenkinder” group. It traces their responses to the way in which they feel their childhood has been stolen from them with the Abwicklung of the GDR. This article will elucidate how these authors are now joining the debate about the transformation process, as representatives of this generation that was largely mute during the Wende.

Der fremde Vater: A New East German Väterliteratur?

Elizabeth Priester Steding, Iowa (pages 34-48)

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The West German phenomenon of Väterliteratur in the 1970s and 1980s is well-established in German literary history. In this article, links are drawn between these texts and those written by young East German authors since German unification, based upon shared themes and the social context of their origin. There are unmistakable similarities in the portrayal of the father-child relationship, most notably the recurring themes of authoritarian behaviour and emotional distance. Volker Altwasser’s novel Wie ich vom Ausschneiden loskam (2003) and Kerstin Hensel’s narrative Tanz am Kanal (1994) serve as foundations for textual analysis.

Post-Socialist Gender Trouble: Commercial Street Ephemera from Eastern Germany.

Joel Morton, Canton (pages 49-80)

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The transitory artefacts of popular culture are by their nature indicative of social change, and the eastern German street objects chosen for this analysis display gender as a prominent but often neglected aspect of the massive cultural, economic and political transformation still underway more than a decade after the fall of the Wall. Taking its theoretical cue from recent scholarship on gender and post-socialism (e.g. Kolinsky and Nickel 2003; Gal and Kligman 2000), in which gender is understood as central to, as well as both effect and agent of, social transformation, the essay argues that commercial street posters and ephemera manifest a distinctly uneven ideological struggle among historically-produced gender discourses in the newly capitalist east. Commercial image/texts carry what Raymond Williams (1977) termed 'dominant', 'residual', and 'emergent' elements of a culture in transition, and thus help reveal gendered and social tensions experienced by easterners as they become targets of western advertising. In combining analysis of commercial street image/texts collected between 2000 and 2004 with findings from extended fieldwork in eastern Germany over the same period, the essay seeks as well to give some sense of the lived experience of the post-socialist reinvention of gender.

Berlin Traditions and Potsdamer Platz: Architectural Reconstruction and the Transformation of a Public Place.

Anna M. Dempsey, Dartmouth (pages 81-102)

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This essay is a critical history and analysis of the architectural reconstruction of Berlin’s Potsdamer Platz. My primary purpose is to ascertain if the site functions as an authentic public place. Though many factors contribute to this process, I concentrate on how well the architecture integrates aesthetics with cultural traditions and urban spatial planning. To determine what type of place Potsdamer Platz has become, I contrast it with renovated sites in East Berlin’s Scheunenviertel (Old Jewish Quarter). Borrowing from Walter Benjamin’s philosophy of experience, I argue that the authenticity of these public places depends on how well these sites preserve and present multiple pasts that can be useful and transformative for the diverse populations of the present.

Veränderte Landschaft. East German Nature Poetry since Reunification.

Axel Goodbody, Bath (pages 103-125)

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This paper asks what has become of the distinctive tradition of GDR landscape poetry since reunification. It examines the representation of the physical changes which have come over the East German landscape in the work of older and younger poets, and considers the extent to which they provide objective correlatives for the socio-political and cultural changes experienced since 1989. The role played by landscape poetry in identity construction is also discussed. The past, travel and Heimat are themes associated with a new critical regionalism in the new Länder founded on personal and collective, local and East German experience. The principal focus is on the poems of Volker Braun, Heinz Czechowski, Wulf Kirsten and Thomas Rosenlöcher, but reference is also made to texts by younger contemporaries such as Kurt Drawert, Durs Grünbein and Michael Wüstefeld.

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REVIEWS

Parallela 10. Sguardi Reciproci. Vicende Linguistiche e Culturali dell’Area Italofona e Germanofona.

Udine: Forum (2003) Edited by Raffaella Bombi and Fabiana Fusco.Reviewed by Monica Boria and Claudia Peverini, Cambridge (pages 126-130)

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Der Schulerwerb von Deutsch als Fremdsprache. Eine empirische Untersuchung am Beispiel der italienischsprachigen Schweiz.

Reihe Germanistische Linguistik 253 (2004) Edited by A. Burkhardt, A. Linke & S. Wichter. Reviewed by Karen Schramm, Münster (pages 131-136)

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Deutsch als Fremdsprache: Eine Einführung. 3., überarbeitete und erweiterte Auflage.

Grundlagen der Germanistik 34 (2002) Von Hans Werner Huneke und Wolfgang Steinig. Rezensiert von Sebastian Seyferth, Joensuu (pages 137-142)

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Seelenarbeit an Deutschland – Martin Walser in Perspective.

German Monitor No. 60 (2004) Herausgegeben von Stuart Parkes und Fritz Wefelmeyer. Rezensiert von Ralf Oldenburg, Bad Homburg v.d. Höhe (pages 143-144)

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