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Back to the Future

Tradition and Innovation in German Studies


Edited By Marc Silberman

In the course of the 1970s, interdisciplinary German studies emerged in North America, breaking with what many in the field saw as a suffocating and politically tainted tradition of canon-based philology by broadening both the corpus of texts and the framing concept of culture. In the meantime the innovative impulses that characterized this response to the legacy of Germanistik have themselves become traditions. The essays in this volume critically examine a selection of those past attempts at renewal to gauge where we are now and how we move into the future: exile and forced migration, race and identity, humanism and utopian thought, solidarity and global inequality. A younger generation of scholars demonstrates how reviving and refining the questions of yore leads to new insights into literary and theatrical texts, fundamental philosophical and political ideas, and the structure of memory in ethnographic performance and photography. Looking back into the future is a self-reflexive gesture that asks how tradition inspires innovation, and it displays compelling evidence for the importance of historically informed cultural research in the field of German studies.

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Notes on Contributors


OFER ASHKENAZI is senior lecturer in the History Department and director of the Koebner Center for German History at the Hebrew University. He has also taught at the University of California in Berkeley and the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis. His research interests include Central European cultural and intellectual history, modern visual culture, and Jewish urban experience in twentieth-century Europe. His monograph Weimar Film and Modern Jewish Identity appeared in 2012 (Palgrave Macmillan) and he recently completed a book manuscript about Jewish filmmakers’ participation in the German negotiation of Heimat.

HUNTER BIVENS is associate professor of German Studies at the University of California, Santa Cruz. His research interests include twentieth- and twenty-first-century German literature, culture, and film, Marxism and critical theory, socialist realism and proletarian literature, modernism and left avant-gardes, and novel theory. His monograph, Epic and Exile: Novels of the German Popular Front, 1933–1945, was published by Northwestern University Press in 2015.

CRISTER S. GARRETT is professor for American culture and history at the Universität Leipzig. His research interests include contemporary American politics and society in an international context, contemporary transatlantic politics, and German-American relations. His current research projects include “Contesting the Transatlantic Space,” “Narratives of Security,” and “Cultures of Capitalism in a Global Context.”

ELA GEZEN is assistant professor of German at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. Her research and teaching focus on twentieth-century German and Turkish literature, theater, and culture, with emphases on literatures of migration, minority...

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