dissertations in german studies 2023

Brunssen, Pavel. The Making of “Jew Clubs”: Performing Jewishness and Antisemitism in European Soccer and Fan Cultures. University of Michigan, Germanic Languages and Literatures. Advisors: Andrei S. Markovits, Julia Hell, Robert Mickey, Scott Spector. March 2023. Abstract:

The European soccer clubs FC Bayern Munich, FK Austria Vienna, Ajax Amsterdam, and Tottenham Hotspur (London) are known as “Jew Clubs,” although none of them is explicitly Jewish. This study approaches this conundrum of identity performances, (e.g., Jew as self and “Jew” as other) from a transnational perspective for the first time. It unpacks the connection between collective memories and identity formations in post-Holocaust societies through the lens of sports. Using a wide range of primary sources and archival material such as fanzines, fan performances, street art, photographs, films, monuments, and museums, this study illustrates how soccer cultures function as a key site for the construction of collective memories and collective identities. This study analyzes the “Jew Club” as memory culture (FC Bayern Munich), as “cultural code” (FK Austria Vienna), as fan performance (Ajax Amsterdam), and as problem (Tottenham Hotspur). This dissertation illuminates the ways sport clubs and fan cultures perform memory cultures and thus function as an important societal arena for constructing collective identities. It makes clear the common features and distinctive characteristics of “Jew Clubs,” including the dialectical relationship between antisemitism and philosemitism. In essence, this study shows how “soccer” serves as a contested space for questions of identity, subjectivity, and belonging, with implications reaching far beyond the stadium gate.

Ettinger, Leonie. A Fatherland for the Fatherless: Crises of Authority in Expressionist Literature. New York University, Department of German. Advisors: Alys X. George, Leif Weatherby. September 2023. Abstract:

A Fatherland for the Fatherless: Crises of Authority in Expressionist Literature investigates literary expressions of political upheavals in interwar Germany to make societal tensions during the rise of Nazism tangible for the present day, when right-wing movements are once again gaining momentum. The literary-historical inquiry centers on politicizations of filial and gender structures in Expressionist and post-Expressionist texts (Walter Hasenclever, Franz Werfel, Hanns Johst, Bertolt Brecht), which, from both nationalist and socialist perspectives, radically critique bourgeois society’s patriarchal organization and call for new social orders. Expanding on the Institute of Social Research’s study Authority and the Family (1936), A Fatherland for the Fatherless brings together two current foci of scholarly discourse: family structures in literature and thought (e.g., Peter von Matt, Silke-Maria Weineck, Adrian Daub) and new fascist studies (e.g., Peter Gordon, Robyn Marasco). By bridging these two fields, it connects vital analytic insights into the formation of familial and social hierarchies in modernity with in-depth methodological research on political radicalizations in the 20th century. In contrast to earlier cultural analyses that perceive the Weimar Republic as a prelude to Nazi dictatorship (e.g., Peter Gay) and recent studies that highlight its artistic accomplishments (e.g., Eric Weitz, Sabina Becker), this dissertation emphasizes how the period’s fate was still undecided and reveals that then, as now, there were potentials to counteract right-wing populism.

Fuhr, Thomas. Eternal Return? Revisiting Heimat in Contemporary German Literature. University of Arizona, German Studies Department. Advisors: Joela Jacobs, Leonhard Herrmann, David Gramling, and Christopher Cokinos. August 2023. Abstract:

Heimat, the German concept of home and belonging, has long been associated with an idealized picture of traditional village life. The concept has a complicated history in which it has been used as a religious term to denote the homeplace in heaven, and as a legal category of inclusion and exclusion in local communities. Over the course of the tumultuous nineteenth century, amid sweeping processes of transformation brought on by the effects of industrialization and urbanization, Heimat became an imaginary foil against industrial modernity, a longing to return to a simpler rural world. While retaining some of its earlier components like a palimpsest, the concept today is a semantic amalgamation that has repeatedly been instrumentalized for political purposes.

