The Writers' State

The Writers' State

Constructing East German Literature, 1945-1959

Stephen Brockmann


Camden House



Examines the literature produced from the very beginnings of what became the GDR through the 1950s, redressing a tendency of literary scholarship to focus on the later GDR.

Twenty-five years after the demise of the German Democratic Republic, there is perhaps more scholarship being produced on all aspects of that country than ever. This is true also in the field of literary studies, but especially in English-language literary scholarship there has been a strong imbalance toward a focus on the last three decades of GDR literature. The literature of the earlier GDR has mostly been dismissed or ignored by scholars, as the discontinuities between the early and late GDR have been emphasized over the considerable continuities. This book seeks to redress that state of affairs, examining the literature produced from the very beginnings of what became the GDR through the 1950s. In doing so it applies to GDR literature the insight gained by scholars over the past few decades that the immediate postwar period was more complex, more meaningful, and more rewarding of study than it was long deemed to be. Far from all being mere propaganda or rote socialist realism, the literature of the early GDR has much to tell us about the budding socialist state, even as it goes far in explaining the developments in the later GDR.


December 2015
380 pages
9x6 in
Studies in German Literature Linguistics and Culture
ISBN: 9781571139535
Format: Hardback
Library eBook
Camden House
BISAC LIT004170, HIS014000, HIS037030
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Table of Contents

Introduction: Reconstructing East German Literature
In the Zone, 1945
Brecht and the Battle of the Spirits, 1949
German Culture's Will to Power, 1949-50
Fascinating Fascists, 1949-50
Typical Heroes, 1951-53
The Danger of Optimism, 1953
The Worst of Times, 1956-58
Literature for Adults, 1956-59
Selected Bibliography


This book represents an important resource for scholars working on East German literature and its relation to historical and political events in the immediate post-war period. FORUM FOR MODERN LANGUAGE STUDIES

Brockmann's study lucidly demonstrates that East German literary culture in the 1940s and 50s was indeed full of public discussion about the direction of East German literature and that writers' voices were raised and heard. . . . Brockmann's contention that GDR literature was always offering a thorough treatment of the fallout of Nazism and the Holocaust is utterly compelling. . . . (Brockmann) presents a study that will be necessary reading for future research that looks to the East German literary culture of this period . . . . JOURNAL OF EUROPEAN STUDIES

From 1945 to the building of the Berlin Wall in 1961, intellectuals and others living in the Soviet Occupied Zone were there by choice. They willingly gave their talents, hoping to develop a humanistic socialist state. Brockmann writes about this seminal period of the development of East German socialism, and the resulting book is the best work in English to date on the role of intellectuals in the first decade and half of the GDR. -- CHOICE

The value of the study lies above all in its feat of synthesis. It concentrates on a period whose analysis has not yet been undertaken with this level of thoroughness . . . . The study can . . . be read as a mental history of the GDR. . . . A consistently exciting read. . . . ZEITSCHRIFT FÜR GERMANISTIK

Written in a style that can engage a wide audience . . . . this book is a must for anyone who wants to dig deeper into the complexity of early East German culture and to gain a better understanding of how intellectual and literary endeavor . . . became the vital cornerstone of a "writers' state." BRECHT YEARBOOK (Helen Fehervary)

Offers a much-needed look at the context in which authors in East(ern) Germany lived and worked-and at their "state" of mind-in the early post-war years. . . . Brockmann's impressive breadth of knowledge and clear writing style make this book an invaluable contribution for scholars and students alike. MONATSHEFTE (April Eisman)

Author Bio

Associate professor of German, Carnegie Mellon University.

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