Catastrophe and Catharsis

Catastrophe and Catharsis

Perspectives on Disaster and Redemption in German Culture and Beyond

Edited by Katharina Gerstenberger, Tanja Nusser


Camden House



Essays examining representations of disaster in German and international contexts, exploring the nexus between disruption and recovery through narrative from the eighteenth century to the present.

Destroying human habitat and taking human lives, disasters, be they natural, man-made, or a combination, threaten large populations, even entire nations and societies. They also disrupt the existing order and cause discontinuity in our sense of self and our perceptions of the world. To restore order, not only must human beings be rescued and affected areas rebuilt, but the reality of the catastrophe must also be transformed into narrative. The essays in this collection examine representations of disaster in literature, film, and mass media in German and international contexts, exploring the nexus between disruption and recovery through narrative from the eighteenth century to the present. Topics include the Lisbon earthquake, the Paris Commune, the Hamburg and Dresden fire-bombings in the Second World War, nuclear disasters in Alexander Kluge's films, the filmic aesthetics of catastrophe, Yoko Tawada's lectures on the Fukushima disaster and Christa Wolf's novel Störfall in light of that same disaster, Joseph Haslinger and the tsunami of 2004, traditions regarding avalanche disaster in the Tyrol, and the problems and implications of defining disaster.

Contributors: Carol Anne Costabile-Heming, Yasemin Dayioglu-Yücel, Janine Hartman, Jan Hinrichsen, Claudia Jerzak, Lars Koch, Franz Mauelshagen, Tanja Nusser, Torsten Pflugmacher, Christoph Weber.

Katharina Gerstenberger is Professor and Chair of the Department of Languages and Literature at the University of Utah. Tanja Nusser is DAAD Visiting Associate Professor of German at the University of Cincinnati.

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December 2015
1 black and white illustrations
244 pages
9x6 in
Studies in German Literature Linguistics and Culture
ISBN: 9781571139016
Format: Hardback
Camden House
BISAC LIT004070, NAT023000, SOC026000
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Table of Contents

Tableaux of Terror: The Staging of the Lisbon Earthquake of 1755 as Cathartic Spectacle
The French Burn Paris, 1871
Memory Politics: The Bombing of Hamburg and Dresden
Observing the Observation of Nuclear Disasters in Alexander Kluge
Rereading Christa Wolf's Störfall following the 2011 Fukushima Catastrophe
Narrating the Untellable: Yoko Tawada and Haruki Murakami as Transnational Translators of Catastrophe
Beautiful Destructions: The Filmic Aesthetics of Spectacular Catastrophes
Constellations of Primal Fear in Josef Haslingers Phi Phi Island
Avalanche Catastrophes and Disaster Traditions: Anthropological Perspectives on Coping Strategies in Galtür, Tyrol
Defining Catastrophes
Notes on the Contributors


[A]ll [the volume's contributors] offer substantive and provocative viewpoints. . . . [T]his well-curated volume should inspire further work on the role of cultural production in the age of the anthropocene. The book's interdisciplinary approach certainly makes it important reading for graduate students and scholars across the humanities and social sciences. MONATSHEFTE

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