Hoffman, Lukas. Faithful Form: On Religion and Politics in German Modernist Lyric. Carolina-Duke Graduate Program in German Studies. Advisor: Gabriel Trop. May 2023. Abstract:

Examining the work of four poets—Else Lasker-Schüler, Georg Trakl, Rainer Maria Rilke, and Paul Celan—this dissertation reveals surprising conjunctions between these poets’ sustained engagement with religious images and concepts and their attempt to organize individuals into collective bodies invested with political agency. It thereby uncovers a political valence within those elements of German modernist lyric that draw upon mytho-poetic and religious traditions to model the formation of political communities. Lasker-Schüler’s poetic revisions of the biblical garden myth explore a form of abject subjectivity that seeks to harness anti-authoritarian energy while simultaneously expressing vulnerability and solidarity with the outcasts of society. Trakl’s poetry prophesies the end of Western civilization on the brink of the First World War and develops mystical practices of kenosis (emptying one’s particular will—or in the case of Trakl, the normativity of collective forms—as preparation for receiving the divine) within the social and political sphere as a response to apocalyptic temporality. Rilke’s poetry uses mystical tropes to undermine the authority of institutions and the naturalization of economic relations while establishing poetry as a gathering place for human communities. Celan’s poetry not only confronts personal, but also political trauma, and in doing so ultimately gestures towards the possibility of liturgy as a mode of association, of solidarity with unknown others. More generally, this dissertation considers the way that poetic practices draw on religious operations and images in novel ways to reimagine emancipatory politics.

Klueppel, Joscha. Telling Stories to Survive: The Writings of Saša Stanišić. An Approach to Decolonizing Discourses in German Studies. University of Oregon, Department of German and Scandinavian. Advisor: Michael Stern. June 2023. Abstract:

This dissertation project is the first comprehensive analysis of Saša Stanišić. It transcends the valid, but restricting focus on migration in his works by tracing a common narrative strategy that spans all his writing. Analyzing his novels as well as two short stories of Fallensteller (2016), I argue that characters and narrators use storytelling as a means of survival. A detailed literary analysis, based on close readings of the engagement with death both as a narrative trigger and a constant negotiation, discusses a multitude of diegetic examples in which storytelling is used as survival strategy, for example in the mediation through bodies of water. Importantly, the focus of my analysis remains on the diegetic level to avoid conflating literary analysis with author biography. Detailed discussions of racism, colonial remnants in Germany as well as the power of naming and language are paired with examples from Stanišić’s texts to illustrate hierarchical and racializing mechanisms in German society. Utilizing the concept of borderscaping, the next chapter highlights how Stanišic’s texts provide solutions to the problem of exclusionary borderscapes. I argue that Stanišić’s texts rewrite and expand notions of Germanness to more adequately inform belonging to Germany and create more representative and less violent borderscapes. For this purpose, I discuss Stanišić’s idiosyncratic idea of Heimaten and themes that I term ‘transeuropean inscriptions.’ Furthermore, I understand the analysis of Stanišić’s novels as a paradigmatic example for the application of decolonizing conversations in German Studies. I do not claim Stanišić as a decolonial writer nor his texts as decolonial texts. Instead, my research places several lineages of knowledge production into conversation with Western thought to critique, decenter, and, at times, deconstruct, the mechanisms that the analysis of Stanišić’s writing unearthed. Centering non-hierarchical conversations is essential. To that end, I employ what I call decolonial couplets to engage with thinkers like Édouard Glissant and Achille Mbembe and the particularities of their approaches to similar themes and topics, such as lineage, memory, violence, and knowledge.

Lien, Duncan Gullick. Allotropes of Realism: The Bilingual Political Imaginary of Turkish-German Literature (1972-2015). The Pennsylvania State University, Department of Comparative Literature. Advisors: Thomas O. Beebee & Nergis Ertürk. March 2023. Abstract:

This dissertation addresses the convergence of realist aesthetics and multilingual literary form in Turkish-German literature from the 1970s through to 2015. In the 1970s, settlement by migrants from Turkey in the Federal Republic of Germany created the conditions from which a vibrant literary scene and a unique form of literary realism emerged. In this dissertation, I argue that this realism be understood as allotropic realism. Its literary-historical basis is found in literary exchange from the 1920s onward between the Weimar Republic, the Soviet Union, and Turkey and the revival of these aesthetics in the FRG in the 1960s and 1970s. Emphasizing the formal techniques of bilingual writing in the works studied in this dissertation, I argue that Turkish-German literary production expanded the canonical understanding of socialist realism. In doing so, I draw on recent scholarship on transnational socialist literary exchange in Eurasia and German-speaking countries, renewed interest in the political stakes of literary form, scholarship in translation studies, and theorizations of mono- and multilingualism. Case studies of works by Aras Ören, Fakir Baykurt, Yaşar Miraç, and Emine Sevgi Özdamar demonstrate how these writers figure new forms of political collectivity through translational and bilingual practices. The challenge to discrete linguistic categories that this conception of translation implies echoes a commitment to political projects rooted in solidarity which transcends forms of social difference without suppressing them. Ultimately, I develop the term literary allotropy to account for literary techniques which retain multiplicity in a singular framework, both linguistically and otherwise. Inspired by Miraç’s poetry of coal and coal mining and the use of the term allotropy in chemistry, I employ the concept to describe how the writers that I study figure forms of political collectivity which unite members of distinct social groups without negating the significance of linguistic, ethnic, gender, and class difference.

