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Title: Dies Totenhaus Hamburg : dehistorisation and delocalisation in the work of Hans Erich Nossack
Author: Jenkins, R.
Awarding Body: University of Wales Swansea
Current Institution: Swansea University
Date of Award: 1998
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The thesis seeks to examine Hans Erich Nossack's view of Hamburg, as it is presented, both explicitly and implicitly, in his prose writings. Clearly, the destruction of the Hansestadt marked a turning point in Nossack's experience and shaped a particularly bleak view of post-war society. By concentrating on the specific locality, I shall seek to underline its pivotal importance for Nossack and, at the same time, I shall seek to explain that the processes of literary transformation on which he embarked were characteristic of his (and his readers') responses to the recent German past. Nossack's self-image is a curious one: it is projected into his male protagonists, who seem to share the kind of death wish, which recurs both in the creative works and the diaries. His characters reflect his own preoccupations: they utter thoughts of existential Angst, but continue to live lives of the utmost banality. Nossack's reflections on his social situation ('Wir waren damals sehr arm') conflict with his depictions of a life 'umgeben mit vielen wertvollen Gegenständen'. Nossack's self-stylisation, his constructed self-image, offers an insight into the sorts of transformation, which mark his creative work. The Hamburg, which was his landscape, is destroyed, but the process of that destruction is presented as an existential experience, lifted out of time and place. The literary reconstruction of Hamburg involved setting the writer's creative power against the physical destruction of the city. But the price, which Nossack pays for that literary construction, is a high one: the settings of his works become abstract, timeless, dehistoricised. While this process clearly struck a chord with his contemporaries in the late 1940s and 1950s, readers of a younger generation are excluded, cut off from the cultural and literary frames of reference, which Nossack invokes. In the interests of presenting Nossack's processes of abstraction, I shall need to make his Hamburg more concrete, highlighting its specificity, the local colour, local customs and sayings, in order to offer an illustration of his literary transformation. My thesis thus runs counter to Nossack's own literary techniques; it seeks to rehistoricise and re-localise. In so doing, I hope to provide convincing arguments to explain why his work has largely disappeared from the contemporary literary arena, but is still of enormous historical interest.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available