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Durham University

School of Modern Languages and Cultures: German Studies

Remembering the Holocaust in Postwar German Culture

Academic year 2018-2019

This module acquaints you with the responses of various writers and thinkers to the Holocaust, as well as the debates and discourse that have developed in recent years surrounding the task of remembering the Holocaust, that is, to so-called Erinnerungskultur. You should gain both an overview of the changing responses to the Holocaust in German culture since 1945, and in-depth knowledge of a selection of particular contributions to the debate. The module will focus on two topics that draw on examples from: literature, political writing, drama, film, memorial projects.

Term 1: After Auschwitz/Nach Auschwitz

For many, the unthinkable events of the Holocaust challenged all conventional categories of understanding and representation; according to the historian Dan Diner, they signalled a break with civilisation (‘Zivilisationsbruch’). Following the Holocaust – after Auschwitz – how are we to think about history, humanity and culture? How can the unspeakable horror of the camps be put into words, or made visible for subsequent generations? In the first part of this module, we will engage with these difficult questions and consider the responses of different writers, thinkers and commentators.

Term 2: Blow up the basket. Postmodern approaches to the Holocaust and Nazi Germany

In Term 2, we will explore how, since 1990, postmodern works have challenged the post-war German discourse surrounding the Holocaust and thus opened up new aesthetic avenues to engage with the issue. In doing so, we will also go beyond the German artistic realm and consider how German history, culture and language have influenced international responses to the Holocaust. Questions to be addressed are: Has the fall of the Berlin Wall made a political engaged literature redundant? How effective is the debate about the Holocaust in the young Federal Republic? Can we talk about the Holocaust within genres like comedy or the Spaghetti-Western?

The material studied is likely to include

Term 1: A selection of poems; a selection of essays by Jean Améry; a selection of essays by Theodor W. Adorno; Alexander Kluge, Ein Liebesversuch; Günter Kunert, Zentralbahnhof; Elisabeth Langgässer, Glück haben; Peter Weiss, Die Ermittlung; Ruth Klüger, weiter leben. Eine Jugend

Term 2: Christian Kracht, Imperium; Frauke Finsterwalder (dir.), Finsterworld; Quentin Tarantino, Inglourious Basterds; Wes Anderson, The Grand Budapest Hotel

Students should read Christian Kracht’s Imperium in preparation for term 2.


Professor Claudia Nitschke, Room A17, Elvet Riverside I

Further details of pre-requisites, co-requisites, aims, contact hours and assessment