Transforming suicides: literary heritage, intertextuality, and self-annihilation in GDR fiction of the 1970s and 1980s Public Deposited

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  • March 21, 2019
  • Blankenship, Robert
    • Affiliation: College of Arts and Sciences, Department of Germanic and Slavic Languages and Literatures
  • This dissertation examines fictional suicides in the literature of the second half of the German Democratic Republic and questions the common assumption that these works represent a direct, realistic reflection of East German society. I point instead to intertextuality in these works and investigate the relationship between fictional suicide in the literature of the German Democratic Republic and the canonical literary works revered by that country's cultural authorities. These intertextual, fictional suicides disrupt the literary heritage of the GDR, a matter that is even more subversive than implying that people killed themselves in the GDR. Each of the four main chapters of the dissertation focuses on one GDR text and and the literary heritage that it subverts. Ulrich Plenzdorf's Die neuen Leiden des jungen W. brings Goethe's Die Leiden des jungen Werther into contact with GDR youth culture when the novel's main character reads Goethe's work without context and, like the main character in Goethe's work, kills himself. Werner Heiduczek's Tod am Meer gives its main character, who resembles the main character in Thomas Mann's Der Tod in Venedig, a voice for narrating his own suicidal downfall. Christa Wolf's Kein Ort. Nirgends describes a fictional meeting between the writers Heinrich von Kleist and Karoline von Gnderrode, who reevaluate literary history before killing themselves, paralleling a reevaluation of GDR literary heritage. Christoph Hein's Horns Ende utilizes a ghost resembling that of Hamlet's father to instigate subversive memory of fascism and Stalinism.
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  • In Copyright
  • "... in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in the Department of Germanic Languages and Literatures."
  • Langston, Richard
Degree granting institution
  • University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Place of publication
  • Chapel Hill, NC
  • Open access

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