Angekommen, ohne unterwegs gewesen zu sein : the continuity of literary tradition in East German writing after unification : a comparison with Bitterfeld literature
Before 1989 West German critics commonly afforded DDR-Literatur credibility and praise to the extent that it criticised its society of origin. Yet, since 1990 the dominant voices of the Western Littaturbetrieh have changed their tune considerably. GDR literature now conjures up almost exclusively negative connotations, indicated by the expressions Gesinnungsusthetik, Gesinnungskitsch, Stillhalteliteratur and Sedativ, and former dissidents, in particular, have accused authors of having prolonged the life of the East German Unrechtsregime. Liberal and right-wing commentators have confidently pronounced its end, suggesting that a socially and politically committed literature should be viewed as a dark chapter to be closed forever and buried alongside the idea of any prospect for a socialist alternative. However, despite the declaration of its death, DDR-Literatur is still alive and flourishing in many respects. This thesis examines the remarkable continuities in East German literature before and after 1989. A distinction is drawn between the prose traditions developed under the literary guidelines set out for authors in the GDR and the new restrictions imposed on authors after Unification. It is argued that firstly GDR literature has survived the Wende and secondly that a type of literature has evolved which shares similarities in form and content to its state approved predecessor. The era of the Bitterfelder Weg (1959-1971) and its underlying political and aesthetic concept of Socialist Realism have been chosen as a practical means and theoretical framework for assessing the continuities in East German writing before and after Unification. The possibility that we might be witnessing the emergence of a new literary epoch of 'Capitalist Realism' - not significantly different from its socialist counterpart - is explored throughout.