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Title: The cult of personality and self-presentation in the literary works of Stefan Heym
Author: Heath, J.
Awarding Body: University of Cambridge
Current Institution: University of Cambridge
Date of Award: 2004
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Abstract:
Earlier studies of Stefan Heym have tended to mention the ‘cult of personality’ only in passing, but the investigation of megalomaniac, and usually historical, figures is a focal point of both his literary and journalistic output. Viewed in its broader sense, the cult of personality can be found throughout his works, and not solely in those which confront the legacy of Stalinism. This study charts the progression of Heym’s investigation into charismatic attraction and deliberate image cultivation. It first examines the pieces of his youth, and those in which he recognises the phenomenon within American society and post-war communism. Attention is then turned to demystification of the Stalin cult through the veiled criticism contained within his historical fiction written in the GDR, in which, crucially, pre-Stalinist forbears are identified. Heym’s approach to the problem is also problem is also examined in texts published after reunification and thus devoid of self-censorship. Heym’s focus was not restricted to charismatic performance on the political level alone; the social level of personal interaction represents a significant aspect of his fiction. Thus the function of ‘minor characters’ is given considerable attention, both as followers or creators of leader figures and in the context of the individual’s role as an agent of history. Against this background, Heym’s understanding of the writer’s role in society is considered and the question raised as to whether he himself developed a ‘cult’ of the dissident intellectual or literary figure. Much use is made of previously unexplored material from Heym’s personal archive in Cambridge University, while the archive itself is examined as a literary form and as an essential part of Heym’s own self-presentation.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID: uk.bl.ethos.603931  DOI: Not available
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