'Re-reading East Germany’:
The Literature and Film of the GDR (1949-2009)
Image copyright © Klaus Thiere Oktoberfilm Balance films Berlin 2009
The literature of the ‘other’ Germany, that is the German Democratic Republic, has long held a peculiar fascination for those interested in Germany today. It is not simply that many authors of world stature emerged from, or are identified with, that state. Rather the GDR also fascinates because it offers a case study in the way culture responded to the challenges of an authoritarian regime, and negotiated the tension between power and imagination. Works of prose, poetry, drama and film of extraordinary intensity and invention were created, which bear repeated scrutiny for what they can tell us about the GDR but also about the processes of literature itself. The aim of the project is both to grasp the history and context of GDR literature and film as a historical entity, but also to trace its repercussions in the twenty years since its demise. The perspective gained from the vantage point of 2009 allows research to take account of the important revisions and reflections on that legacy since 1989, but also to explore phenomena like ‘Ostalgie’, the retro-chic which has allowed GDR design items to become icons of high fashion, the emergence of Berlin as the cultural capital of Europe, or the fascination with the German secret police. Finally, it allows an insight into the various approaches which researchers in GDR Studies have taken to this most contested legacy: from generational paradigms to post-colonial models.
Conference Organiser: Prof. Karen Leeder (New College, Oxford).