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Title: The impossible legacy : identity and purpose in recent (1970-95) English and German language autobiographical children's literature set in the Third Reich and the Second World War
Author: Lathey, Gillian
ISNI:       0000 0001 2144 7598
Awarding Body: University of Surrey
Current Institution: University of Surrey
Date of Award: 1997
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It is the aim of this study to explore the phenomenon of recent (1970-1995) English and German language autobiographical writing for children in which writers' childhood experiences during the Third Reich, the war years and the immediate post-war period provide the basis for a fictionalised reconstruction of childhood. The complex relationship between childhood and adulthood evident in these texts is one forged by the particular social and historical circumstances of wartime, as many writers affected by the last world war are engaged in a process of reassessing their own identities in accordance with changing perspectives on the past. Current ideologies inevitably shape the adult narrator's reconstruction of the historical events which a child could not understand fully at the time. In these texts, recording experience for the next generation serves a therapeutic as well as a didactic purpose, for each enables the writer to regain contact with the childhood self in a contained and clearly focussed narrative. A detailed thematic and stylistic analysis of selected texts is informed by a survey of studies on the history and purpose of autobiographical writing about childhood, an examination of the of role of writing as therapy in the psychoanalytical tradition, and the position of language in the autobiographical process. In particular, the work of Jung and the reinterpretation of Freud by Jacques Lacan has illuminated discussion of these issues. Comparisons are made between retrospective accounts of wartime childhood by German, Jewish and British writers; differences in the nature and volume of autobiographical writing in German and English are related to the timing of these accounts and the decision to write for a child audience. In passing stories on to the next generation, writers' selection of content and control of narrative perspective are indicative of both national and personal preoccupations. Finally, the interplay between a historically evolving reevaluation of the past and the developmental history of the self is related to aspects of the reception of texts and the purposes they are expected to fulfil.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Literature