Papers trace a path from the caesura of 1989 to some of the most recent texts and films to have emerged twenty years (that is a generation) further on. T.J. Reed recalls the Wende itself as it happened in one particular city, but also reassesses that famous and controversial document of Wende experience Christa Wolf’s Was Bleibt. From the first literature of the Berlin Republic, as it were, to the ‘last literature of the GDR’: at the other end of the spectrum Karen Leeder examines work published in recent years by those who were children when the wall came down (the so-called ‘Zonenkinder’), but whose first literary works in the Berlin Republic identify their socialisation within the GDR regime as their formative influence.

Papers address major writers from GDR days – Wolf, Burmeister, Biermann – but also figures who have come to prominence since 1990 – Schulze, Gröschner, Brussig, etc. Two papers conceptualise the broader picture. We are fortunate that Wolfgang Emmerich (author of the standard Kleine Literaturgeschichte der DDR) will open the seminar series with an overview of how/whether the two German nations have grown together; Katrin Kohl asks how the GDR itself has come to be conceptualised metaphorically in the 20 years since its decline.

Many papers address the perceived losses for ordinary Germans after 1989; thus touching on the larger debates about ‘Ostalgie’ and the retrospective retouching of East German reality. Peter Thompson and Georgina Paul both address the question of a retrospectively imagined community: Paul through texts that address the dislocation (both thematic and narrative) of contemporary living and Thompson (Director of the Ernst Bloch Centre) through the search for Heimat – a topic which opens the way to larger philosophical trajectories of the German tradition.

The ‘Staatssicherheit’, and what it says about the community in which it thrived, has been a key topic of debate. Daniela Berghahn traces the presentation of the secret police in GDR film and assesses our investment in the Oscar-winning ‘fairy tale’ version The Lives of Others. Timothy Garton Ash asks how the revelations from the files have determined the way we view the GDR state. Two papers address the way memory becomes attached to place, reflecting some of the most interesting new directions in German studies. Chloe Paver, following a study of the literature and memory sites that mark the German fascist past, turns to the sites of the GDR and examines how two pasts have become overlaid and compete for adequate forms of memorialisation. Lyn Marven examines the way the identity of the East has persisted, inscribed in various memory icons, literature, and in the cityscape of Berlin itself. One more paper has been commissioned, which will give an insight into the political and historical background. Professor Jan-Werner Müller (Princeton) will give a special lecture on Thursday May 21st (Trinity Term, week 4): ‘Just another Vergangenheitsbewältigung? Coming to terms with the GDR Past’. Cumulatively it is hoped that these papers offer a first snapshot of the afterlife of this most extraordinary German state, but also contribute to larger discussions of memory and memorialisation in the new Germany.

The project involves the collaboration of eleven distinguished academics (8 who will give papers in the seminar series and 3 who will contribute specially commissioned chapters for publication). The contributors hail from Germany, USA, and UK (though all have an Oxford connection, making it in a very literal sense an Oxford project), and represent some of the most significant voices in contemporary debates about the GDR from a variety of different disciplines: politics, history, philosophy, literature, film and cultural studies.

For abstract details and downloads click on the "abstracts" link.