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Title: Man soll sich den klaren Blick durch Sachkenntnis night trüden lassen : literary attempts to come to terms with the German-Polish past
Author: George, C.
Awarding Body: University of Wales Swansea
Current Institution: Swansea University
Date of Award: 2000
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This thesis examines how the particular formal and thematic concerns of literature enable it to complement the role that historiography since the 1960s has played in challenging nationalist versions of the German-Polish past. I show how German historians of the pre-1960s period helped to establish the series of myths at the heart of nationalist versions of this past. These included, stemming from the pre-1945 era, the notion of a borderland region that was somehow inherently German, of an essentialist German and Polish identity, and of a cultural gap between the two nations. After the expulsion of the Germans from Eastern Europe in 1945, nationalist discourse ignored the pre-history of this expulsion in order to portray the Germans as the victims of Polish aggression, and have since also claimed that German suffering had become a taboo subject in both East and West Germany. Historians since the 1960s have challenged these myths through their methods of examining the past which were heavily influenced by the social sciences. This influence has enabled them to produce more accurate knowledge of the past, but it clearly also limits their methodological and narrative freedoms. Literature, by contrast, is of course not in a position to make the same truth claims as historiography, but there is no doubt that it can influence our way of seeing the world. I consider how the myths outlined above are addressed in four post-war German novels: Levins Mühle by Johannes Bobrowski, Die erste Polka by Horst Bienek, Mark und Bein by Walter Kempowski and Kindheitsmuster by Christa Wolf. I examine how the thematic and formal aspects of these novels serve to reinforce or disrupt these myths. As pieces of fiction the novels are able to distort or manipulate historical facts about the past in a way which historians cannot, and I look at how such manipulation can actually shed more light on historical reality than narratives strictly limited to verifiable fact.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available