Ghosts have made an unexpected reappearance in post-unification German literature. Catherine Smale reads this as symptomatic of writers’ attempts to renegotiate their personal and collective identity following the loss of the former East German state. Focusing on the recent work of Christa Wolf and Irina Liebmann, Smale outlines the ways in which these writers adopt notions of haunting in their engagement with the double legacy of National Socialism and the GDR.
The ghost has long been regarded as a vehicle for making manifest taboo or unauthorized memories. However, Smale goes further, demonstrating how the human subject is destabilized by the return of the phantom and is itself rendered insecure and spectral. Drawing on a wide range of theoretical references, from psychoanalytic notions of intergenerational phantoms to Derridean hauntology, Smale’s close reading of these texts highlights the particular challenge they pose to the familiar understanding of hoe German writers have confronted their country's troublesome past.
Catherine Smale is Lecturer in German at King’s College London.
Bithell Series of Dissertations, 41/MHRA Texts and Dissertations, 97
ISBN 978-1-78188-026-5; 192 pp.; 18 September 2013