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This panel discussion will consider how Susanne Baackmann’s new book, Writing the Child, establishes a dialogue between selected literary memory texts, autobiographical recalls of the Nazi past, and the politics of Germany’s cultural memory. 

The turn of the millennium represents an inflection point in Germany’s cultural memory. Rather than receding, the Nazi past seems ever more present – a paradoxical telescoping of time and space which at the turn of the millennium led historians and cultural critics to observe: ‘Never was there so much childhood of war!’ Hitler’s complicated legacy remains palpable in increasingly fictional spaces, reframed by personal stories told by the German Kriegskinder [children of war]. Writing the Child examines the use of imaginary child witnesses in postwar German literature. Selected works by Dieter Forte, Günter Grass, Gisela Elsner, Hans-Ulrich Treichel and Rachel Seifert chart the evolution of German cultural memory concerning wartime trauma and victimhood. The book shows how the memory icon of the child can both make legible and contest abiding postwar victimologies – from earlier deflections of guilt and rejections of normalization in the work of the war and Kriegskind generation to more recent examinations of the implicated subject in postmemory work of subsequent generations.

Susanne Baackmann grew up in the Ruhr Valley of West Germany and came to the USA in 1986 to complete her Ph.D. studies at the University of California, Berkeley. She joined the German program at the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque in 1993 and has published widely on questions of gender and the legacy of trauma in contemporary literature, film and art. Her first book Erklär mir Liebe. Weibliche Schreibweisen von Liebe in der Gegenwartsliteratur focused on performance of gender in narratives of love written by German women authors. She co-edited the conference proceeding of Conquering Women. Women, War and the German Cultural Imagination about choreographies of war and conflict. She has published on the literary work of Gisela Elsner, Anne Duden, Rachel Seiffert, Hans-Ulrich Treichel, Ingeborg Bachmann and Grete Weil, films by Cate Shortland and Marianne Rosenbaum, as well as photographic and sculptural work by Hans Bellmer and Thomas Demand. Her latest book Writing the Child. Fictions of Memory in Postwar German Literature explores the enduring legacy of a perpetrator history as seen through the lens of a child protagonist in postwar German literature. 

This event is the second in a new discussion series at the CCM on its book series, Cultural Memories, published by Peter Lang, Oxford.

All are welcome to attend this free online event, starting at 5pm BST via zoom (10am Mountain, 12 noon Eastern). Please register in advance by clicking Book Now at the top of this page. The zoom link will be sent out to you in a confirmation email - please check your spam and clutter inboxes as the email is automatically generated.