German Life Writing in the Twentieth Century

German Life Writing in the Twentieth Century

Edited by Birgit Dahlke, Dennis Tate, Roger Woods


Camden House



Combines an overview of academic approaches to "life writing" with case studies from crucial periods of twentieth-century German history.
"Life writing," a genre classification increasingly accepted among scholars of literature and other disciplines, encompasses not just autobiography and biography, but also memoirs, diaries, letters, and interviews. Whether produced as events unfolded or long after the event, all forms of life writing are attempts by individuals to make sense of their experiences. In many such texts, the authors reassess their lives against the background of a broader public debate about the past. This book of essays examines German life writing after major turning points in twentieth-century German history: the First World War, the Nazi era, the postwar division of Germany, and the collapse of socialism and German unification. The volume is distinctive because it combines an overview of academic approaches to the study of life writing with a set of German-language case studies. In this respect it goes further than existing studies, which often present life-writing material without indicating how it might fit into our broader understanding of a particular culture or historical period.

Contributors: Rebecca Braun, Magnus Brechtken, Holger Brohm, Birgit Dahlke, Pauline Eyre, Mary Fulbrook, Ute Hirsekorn, Sara Jones, J. J. Long, Anne Peiter, Joanne Sayner, Dennis Tate, Roger Woods. Birgit Dahlke is Professor of German Literature at the Leuphana University of Lüneburg, Germany; Dennis Tate is Emeritus Professor of German Studies at the University of Bath, UK; Roger Woods is Professor of German and a Pro-Vice-Chancellor of the University of Nottingham, UK.


December 2010
222 pages
9x6 in
Studies in German Literature Linguistics and Culture
ISBN: 9781571133137
Format: Hardback
Library eBook
Camden House
BISAC LIT004170, HIS014000, BIO000000
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(A) very interesting volume of essays . . . . (S)ucceeds in being more than the sum of its parts and offers a range of useful models for analyzing life-writing. MODERN LANGUAGE REVIEW

The contributors take a nuanced approach . . . and the results are substantive and worthwhile, especially for anyone interested in the historiography in the wake of the two most significant turning points in 20th-century German history, the capitulation (1945) and the fall of the Berlin Wall (1989). CHOICE

Woods's highly informed introduction sketches the history of autobiographical theory and points towards an approach to these texts that allows life writing to be used in wider efforts to understand the habitus of individuals and groups within a given autobiographical period. THIS YEAR'S WORK IN MODERN LANGUAGE STUDIES

Unlike in the case of many edited volumes . . ., there is a sense that all these essays, while standing along as interpretations of a particular example of life writing, also form a coherent whole. Together they offer a valuable overview of the wealth of life writing in German culture in the twentieth century, and of the particular opportunities and challenges that its interpretation poses to historians and literary scholars alike. JOURNAL OF CONTEMPORARY EUROPEAN STUDIES

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