dissertations in german studies 2020

Bahr, Katrin. Postkoloniale Solidarität: Alltagsleben von DDR-Bürgern in Mosambik. University of Massachusetts Amherst, Department of German and Scandinavian Studies. Advisor: Andrew Donson. May 2020. Abstract:

My dissertation examines the everyday life and work of East Germans and their families sent to Mozambique between 1979 and 1990. I investigate the issues of state and individual solidarity and the interactions within the development projects. Since the GDR did not see itself as a colonial power or an heir to Germany's colonial past, it acquitted itself of the charge of being exploitative in its foreign policy. From its perspective, it stood side by side in “solidarity” (Solidarität) with its “brother states” (Bruderstaaten)throughout the developing world. My research shows that the GDR never achieved this ideological goal in Mozambique. While the GDR proclaimed solidarity when starting the projects, they still tried to exploit natural resources in Africa and acted like a post-colonial power. Despite official ideology, the East Germans who went to Africa could not escape the civilizing mission that assumed cultural superiority, however socialist the mission may have been. In my dissertation, I ask how the development mission came about; how the East Germans interacted with the Mozambicans; how their relationships were represented in GDR newspapers and journals; how political ideology shaped the substance of the collaborations; and how the East Germans remembered their work.

Barthold, Willi Wolfgang. Zeitschrift, Text und Bild: Der bürgerliche Realismus im Kontext der visuellen Massenmedien des 19. Jahrhunderts. Georgetown University, German Department. Advisor: Dr. Peter C. Pfeiffer. February 2020. Abstract:

The dissertation focuses on German realist literature of the late nineteenth-century and its interplay with the visual and media culture of its time. By analyzing realist texts in their original, serialized mode of publication and within the context of an emerging popular culture of visual stimulation, this study shows how this literature was shaped by its contextualization within illustrated journals as “mass media” and developed self-reflective, poetological, and epistemological discourses that explored changing notions of reality. Close-readings of works by Wilhelm Raabe, Theodor Fontane, Balduin Möllhausen, and Marie von Ebner-Eschenbach demonstrate that realist literature grappled with transforming ways of storytelling in an increasingly image-dominated society, the mechanisms of creating “truth” in mass media communication, as well as notions of gender and foreignness in a modernized and globalized media-cultural context. This research thus bridges the gap between scholarly arguments that, on the one hand, focus on the importance of journals as publication media of realist texts and those that, on the other hand, focus on literary realism’s interplay with the visual, by suggesting that only a combination of methods from both fields can lead to a thorough understanding of the epistemological inquiries that shape these texts.

Brier, Jessica D. Typophoto and the Reinvention of Photography in Weimar Germany. University of Southern California, Department of Art History. Advisor: Megan R. Luke. May 2020. Abstract:

Coined in 1925 by Hungarian artist, designer, and theorist László MoholyNagy, the term Typophoto denoted the synthesis of typography and photography in modern visual communication. Typophoto was foundational for German typographer Jan Tschichold’s doctrine of New Typography, which promoted the combination of sans serif typefaces and photographic illustrations to optimize the legibility of graphic design. In practice, Typophoto signified the material hybridity of the photographic halftone, a process which turned photographic images into grids of printed dots and appear as coherent images through optical illusion. Though it was introduced in the late nineteenth century, the halftone remained an object of conceptual and visual interest for graphic designers well into the twentieth century. The network of Central European graphic designers known as the New Typographers recognized the halftone as a tool of montage and used it to experiment with the relationships between word and image, color and space, representation and abstraction in commercial graphics. This dissertation traces a genealogy of Typophoto between 1923 and 1933 through New Typography’s heterogeneous experiments with photography as material, form, and concept. Photography was thoroughly reinvented through offset printing, retouching, methods of perceptual psychology, and as a potent metaphor for the aspirations of modernist graphic designers.