Meissgeier, Sina. Erzähltes Leben von und über Frauen nach dem Holocaust: Die deutschsprachige Literatur über das KZ Ravensbrück zwischen 1945 und 1989. University of Arizona, Department of German Studies. Advisor: Joela Jacobs. August 2023. Abstract:

This dissertation focuses on the literary representation of German-speaking female voices from Ravensbrück Concentration Camp between 1945 and 1989. I am bringing together the multidisciplinary fields of Literary Studies, Holocaust Studies as well as Gender and Women’s Studies. The texts that were written and mostly also published in the GDR regarding Ravensbrück show multiple perspectives even though the overall narrative has been centred around prescribed anti-fascism and communist heroism. Which narrative techniques were used to portray and subvert a one-sided antifascist view on camp society? By presenting literary examples from different decades, I argue that the illustrated discourse in the texts goes beyond a mere ‘Nazi perpetrator versus victim’-binary that is usually visible in Holocaust literature. Moreover, the camp society that comes to life here consists of a dualism between the political prisoners and the ones who have been persecuted by the Nazis because they did not fit into their racist and patriarchal ideology (so-called ‘asocial’ and ‘criminal’ prisoners). Another main aspect of this dissertation is analyzing the ruptures in anti-fascist narratives. Based on my interpretations, it can be stated that ruptures have existed since the 1960s – beginning with the theater play Ravensbrücker Ballade by Hedda Zinner from 1961. As examples of further contradictions to the GDR-Ravensbrück narrative, I am presenting two unpublished novels by Rita Sprengel from the Ravensbrück Memorial Site archives. Zinner’s novel Katja from 1980 is another example of a text that goes beyond the memoir and creates a fictional Ravensbrück survivor as female protagonist. Other authors I am looking at in this dissertation are Margarete Buber-Neumann, Anja Lundholm, Lenka Reinerová, Ruth Werner, Dorothea "Mopsa" Sternheim, Stephan Hermlin, Charlotte Müller, Christa Wagner, and Friedrich Wolf.

Meng, Duosi. Jewish Refugee Poetry in Shanghai. University of Illinois at Chicago, Germanic Studies. Advisor: Elizabeth Loentz. March 2023. Abstract:

Within the larger context of the Holocaust narrative, the Jewish experience of exile in Shanghai, China provides many examples of the impact of forced migration. This study of the poems written by Jewish exile writers and refugees in Shanghai from 1938 to 1948 discusses the notion of refugee literature as a form of minority literature, the meaning of political writing and cultural-geographical spaces in displacement and the collision of cultural values, the function of language in identity crises, the articulation of cultural differences, and the struggle to survive under extreme deprivation. This theoretical analysis, based on Homi K. Bhabha’s theories on cultural phenomena, backed up by the observation of the survival trajectory of the Jewish refugees in Shanghai, shows that the moments and processes of social, cultural and political confrontation and convergence between races, religions and ideologies achieve a crucial understanding of the location of culture, revealing distinctive images of marginal and under-represented communities. Furthermore, this study also shows that the history of the 20th century was a time of social, economic, and political displacement. Observations made by this historical witnessing force upon us a realization that the transnational fusion of narratives of migration, refuge and exile offer another approach to re-reading mainstream cultures. Cultures not only recognize themselves in being forced to contrast themselves with “otherness”, but also by confronting their own “otherness” as an initial part of “self.”

Waas, Sabine. German Soccer Stars and the Politics of Media Representation: A Case Study in Ethnicity and Celebrity Culture. University of Texas, Austin, Department of Germanic Studies. Advisor: Sabine Hake. April 2023. Abstract:

