Writing the Revolution

Writing the Revolution

The Construction of "1968" in Germany

Ingo Cornils


Camden House



An extensive look at historical, literary, and media representations of '68 in Germany, challenging the way it has been instrumentalized.

In Germany, the concept of "1968" is enduring and synonymous with the German Student Movement, and is viewed, variously, as a fundamental liberalization, a myth, a second foundation, or an irritation. The movement's aims - radical re-imagination of the political and economic order and social hierarchy - have been understood as requiring a "long march." While the movement has been judged at best a "successful failure," cultural elites continue to engage in the construction of 1968. Ingo Cornils's book argues that writing about 1968 in Germany is no longer about the historical events or the specific objectives of a bygone counterculture, but is instead a moral touchstone, a marker of social group identity meant to keep alive (or at bay) a utopian agenda that continues to fire the imagination. The book demonstrates that the representation of 1968 as a "foundational myth" suits the needs of a number of surprisingly heterogeneous groups, and that even attempts to deconstruct the myth strengthen it. Cornils brings together for the first time the historical, literary, and media representations of the movement, showing the motivation behind and effect of almost five decades of writing about 1968. In so doing, Cornils challenges the way 1968 has been instrumentalized: as a powerful imaginary that has colonized every aspect of life in Germany, and as symbolic capital in cultural and political debates.

Ingo Cornils is Senior Lecturer in German at the University of Leeds.


1 black and white illustrations
328 pages
9x6 in
Hardback, 9781571139542, September 2016
Library eBook
BISAC LIT004170, HIS014000, HIS037070
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Table of Contents

Heroes and Martyrs
Chroniclers and Interpreters
Critics and Renegades
Talespinners and Poets
Women of the Revolution
"1968" and the Media
"1968" and the Arts
Not Dark Yet: The 68ers at 70
Romantic Relapse or Modern Myth?


The author has mastered the extensive literature and produced an engaging account of one of West Germany's most critical postwar periods . Highly recommended. CHOICE

Author Bio

Ingo Cornils is currently a Senior Lecturer in the Department of German at Leeds University.

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