Two decades since the fall of the Berlin Wall, a wide variety of interpretations and representations of the GDR (former East Germany) have emerged. Twenty years is the halfway point of the celebrated ‘forty years’ (also the title of his autobiography) that Günter de Bruyn and others claimed would be needed to come to terms with the forty years of the socialist state. It also means that a generation has come to adulthood with the GDR only as an inherited memory. Memories of the GDR are marked by the so-called ‘memory contests’ that are such a familiar facet of the early years of the Berlin Republic as a whole. But those contests are nowhere more acute than in remembering the second dictatorship on German soil. This proposed seminar series marks the twentieth anniversary of the end of the GDR and explores what has become of the state that existed there for so long. However, rather than reflecting on the history of the GDR up to 1989, this inter-disciplinary series will examine the changing representation and remembrance of the GDR since unification from a variety of thematic perspectives: focussing on culture, politics, philosophy, history and memory and memorialisation. Moreover, it will make a contribution to unravelling the complex memory discourses at work in Germany today: ‘postmemory’; ‘counter memory’; ‘prosthetic memory’; memory ‘from below’; utopian memories; collective vs. individual memory and generational memory. The papers from the seminar series will form a special edition of Oxford German Studies, edited by Karen Leeder, to appear in November 2009, to mark the anniversary proper.


New College, Oxford
Faculty of Medieval and Modern Languages
The John Fell OUP Research Fund


Prof. Karen Leeder (New College, Oxford).

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