Cao, Jan. Transplanting Languages: Botanical Poetics of Paul Celan and Yoko Tawada. Northwestern University. Advisor: Anna Parkinson. December 2020. Abstract:

Reflecting on and engaging with the intricate dynamics of vegetative life, Paul Celan and Yoko Tawada address issues such as uprootedness, displacement, and the transplantation of language with what I call “plant writing.” Tawada’s plant writing is a process that turns words into word-leaves [“kotoba”], which constantly metamorphose into different meanings, sounds, and shapes according to its temporal, spatial, or linguistic context. Celan’s plant writing, especially his attempted conversations with plants, becomes a way to address his “placelessness” as a migrant who had never been granted a home, and his “timelessness” as a Holocaust survivor who has been robbed of his personal time in history. Their concern with plant life not only touch upon certain fundamental ontological and hermeneutical questions, but also offers them a refuge in language from language that has become simultaneously abusive and abused. The two authors form a dialogue by each imagining a new language that helps those who are no longer at home with their “mother tongue” to relocate themselves in a delirious, post-disaster world.

Carls, Paul. Political conflict as moral conflict : multiculturalism and the nation in Germany (2015- 2017). Université de Montréal, Political Science Department. Advisors: Laurence McFalls and Marcel Fournier. March 2020. Abstract:

This dissertation studies political conflict in Germany around the issues of multiculturalism, immigration, and national identity in the wake of the Refugee Crisis. It uses Émile Durkheim’s notion of the moral fact, a set of moral ideas, truths, obligations, and judgments, to develop a theory of moral conflict that explains the motivations of political actors across German society. It identifies four moral ideals, or ideal visions of the German community: the ideal of non-domination; the ideal of Verfassungspatriotismus; the ideal of the (ethno)cultural nation; and the ideal of the biological nation. At the heart of each moral ideal is a sacred object, either a concept of human dignity or the nation, leading to moral prescriptions related to immigration, multiculturalism, and diversity. These sacred objects and moral prescriptions are mutually profanatory to each other, driving conflict. Actors in the conflicts involved the Autonomen, the German state, the right-wing populist AfD, and other elements of the German far-right. The instances of conflict between participants are understood as interaction rituals that create sui generis collective energy that induces and reinforces emotional attachments individuals have towards the moral fact.

Elliot, Melissa. Forgotten Notes: Narrative Film Music in DEFA Cinema. Michigan State University, Department of Linguistics, Languages, and Cultures. Advisor: Elizabeth Mittman. October 2020. Abstract:

Music in narrative film has historically been understood as performing a mood-setting or underscoring function. In my study, I challenge this restrictive notion and take an intermedial approach to film, positing that music is an important contributor to narrative communication. My investigation makes this argument through an investigation of narrative voice in film adaptations of literary texts, exploring in particular the translation of voice and structure across medial boundaries. More specifically, this dissertation investigates the relationship of music’s meaning and narrative-shaping function to narrative voice in East German film adaptations. The social and political realities of the socialist East German state—a context in which expressive language was externally censored—creates a unique framework within which to explore questions of narration and voice. This dissertation argues that the great aural complexity and experimentation in DEFA cinema exploits music’s subtle extra-linguistic qualities to introduce semantic complexity and to address controversial topics. Each chapter in the study considers a different aspect of subjective literary narration and focuses on music’s role in translating the narrative voice across medial boundaries.

Kaplan, Jonathan. Diplomatie der Aufarbeitung: Das Ministerium für Auswärtige Angelegenheiten der DDR und die nationalsozialistische Vergangenheit. Freie Universität Berlin, Fachbereich Geschichts- und Kulturwissenschaften. Advisors: Prof. Martin Lücke, Prof. Moshe Zimmermann. February 2020. Abstract:

The research offers new tenets on continuity and discontinuity between the Third Reich and post-war Germany. I offer new depiction for the “coming to terms with the National-Socialist past” in the German Democratic Republic focusing on the East German Ministry of Foreign Affairs. I reveal the integration of former Nazis into the East German foreign service, a phenomenon that concurred with German-Jewish politicians’ proliferating impact on the GDR’s foreign affairs. My research ultimately portrays how East Germany instrumentalized Nazi history to consolidate its self-definition as reactionary to the Federal Republic.

