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Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Atomic Apocalypse—‘Nuclear Fiction’ in German Literature and Culture
by Lueckel, Wolfgang, Ph.D., University of Cincinnati, 2010, 401; 3432273
Abstract (Summary)

In my dissertation “Atomic Apocalypse – ‘Nuclear Fiction’ in German Literature and Culture,” I investigate the portrayal of the nuclear age and its most dreaded fantasy, the nuclear apocalypse, in German fictionalizations and cultural writings. My selection contains texts of disparate natures and provenance: about fifty plays, novels, audio plays, treatises, narratives, films from 1946 to 2009. I regard these texts as a genre of their own and attempt a description of the various elements that tie them together.

The fascination with the end of the world that high and popular culture have developed after 9/11 partially originated from the tradition of nuclear fiction since 1945. The Cold War has produced strong and lasting apocalyptic images in German culture that reject the traditional biblical apocalypse and that draw up a new worldview. In particular, German nuclear fiction sees the atomic apocalypse as another step towards the technical facilitation of genocide, preceded by the Jewish Holocaust with its gas chambers and ovens. This study is primarily a literary one. However, I place the discussion in the vast cultural framework in which the texts of German nuclear fiction were embedded: science, history, philosophy, sociology, and cultural studies. I draw on various secondary sources from a plethora of disciplines to shed light on the nuclear age in German literature and culture.

The study is divided into three chapters that analyze the following aspects: the philosophical question of the ultimate evil of the nuclear disaster in an all-encompassing war, traditional apocalyptic imagery versus the modern science-aided apocalypse, the employment of nuclear science in literary accounts and how it is absorbed by fiction, the dynamics of miscommunication and risk communication and why that inevitably sucks fictional characters into the maelstrom of disaster. Finally, the depiction of nuclear war in fiction is in opposition to traditional war literature, turning the three-dimensional world of Euclidean geometry upside down and bestowing new meaning on the term “total war.” An outlook on the future of nuclear fiction concludes this study, trying to show how the tenets of the Cold War and its apocalyptic culture have informed German writings and culture in the new millennium. Even though this study focuses on German literature, the themes of German nuclear fiction appeal to a global readership.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Friedrichsmeyer, Sara
Commitee: Gerstenberger, Katharina, Herzog, Harold, Schade, Richard
School: University of Cincinnati
Department: Germanic Languages & Literature
School Location: United States -- Ohio
Source: DAI-A 72/02, Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Germanic literature, Science history
Keywords: Apocalypse, Apocalyptic imagery, Dystopian literature, Germany, Literature and science, Nuclear fiction, Third World War, World War III
Publication Number: 3432273
ISBN: 978-1-124-35862-8
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