The Communicative Event in the Works of Günter Grass

The Communicative Event in the Works of Günter Grass

Stages of Speech, 1959-2015

Nicole A. Thesz

A major contribution to Grass scholarship that looks at his career as a whole and identifies four phases or stages of his writing in terms of communicative strategy and style.

Nobel-laureate novelist and public intellectual Günter Grass was a towering figure among German writers and social critics from the 1950s until his death in 2015. After rising to prominence with the novel The Tin Drum (1959), he assumed the role of the conscience of the German nation. He sustained that position throughout his life despite multiple controversies, particularly the revelation, in his 2006 autobiography Peeling the Onion, of his brief service in the Waffen SS, and the 2012 publication of his poem "What Must Be Said," which sharply criticized Israel.
This monograph argues that the ethos of "speaking out" is fundamental to Grass's life and work. His approach to the dynamics and manifestations of speech acts has been marginalized in Grass criticism, but is crucial to understanding his fiction. Looking back at Grass's career, this book identifies four phases in terms of communicative strategy and style. Whereas the Danzig trilogy abounds in judgmental and oppressive speech acts, the mid-career novels express the writer's hopes of using dialogue in support of democracy. In turn, the fall of the Berlin Wall inspired novels that feature critical conversations on memory culture amid German unification and the upheaval of the 1990s. Finally, the late autobiographies reveal a search for the private and political self in meditative, internalized monologues about a life lived in language.

Nicole A. Thesz is Associate Professor of German at Miami University, Ohio.

Table of Contents

<1>Die Blechtrommel: The Language of Judgment
<1>Katz und Maus: Empty Words and Dangerous Rhetoric
<1>Hundejahre: Between Revelation and Obfuscation
<1>Örtlich betäubt: Student Protest and Pedagogical Dialogue
<1>Aus dem Tagebuch einer Schnecke: Family Conversations and Political Speech
<1>Der Butt: The Struggle for Communicative Dominance
<1>Das Treffen in Telgte: Debates in a Literary Forum
<1>Die Rättin: Existence and Speech after Apocalypse
<1>Unkenrufe: East-West Exchanges and the Remembrance Business
<1>Ein weites Feld: Rhetorical Performance in the New Berlin
<1>Mein Jahrhundert: An Exercise in Oral History
<1>Im Krebsgang: Facing a Discourse of Hatred
<1>Beim Häuten der Zwiebel: Dialogues with Memory
<1>Die Box: Conversations around the Family Album
<1>Grimms Wörter: Deliberations on Language and Legacy
Epilogue: Taking Leave in <1>Vonne Endlichkait


Thesz's knowledge of Grass's oeuvre is impressive, and the book contributes a new perspective to scholarship by considering all the major works together. CHOICE [Hester Baer]

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