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Commemorating Communist East Germany in the Berlin Republic: Modes of Remembrance in Literature, Film, and Memorial Sites

Mascha, Katrin (2014) Commemorating Communist East Germany in the Berlin Republic: Modes of Remembrance in Literature, Film, and Memorial Sites. Doctoral Dissertation, University of Pittsburgh. (Unpublished)

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This dissertation studies how the Berlin Republic commemorates Communist East Germany and investigates how this engagement is translated into cultural memory. I understand cultural memory as dynamic, multifaceted, and as a widely contestational interplay of past and present in socio-cultural contexts. The making of cultural memory involves various participants and allows us to examine the nexus between individual remembering and culturally mediated memory. Culturally mediated memory appears as a process of the representation and manifestation of the past in the present. By studying the mediality of ‘present pasts,’ we gain an understanding of how the past is remembered and how it is mediated via cultural objects in the present.
My dissertation analyzes two texts by East German writer Christa Wolf, the novella Was bleibt (1990) and the novel Stadt der Engel oder The Overcoat of Dr. Freud (2010), Andreas Kleinert’s film Wege in die Nacht (1999) and Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck’s Das Leben der Anderen (2006), and two memorial sites, the former State Security prison Berlin-Hohenschönhausen and the largest GDR prison for women Hoheneck. The objects reveal that the ‘present past’ is not the alignment of a society with a certain narrative of historical time. The various modes that translate memory into cultural form constitute society and bring individuals into communication as society. They show how society continually establishes itself as it redefines its relationship to the remembered past. The objects capture remembrance as an act of reinvestigating Vergangenheitsbeziehungen, relationships to the past. Instead of recalling the past in order to turn the page on a troubled history and thus strive for Vergangenheitsbewältigung, the objects make apparent how past experiences are continually renegotiated, transformed, and utilized in order to respond to present needs. This project understands remembering as a development. It describes remembering and acts of memorialization as Vergesellschaftung, sociality. Memory appears as the moment of sociality when remembering instantiates and results in a mutual relationship between individuals and social groups, in which remembering is performed. We see how society arises and experiences itself in its remembering and how remembering as experience in itself offers society an experience of itself.


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Item Type: University of Pittsburgh ETD
Status: Unpublished
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
Mascha, Katrinkam171@pitt.eduKAM171
ETD Committee:
TitleMemberEmail AddressPitt UsernameORCID
Committee ChairHalle, Randallrhalle@pitt.eduRHALLE
Committee MemberLyon, Johnjblyon@pitt.eduJBLYON
Committee Membervon Dirke, Sabinevondirke@pitt.eduVONDIRKE
Committee MemberLandy, Marciamlandy@pitt.eduMLANDY
Committee MemberMuenzer, Clarkmuenzer@pitt.eduMUENZER
Date: 29 May 2014
Date Type: Publication
Defense Date: 8 April 2014
Approval Date: 29 May 2014
Submission Date: 14 April 2014
Access Restriction: No restriction; Release the ETD for access worldwide immediately.
Number of Pages: 243
Institution: University of Pittsburgh
Schools and Programs: Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences > Germanic Languages and Literatures
Degree: PhD - Doctor of Philosophy
Thesis Type: Doctoral Dissertation
Refereed: Yes
Uncontrolled Keywords: East Germany, cultural memory, commemoration, Christa Wolf, memorial sites, Vergangenheitsbewältigung
Date Deposited: 29 May 2014 20:58
Last Modified: 15 Nov 2016 14:19


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