McKnight, Douglas. Persecution and Resistance: The Carinthian Slovenes and Memories of the Second World War. Georgetown University, German Department. Advisor: Katrin Sieg. November 2020. Abstract:

This dissertation traces the evolution and diversification of Carinthian Slovene vernacular memory practices, showing that the trauma of forced assimilation, persecution, deportation, and resistance during the Second World War has produced a hyper-local memory in Austria that challenges Carinthia’s official memory of the Second World War. Relying on John Bodnar’s framework of memory, it examines these various vernacular practices through a cross-media analysis of museums, memorials, civic education initiatives, and literature created by Carinthian Slovene artists and memory activists. Using a variety of methods from various fields, including literary and cultural studies, history, and critical geography, it juxtaposes these various media of memory, showing the advantages and limitations of each, and by doing so, reveals the numerous strategies a historically discriminated against minority has at its disposal for influencing the official memory culture of the state in which it resides. By concentrating on southern Carinthia, it adds a new, regional perspective to studies of postwar Austrian collective memory and shows that the dynamics of collective memory in southern Carinthia continue to remain locally anchored, and thus question Memory Studies’ recent emphasis of transnational memory frameworks, particularly for European memories of the Second World War.

Müller, Matthias. The Loser's Edge: Writing from the Vantage Point of the Vanquished, 1918-1945. Cornell University, Department of German Studies. Advisor: Patrizia C. McBride. December 2020. Abstract:

The Loser’s Edge: Writing from the Vantage Point of the Vanquished, 1918–1945, examines how the experience of defeat became a unique source of epistemological insight in literature and historiography between 1918 and the beginning of the Cold War. Taking my cue from historian Reinhart Koselleck’s polemical claim that history may well be made by the victors but is in fact written by the vanquished, I argue that experiences of defeat triggered a singular mode of historical reflection that was substantially marked by aesthetic innovation. In three exemplary case studies–focusing on the German defeats in World War I and World War II, and each staging a dialog between two writers–I show how Koselleck’s anthropological account of history-writing as a reversal of the victor-vanquished dialectic not only provides an unconventional framework for making sense of Germany’s historical role in European modernity. It also captures a striking modernist constellation that linked historiography, storytelling, and future-oriented thinking. The work of storytelling implied by this historiographic model is aesthetic at its very core. It provides trenchant analytical categories for appraising the experiential negotiation of defeat in works by Heinrich and Thomas Mann, Alfred Döblin, and Ernst Jünger.

Müller-Kindler, Kathrin. 1. und 2. Deutsche Architektur- und Kunsthandwerk-Ausstellung im Haus der Deutschen Kunst zu München (1938 und 1938/1939): Dokumentation, Analyse und Kontextualisierung. Ludwig Maximilians-Universität München: Fakultät für Geschichts- und Kunstwissenschaften. Advisors: Christian Fuhrmeister and Wolf Tegethoff. July 2020.  Abstract:

Im Zentrum der Arbeit steht die Aufarbeitung der „Deutschen Architektur- und Kunsthandwerk- Ausstellung im Haus der Deutschen Kunst zu München“ 1938 und 1939 im Hinblick auf ihre Organisationsstrukturen, Ausstellungskonzepte und Wirkungsgeschichte wie auch die Einbettung in einen Überblick über die Architekturausstellungen in Deutschland zwischen 1933 und 1945. Besonderes Augenmerk wird hier auf die Ausstellung „Neue Deutsche Baukunst“, eine deutsche Wanderausstellung im europäischen Ausland von 1941- 1943, gelegt. Diese Arbeit trägt dazu bei, das Wissen über die nationalsozialistische Ausstellungspraxis zu vervollständigen und bietet durch die Katalogisierung der Architekturausstellungen zwischen 1934 und 1943 eine profunde Grundlage für weitere Forschungen.