This dissertation examines the (self)representation of German soccer players in social media, sports media, popular literature, and fan discourses. It emphasizes the role of ethnicity in the creation of celebrity sports branding and fan–athlete relationship. Ever since West Germany won its first FIFA World Cup in 1954, soccer has allowed for the construction of an “imagined community” in West Germany and then unified Germany. Since the 1960s, soccer culture has been increasingly intertwined with the entertainment sector, resulting in more money through advertising, merchandising and television coverage. The soccer player Franz Beckenbauer capitalized on that, becoming the first German sports celebrity, scoring endorsement deals, attending social events, and writing his autobiography. Other soccer celebrities followed, including German players mit Migrationshintergrund (a term literally meaning “migration background;” it refers to people who did not acquire German citizenship at birth or whose parents did not acquire German citizenship at birth). While there is scholarship on people mit Migrationshintergrund and sports celebrities separately, there are not many studies about soccer celebrities mit Migrationshintergrund. My dissertation analyzes how soccer players like Lukas Podolski, Jérôme Boateng, and Mesut Özil use their Migrationshintergrund to further their celebrity status and thereby their brand(s). I argue that their branding is governed by fan expectations, masculinity norms, entrepreneurialism, and specific models of migration discourses.

Wilhelm, Ella. World, Universe, and Heterocosm in the Early German Romantic Project of Universal Poetry (1795–1802). University of Chicago, Germanic Studies. Advisor: Catriona MacLeod. July 2023. Abstract:

This dissertation is a new attempt to define the German Romantic project of progressive universal poetry. While I frame universal poetry through the Romantic reception of Fichte’s Wissenschaftslehre (specifically his famous Ich=Ich), the project moves past the understanding of Romantic reflexivity as pure negation of the Absolute to explore its poetic possibilities. As I show, Fichte’s phrase provides the impetus for a Romantic theory of reflexivity that represents the self’s attraction to the ground of its existence as its enmeshment in a cosmic – or rather “universal” – network of relations. While not identical to the Absolute (and therefore understandable as “heterocosmic”), Romantic reflection can therefore be understood as a generative process of suggesting but never fixing the idea of an underlying unity. Each chapter of the dissertation excavates a more practical significance to the Romantics’ suggestive invocations of “world” and “universe,” considering Schleiermacher’s conception of religious feeling and intuition of the universe in Über die Religion in connection with contemporaneous discourses on painting, and Friedrich Schlegel’s reading of the many worlds of Goethe’s Wilhelm Meisters Lehrjahre as it relates to his distinction between romantic and classical aesthetics. As my analyses of universalizing techniques in Novalis’s Heinrich von Ofterdingen and Das allgemeine Brouillon demonstrate, the “heterocosmic” (fictional, oppositional) quality of poetic reflection allows it to function both as a means of representing worldly relations, e.g. familial ones, and of transgressing them through the formation of poetic connections that move beyond the ordinary biological and social possibilities of human life, even pushing the boundaries of intelligibility. In the works of these three early Romantic writers, poetic reflection can be conceived as a representational force that is simultaneously connective and also anarchic, a means of universalizing that retains a dynamic fluidity and sense of imaginative possibility unavailable under the auspices of a known, representable Absolute.

Zimmermann, Sabine. The Refugee in Contemporary German-Language literature: Mobility, Personhood, Place. University of British Columbia, Department of Central, Eastern, and Northern European Studies. Advisor: Markus Hallensleben. April 2023. Abstract:

This dissertation examines depictions of refugees in twenty-first-century German-language literature by Elfriede Jelinek, Jenny Erpenbeck, Navid Kermani, Maxi Obexer and Firas Alshater. Their selected works challenge stereotypical narratives about refugees as ‘undesirables,’ ‘invasive others,’ and ‘problems’ that threaten liberal nation-states in Europe. This study aims to illustrate how their texts convey that refugees are persons with many complex social identities rather than ‘invaders.’ My interdisciplinary methodology is based on three pillars: a mobility paradigm taken from human geography, a philosophical discussion of personhood, and notions of place derived from human geography and philosophy. I will show how interconnections between mobility, personhood, and place are relevant because refugees are adaptable persons in need of a new place (at least temporarily), but they experience a differential mobility compared to privileged migrants. First, the mobility paradigm enables a reading of literature that shows how current European Union asylum rules attempt to prevent displaced persons from accessing individual member country jurisdictions. As a result, refugees’ ability to physically move towards and within Europe is restricted. Second, literature can evoke philosophical ideas of personhood that illustrate detrimental effects when the label ‘refugee’ is repeatedly affixed to a displaced person’s life story. This label overrides all their past, present, and future experiences, and it unjustly portrays them as ‘problems’ or ‘undesirables’ rather than resourceful and capable individuals. Third, literature can reflect how places are shaped, maintained, and continually changed because social relations, experiences, and understandings intersect in persons’ life narratives. The findings of my interdisciplinary study are relevant for literary discourses on the categorization of migrants and on current European Union politics that support the free flow of goods and money but undermine the arrival of those in need of refuge.