Writing in Red
Title Details

15th November 2017

366 Pages

22.8 x 15.2 cm

Series: German History in Context

Imprint: Camden House

Writing in Red

The East German Writers Union and the Role of Literary Intellectuals

by Thomas W. Goldstein

  • Description
  • Contents
  • Reviews
This book explores how the East German Writers Union became a site for the contestation of writers' roles in GDR society with consequences well beyond the literary community.
In the German Democratic Republic words and ideas mattered, both for legitimizing and criticizing the regime. No wonder, then, that the ruling SED party created a Writers Union to mold what writers publicly wrote and said. Its chief task was ideological: creating a socialist and antifascist culture. But it was also supposed to advance its members' professional interests and enable them to act as public intellectuals with a say in the direction of socialism. Many writers demanded that it pursue this second function as well, which brought it into conflict with the SED. This book explores how the union became a site for the contestation of writers' roles in GDR society with consequences well beyond the literary community. Union leaders, pressured by the SED or the secret police, usually acquiesced in enforcing regime demands, but by the 1980s many authors had adapted to the rules of the game, exploiting theirunion membership to insulate themselves from reprisal for their carefully worded critiques and in so doing beginning to break down limitations on public speech. The book explores how and why in the 1970s the Writers Union helped normalize relations between writers and state, yet over the course of the 1980s inadvertently aided the expansion of permissible speech, ultimately helping destabilize the East German system.

Thomas W. Goldstein is Assistant Professor of History at the University of Central Missouri.
Introduction
German Writers Associations through 1970
Socioeconomic Functions
The Era of No Taboos? 1971-75
A Disciplining Instrument, 1976-79
Defending Peace, Defining Participation, 1979-83
Years of Resignation, 1983-85
Glasnost in the GDR? 1985-89
Coming Full Circle, 1989-90
Conclusion
Notes
Bibliography
Index
"An account of the complex and evolving relationship between the ruling party, the Stasi and the Writers Union." EUROPEAN HISTORY QUARTERLY
"Goldstein expertly picks apart the East German Writers Union during the GDR . . . ." H-NET SOCIALISMS
"[A] strong contribution to our understanding of cultural politics in the GDR. . . . Goldstein's book is a nuanced addition to the scholarship on the role of intellectuals and everyday life in East Germany. A great resource for graduate students and, because of Goldstein's admirably declarative prose, undergraduate students trying to get a basic sense of current research. . . . [W]ell researched, thorough, and judicious . . . ." Curtis Swope, GERMAN STUDIES REVIEW
"An intriguing read. The diversity of perspectives is a commendable achievement, and the range of meaningful and fruitful discussions of mostly uncanonical materials proves that there is a lot still to discover even for an academic target audience that already has a substantial knowledge of the GDR and its cultural sphere." JOURNAL OF EUROPEAN STUDIES
"Goldstein comes to the important and reasonable conclusion that it was not socialism that caused the collapse of East Germany, but governmental intolerance of voices suggesting how better to achieve a socialist state. . . . Recommended. Upper-division undergraduates through faculty." CHOICE

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Title Details

15th November 2017

366 Pages

2.28 x 1.52 cm

Series: German History in Context

Imprint: Camden House