Obermeier, Stephanie. Reluctant Autofictionalists. Early Twenty-First-Century French and German Experiments with the Autofiction Genre. University of Kent, Department of Comparative Literature and Department of Modern Languages. Advisors: Heide Kunzelmann and Lucy O'Meara. December 2020. Abstract:

This thesis comprises six case studies of the twenty-first-century French and German autofictional novel by the authors Amélie Nothomb, Felicitas Hoppe, Michel Houellebecq, Thomas Meinecke, Clemens J. Setz, and Anne F. Garréta and Jacques Roubaud. The study is concerned with novels which, although they might not fully conform to the autofiction genre, clearly demonstrate an extreme self-awareness and self-consciousness with regards to their generic status and engage in explicit or implicit dialogue with autofiction and genre theory. Precisely because of autofiction’s surge in popularity, on the one hand, and its fraught and complex reception, on the other, autofiction lends itself as a genre through which contemporary authors may explore newer developments in novelistic genres and contemporary forms of (firstperson) storytelling more broadly. While they make use of complex associative narrative structures in order to subvert the autofictional character’s authority and the reader’s expectations, these novels are not, however, representative of a new genre or literary era, even though the more experimental texts in the latter half of this study gesture toward potential future innovation, as influenced by models of digital textuality.

Peters, Meindert E. Re-Inhabiting Modernism: Embodied Cognition in German Literature and Thought 1910- 1934. University of Oxford, Department of Medieval and Modern Languages. Advisor: Ben Morgan. July 2020. Abstract:

This thesis brings five German modernist texts into dialogue with contemporary cognitive studies. In doing so, it opens up a space from which to explore an often-neglected aspect of German modernist texts, namely their exploration of how one can re-situate oneself in unfamiliar environments. Rather than emphasising the alienation and isolation that these texts explore regarding the modern urban environment, this dialogue helps us focus on the more dynamic moments of use, responsiveness, cooperation, and coordination also at the heart of these explorations. At the same time, the modernist period, as a dynamic and often overwhelming time of socio-political and material change and upheaval, also asks us to shift our focus, in contemporary cognitive studies, away from smooth coping, that is, the moments in which things go well and easy. Infusing cognitive studies with the existential questions asked by these texts helps us explore not only the ways in which we react to the socio-material environment’s resistance and frustration of our everyday comportments, but also the ways in which we can come to be responsive to, and re-situate ourselves in, such unfamiliar territory.

Quam, Justin. Helping Language Learners Align with Readers Through Narrative: Insights into the Breadth, Targets, and Explicitness of Evaluation from APPRAISAL Studies of L2 German Writers. Georgetown University, German Department. Advisor: Marianna Ryshina-Pankova. August 2020. Abstract:

Successful meaning-making through language depends on an awareness of one’s presumed audience. In engaging with that audience, literate language users are characterized by their ability to express individuality, offer opinions, assert affiliation, and reinforce or challenge socially valued concepts through the choice of linguistic tokens appropriate to those interactions. In Systemic Functional Linguistics (SFL; Halliday & Matthiessen, 2013), these uses of language fall under the interpersonal metafunction, which encompasses the language user’s goals and relationship with an intended audience (Eggins, 2004; Halliday, 1984). One key component of interpersonal meaning making is evaluative language, described within the context of SFL by the APPRAISAL system (Martin & White, 2005), which facilitates analysis of evaluation patterns beyond the word or sentence level (Coffin, 2002). This project involved APPRAISAL analyses of two sets of texts written by learners of German at four proficiency levels. Lower-proficiency writers tended to rely more heavily on explicit, narrator-centered evaluations, whereas higher-proficiency writers drew more often on emotion as a vehicle for implicit evaluation and broadened the scope of their evaluations to include valued behaviors and traits. The thesis concludes with potential instructional activities and remarks on the applicability of the current APPRAISAL scheme to narrative analysis.

