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Memory Traces

1989 and the Question of German Cultural Identity


Silke Arnold de Simine

This essay collection examines the dynamics of memory organization and the way it varies among different media and modes of discourse in post-unification Germany. German unification has put the post-war period into a historical perspective. Such a rupture raises questions concerning the appropriate commemoration, preservation and reinterpretation of the past. The processes of reorientation after unification influenced the self-perception of literary authors as well as the social role, position and status of German literature. They also affected the way writers viewed the competition in which they found themselves pitted against visual and electronic media as rival windows on the past. In the context of several debates on German literature during the 1990s the discussion revolved not only around the adequate aesthetic representation of the historical and cultural heritage but even more so around the role of literature itself in that process.
The contributions look at different discourses that were and still are concerned with reinterpreting and creating new collective symbols and narrative patterns in relation to Germany’s past. The volume focuses on the effects of the characteristic discourses of the press, literature and its different genres, film, the internet and memorials on the depiction and performance of memories.
Contents: Silke Arnold-de Simine: Introduction – Rolf Parr: National Symbols and the German Reunification – Friederike Eigler: Memory, Moralism, and Coming to Terms with the Present: Martin Walser and Zafer Şenocak – Marc Oliver Huber: The Father and His Shadow: The Mann Family in German Memory after 1989 – Anne Friederike Müller: Old Men and the Past: Personified Memories of German History after 1989 – Ruth J. Owen: ‘wenn ein staat ins gras beißt, singen die dichter’: The Wende in Poetry – Birgit Haas: Wendedramen – Bernhard Malkmus: ‘All of Them Signs and Characters from the Type-Case of Forgotten Things’ - Intermedia Configurations of History in W.G. Sebald – Andreas Böhn: Memory, Musealization and Alternative History in Michael Kleeberg’s Novel Ein Garten im Norden and Wolfgang Becker’s Film, Good Bye, Lenin! – Jonathan Bach: Vanishing Acts and Virtual Reconstructions: Technologies of Memory and the Afterlife of the GDR – Simon Ward: Material, Image, Sign: On the Value of Memory Traces in Public Space – Russel Lemmons: ‘Imprisoned, Murdered, Besmirched’: The Controversy Concerning Berlin’s Ernst Thälmann Monument and German National Identity, 1990-1995.