The Representation of Academic Institutions in Literature of the GDR and the New Germany
Creagh, Morven Margaret
Thesis or dissertation
University of Exeter
The study is in two parts. The first part examines the representation of the academic institute and the figure of the academic in GDR literature in the latter half of the GDR state’s existence. Specifically, it explores the interface between realist critiques of science and/or GDR academia and metaphorically coded critiques of the GDR state in a selection of texts by Christa Wolf, Helga Königsdorf and Günter de Bruyn. In this focus on the relationship between the realist and the metaphorical dimensions of the texts, my study differs from previous scholarship which has tended to foreground one or other aspect. A particular focus of this study are the ways in which these writers model the academic institute as a microcosm of the GDR state, with academic research projects standing for the GDR socialist project, and institutional dynamics representing social relations in the GDR. Having explored the relationship between the representation of the academic institute, the academic world and GDR society, I conclude the first part of this study by arguing that, perhaps surprisingly, there are similarities between these GDR ‘academia tales’ and the Anglo-American campus novel. Part Two of the study begins by examining the post-Wende representation of the restructuring, or Abwicklung, of the GDR academic establishment in texts by Helga Königsdorf and John Erpenbeck. This is followed by an overview of a series of texts in which the post-Wende experiences of east German academics, while treated more peripherally, nevertheless generate interesting readings. While there have been many historical and sociological analyses of academic Abwicklung, this is the first to examine literary treatments of the phenomenon. It explores the representation of academic Abwicklung both as a social issue in its own right, and as a starting point for broader political commentaries. Furthermore, by exploring the continued use of the academic institute as a metaphor for the GDR state, even after the latter’s collapse, this study supports the view that the Wende did not lead to an immediate reconceptualisation of political and aesthetic approaches in the literature produced by east German writers.
Arts and Humanities Research Council
PhD in German