Rowan-Olive, Caroline. Cultural memory and Vergangenheitsaufarbeitung in Christa Wolf’s prose works: a narratological and cultural studies analysis. University of Reading, Department of Languages and Cultures. Advisors: Dennis Tate and Ute Wölfel. November 2020. Abstract:

This thesis examines three important prose works by Christa Wolf: Kindheitsmuster (1976), Kassandra (1983) and Leibhaftig (2002), focusing on Wolf’s treatment of the National Socialist past, including the persistence of National Socialist patterns of thought throughout the lifetime of the German Democratic Republic. A text-focused narratological approach is combined with the broader perspectives offered by cultural memory studies. Both the production contexts and the reception of the texts are explored. Of central concern is the extent to which these texts shift the boundaries between what is remembered and what is forgotten, to include the experience of otherwise excluded social groups. The key discourses explored are the perpetrator-victim configuration, trauma and testimony. Kindheitsmuster combines empathy for German victims with uncompromising insistence on the guilt of Mitläufer/innen. The later texts are gentler on perpetrators, though the trauma discourse is sustained. The witness discourse is most prominent in Kassandra, which also universalises the search for causes of war through the use of myth. In Leibhaftig, the focus shifts from the body politic to the individual female body. All three texts shift the boundaries of cultural memory towards the inclusion of the experience of less powerful social groups, particularly women.

Seale, Joshua. Between Austria and Germany, Heimat and Zuhause: German-Speaking Refugees and the Politics of Memory in Austria. Georgetown University, German Department. Advisor: Friederike Eigler. August 2020. Abstract:

This dissertation explores the memory of postwar German-speaking refugees in Austria through an analysis of diverse media, cultural practices, and their reception. Part I examines postwar memorials and their reception in newspapers, as well as the role of pilgrimage, religious ritual, and public responses of defacement. Part II focuses on post-Waldheim literature and its reception, specifically examining the literary genres of novels and travelogues describing German-speaking refugees’ trips to their former homes. Identifying a gap between the vast cultural memory of German-speaking refugees on the one hand, and the dearth of scholarship dealing with the subject on the other, I argue that it is time for these memories to be taken seriously and not be dismissed as uncritical or otherwise problematic representations of the past. At the same time, however, they cannot be accepted as-is without placing them in the proper historical context. Consequently, an analysis of narrative strategies and the role of memory in making the past present is timely and important.

Shacham-Rosby, Chana. Elijah the Prophet in Medieval Franco-German (Ashkenazi) Jewish Culture. Ben Gurion University of the Negev, Department of Jewish History. Advisor: Ephraim Shoham-Steiner. May 2020. Abstract:

This study focuses on the figure of the biblical prophet Elijah in the context of Jewish culture during the high middle ages. The study begins with an overview of Elijah's character in Jewish and Christian sources. Following is an examination of three arenas where Elijah is prominently featured: Eschatology, Circumcision and Passover Seder. The study discusses how the construction of Elijah's character and roles reflects how these Jewish communities perceived themselves within their historical setting. The study also introduces an innovative approach to understanding the mechanisms of how knowledge was transmitted between different strata of society, as well as between Jews and Christians living in the medieval urban setting.

Winters, Melissa K. From the Wartburg to Nuremberg: Richard Wagner, the Middle High German Blütezeit, and Early Modernity. University of California, Berkeley, German and Medieval Studies. Advisor: Elaine C. Tennant. December 2020. Abstract:

The composer Richard Wagner was an avid reader of pre-modern literature and scholarly studies of the Middle Ages and the Reformation era; nearly all of his mature operas reflect this lifelong interest. This dissertation examines his reception of the Middle High German courtly literary tradition and its after-echoes in Early New High German textual culture in two of his operas, Tannhäuser (1845) and Die Meistersinger (1868), situating these works within broad trends and developments that took place within the field of Germanic philology in the 1800s. Paying particular attention to the reciprocal influence between scholarship and the fine arts during this era, it considers both the libretti and scores of Tannhäuser and Die Meistersinger in light of what nineteenth-century philologists had to say about both minnesong and mastersong. It argues that whereas Tannhäuser represents an experimental stage in Wagner’s medievalism, one that incorporates a number of ideas Wagner had encountered in his early explorations of Germanic philology, some of which are not wholly intellectually compatible, Die Meistersinger demonstrates a remarkably nuanced understanding of the differences between thirteenth- and sixteenth-century poetic idiom and style, which Wagner underscores by the strategic use of musical archaism.