9th Conference European Sociological Association

RS07 Memory, Culture and Public Discourse

2009-09-04 13:30:00 2009-09-04 15:00:00 Friday, 4 September 13:30 - 15:00 Literary Analysis of Collective Memory Building I, 1E7

Literary fiction and public discourse. Reflecting upon the German reunification

After twenty years from the German reunification, the interpersonal acknowledgement (e.g. Honneth 1994; Ricoeur 2004) between east and west Germans remains problematic. In particular the media as principal entrepreneurs of common memory (Jedlowski 2002) give often an oversimplified representation of the GDR-past (Ahbe 2004) which has a twofold effect: on one hand it stirs up mistrust towards east Germans, on the other hand the east Germans feel themselves non-acknowledged.
With this respect the literary imagination creates an alternative public discourse, offering different interpretations of the reality from the usual ones (e.g. Turnaturi 2003). Moreover by focusing on desires, problems and emotions of the individuals, it restores a human and temporal dimension (Ricoeur 1984) to the often stereotyped identities. In particular, everyday life narrations are relevant for two main reasons. First, they highlight how the systemic transformations had repercussions on the microcosm of East Germans. Second, they give the possibility of a cultural communication without erasing the differences. In fact, from a processual and inter-textual perspective literary narrations collect and build the cultural memory of a collectivity (e.g. Lachmann 1996; Kuhn 2002) and provide us with a non-monolithic image of the collective identity, that results from the tangle of different past and present experiences.
Finally, I will consider some novels of East German authors (Schulze, Gläser, Schmidt, Sparschuh, Brussig, Gröschner) showing how they deal with some relevant questions such as the definition of Heimat, the function of the Heimat for the individual and collective identity, the relation between East and West, the symbolic, social and cultural transformations of places.

Ahbe, T. (2004) Die Konstruktionen der Ostdeutschen, in "Das Parlament" B 41-42, pp. 9-23.
Jedlowski, P. (2002) Memoria, esperienza e modernità. Milano, Angeli.
Honneth, A. (1994) Kampf um Anerkennung, Frankfurt/M., Suhrkamp.
Kuhn, A. (2002) An everyday magic. Cinema and cultural memory, London, Tauris.
Lachmann, R. (1996) "Intertextualität", in U. Ricklefs (edited by), Das Fischer Lexikon Literatur, Frankfurt/M.
Ricoeur, P. (1984) Temps et récit II, Paris, Éditions du Seuil.
Ricoeur, P. (2004) Parcours de la reconaissance, Paris, Éditions Stock.
Turnaturi, G. (2003) Immaginazione sociologica e immaginazione letteraria, Roma - Bari, Laterza.