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GE331 German Memories of WWII - From Perpetration to Suffering

Module Code: GE331
Module Name: German Memories of WWII - From Perpetration to Suffering
Module Coordinator: Dr Helmut Schmitz
Date and time TBC
Module Credits: 15

Module Description

Over the course of the 1990s post-unification Germany integrates the legacy of the Holocaust in the official self-image of the Berlin Republic (for example by creating a Holocaust memorial in the nation’s capital). The re-inscription of Auschwitz into a national and collective memory opens the gates for a return of German wartime memory that appeared to have been obscured by the commemoration of Nazism’s victims. The re-emergence of the issue of German wartime suffering to the fore of German public discourse since the turn of the millennium represents the greatest shift in German memory culture since the 1980s. The (international) attention and debates triggered by, for example, W.G. Sebald’s Luftkrieg und Literatur, Günter Grass’s Im Krebsgang and Jörg Friedrich’s Der Brand testify to a change in focus away from the victims of National Socialism to the traumatic experience of the ‘perpetrator collective’ and its legacies. In this module, you will addresss the representation of German wartime experience in contemporary literature and film from several angles. Opening with a historiation of the problem of representing Germans as victims of war, you will move on to W.G. Sebald’s essay Luftkrieg und Literatur. Sebald’s thesis that German writers had failed to inscribe the experience of the air raids into post-war German literature, triggered a debate about the moral assessment of the Allied bombings of Germany and its literary representation (or lack of it). After focusing on literary and filmic representations of the bombings of Düsseldorf and Dresden, you will address the issue of family memory, transgenerational trauma and the long-term legacy of traumatic war experience in both literature and film.

Assessment Method:

Either one 4,000-4,500 word essay or a 3-hour written exam.