From rubble to revolutions and raves: literary interrogations of German media ecologies Public Deposited

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  • March 21, 2019
  • Werbeck, Kai-Uwe
    • Affiliation: College of Arts and Sciences, Department of Germanic and Slavic Languages and Literatures
  • This dissertation queries the ways in which West German literature interrogated its role in larger media environments at three pivotal historical moments in German postwar history: the rubble years, the student revolts, and Germany's reunification. I argue that after moments of social and political unrest, the later twentieth-century German media ecologies so prominent in West German urban centers became more dynamic, allowing for fluid exchange and dialogue between newer and older media, an ecology in which a particularly attentive and intermedially sensitive subset of literature occupied a unique and unmistakably critical position; within postwar and contemporary German media ecologies, these texts, I argue, reflect on both the affirmative condition of dominant media environments as well as their political potential when reordered according to a literary vision. In a word, this dissertation contends that exemplars of German literature from the second half of the twentieth century have continually positioned themslves as critical monitors of and agents in the ever-evolving state of German media ecologies. The first chapter compares Wolfgang Staudte's seminal rubble film with the depiction of the city in the rubble literature of Heinrich B√∂ll in order to illustrate how these two media were instrumental in retracing the afterlife of German Expressionism. The second chapter centers on the literature in the wake of the unsuccessful German student revolutions in 1968 as well as its documentaries and field recordings as an urban aesthetic of resistance to political and cultural complacency. The epitome of this aesthetic, which I locate specifically in the works of Rolf Dieter Brinkmann, challenged the leading medium of the day, television, and rethought the streets as a place where interventions into mediated life could be waged during a post-revolutionary period characterized by political standstill. The final chapter focuses on the intersection of the Internet and literature from around the late 1990s and queries specifically the work of writer Rainald Goetz. Goetz explores Berlin and its nightlife through a poetics that centers on the assumed immediacy of the World Wide Web, championing a culturally determined communality over a national one. Beyond just demonstrating the highly mediated nature of the West German urban experience, these three case studies confirm that in an age of rapid technological developments and continually evolving new media, literature has held its ground as a major constituent in the German media ecologies.
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  • partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in the Department of Germanic and Slavic Languages and Literatures.
  • Langston, Richard
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  • University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

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