Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Writing in red: The East German Writers Union and the role of literary intellectuals in the German Democratic Republic, 1971-90
by Goldstein, Thomas William, Ph.D., The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, 2010, 665; 3404698
Abstract (Summary)

Since its creation in 1950 as a subsidiary of the Cultural League, the East German Writers Union embodied a fundamental tension, one that was never resolved during the course of its forty-year existence. The union served two masters—the state and its members—and as such, often found it difficult fulfilling the expectations of both. In this way, the union was an expression of a basic contradiction in the relationship between writers and the state: the ruling Socialist Unity Party (SED) demanded ideological compliance, yet these writers also claimed to be critical, engaged intellectuals. This dissertation examines how literary intellectuals and SED cultural officials contested and debated the differing and sometimes contradictory functions of the Writers Union and how each utilized it to shape relationships and identities within the literary community and beyond it. The union was a crucial site for constructing a group image for writers, both in terms of external characteristics (values and goals for participation in wider society) and internal characteristics (norms and acceptable behavioral patterns guiding interactions with other union members). In examining the Writers Union, this project speaks to ongoing historical debates about the institutional means through which writers interacted with the dictatorship as well as debates on the nature of the East German dictatorship more generally. Its methods probe two interrelated topics: the significance of the Writers Union as a professional institution for the lives of its members, and the role of East German writers as public intellectuals under a socialist dictatorship. In the end, there were always powerful disincentives to using occasions provided by the union to articulate criticisms of socialism in East Germany, but by the late 1980s, writers dissatisfied with certain aspects of real existing socialism had found new ways to express their concerns through the union, and in the process expanded the limits of permissible speech under the dictatorship.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Jarausch, Konrad H.
Commitee: Browning, Christopher, Bryant, Chad, Hagemann, Karen, Kramer, Lloyd
School: The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Department: History
School Location: United States -- North Carolina
Source: DAI-A 71/06, Dissertation Abstracts International
Source Type: DISSERTATION
Subjects: European history, East European Studies
Keywords: East Germany, Germany, Intellectuals, Literary intellectuals, Organizational culture, Professional identity, Writers Union
Publication Number: 3404698
ISBN: 9781124018966
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