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Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

The literary field as the question of collective identity: The German case
by Gajdosova, Jaroslava, Ph.D., New School University, 2009, 270; 3396725
Abstract (Summary)

This dissertation combines a theoretical study of the literary field with an empirical study of the (West) German literary and collective memory. In this dissertation, the literary field is understood as a discourse that is framed by a changing memory about a difficult past and is bounded to a dilemma of collective identity. This definition of the literary field has an effect on the concept of the field's relations because it changes a proportion between the reproduction and the transformation of the field's structures for the sake of the latter. It provides a more flexible concept of the literary field that can better reflect the dynamics of the social constructions of collective memory and identity. This dissertation is a study in the aesthetics and the politics of memory about a difficult past and about different styles in which that past was remembered in postwar West Germany. The empirical study deals with the ways in which a difficult past was absorbed and critically assessed in (West) Germany but it also raises a question about the limits of memory vis-à-vis that past today. The dissertation shows how cultural and mnemonic processes founded and transformed the (West) German literary field that, on the one hand, was grounded by a consistent effort to remember, narrate, and understand the National Socialist past but on the other, it was defined by a plurality of aesthetic and political commitments to reiterate it from different perspectives. When dealing with the Nazi past, the West German literary field, and particularly its leftist fraction known as the Gruppe 47, accounted for it in terms of German shame, guilt, and responsibility for war and the Holocaust and these developments echoed and anticipated mnemonic processes in the leftist political field that was permeated by the same narratives. The emphasis of German guilt, which marked the politics of memory in both fields, distinctly shaped also the collective identity of postwar (West) Germany. Today, the boundaries of German collective identity and memory are challenged by new literary narratives of Jewish-German and Turkish-German writers who problematize or refuse guilt as their founding premise.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Goldfarb, Jeffrey
Commitee: Dodd, James, Hirst, William, Zolberg, Vera
School: New School University
Department: Sociology
School Location: United States -- New York
Source: DAI-A 71/03, Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Germanic literature, Social research, Social psychology
Keywords: Collective identity, Collective memory and identity, Critical theory, Field theory, Germany, Literary field, Phenomenology, Poststructuralism, Sociology of literature
Publication Number: 3396725
ISBN: 978-1-109-65327-4
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