DFG Research Training Group Globalization and Literature. Representations, Transformations,  Interventions

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Matthias Kandziora

Matthias Kandziora, M.A./ M.Ed.

"Are you sure this country does exist?" Narrative Constructions of East German Identification after 1989


Dissertation Abstract

A real surge of interest in literature and films about the GDR has taken place since the new millennium: Sonnenallee (1999), Good Bye, Lenin! (2003), Das Leben der Anderen (2006), Der Turm (2008), Stadt der Engel (2010), In Zeiten des abnehmenden Lichts (2011), to name only the most prominent examples. Based on this observation, my dissertation investigates how a specific narration of East German process of identification is reflected in film and literature. The project tries to elaborate a new dialogue between the tangled issues of phantasmatic identity, remembrance, narration and processes of identifications.
How did 'East German identity' become such a recurrent point of reference since the end of the GDR? This question is clearly linked to processes of globalization, as one of the major theses of the research project states. The paradigm of the 'crisis of modernity' must therefore be updated: The paradox of the national as described by Saskia Sassen could be rephrased as a 'crisis of globalization'. This means that the opposition of fluid identity categories or a strongly interconnected 'world' and the identification with an imagined community (Benedict Anderson) – and with a geographical-national unit that, like the GDR, does not exist anymore – constitutes the background of the project. This perception can rather be located on an imaginary level than in the real implications of globalization processes.
Art, in particular, can negotiate this dialectic of the complicity of the universal and the singular. The specific quality of literature and film appears to be that they can reveal individual and collective identities through processes of identification and reveal their mutual entanglement. The narrative structures that initiate these identifications in literature and film must necessarily fail in the effort of establishing a consistent 'East German identity'. The problem of collective and individual identities as a solid entity is again raised through the affirmative and subversive narrations of 'East German identity'. In this case, identity is to be understood as a search for an imaginary, lost originariness that can never fulfill its own recurrence. This figuration of an 'East German identity' that is characteristic of these cultural works reveals the difference between theory and literature and the special achievement of narration, which this project will investigate.

Short CV

2017: M.Ed. German Studies and History, Friedrich-Alexander University Erlangen

Since 2016 PhD Candidate at the Research Training Group

Since 2016 Lecturer at the Comparative Literature Department, Friedrich-Alexander University Erlangen

2016: M.A. Comparative Literature, Friedrich-Alexander University Erlangen

2015: B.A. German Studies and History, Friedrich-Alexander University Erlangen