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College of Arts & Sciences
Jewish Studies Program

Agnes Mueller Lecture

Wednesday, November 17, 2010 -
3:00pm to 5:00pm

"Jews, Gender, and America in Contemporary German Literature"

Agnes C. Mueller
Associate Professor of German & Comparative Literature

This lecture addresses contemporary German literary representations of, references to, and reflections on the transgenerational memory and trauma of the Holocaust. Five texts written between 1999 and 2006 illustrate how Germans have dealt with their past. Presumably, these works in part seek to answer questions of ethics and aesthetics of representation, popularization, and Americanization of the Holocaust. Yet at the same time, the texts also appear to consider themselves no longer indebted to such issues of morality, and, accordingly, operate beyond previously perceived “taboos” of performative articulation. This raises important and unsettling questions. For example: is the antisemitism that is clearly emergent in some of today’s German literature (and society) no longer considered “taboo”? Why or why not? Why do instances of “gendered” antisemitic racism in contemporary German texts seem to intersect repeatedly with utterances of “gendered” anti-Americanism?

Fictional texts by writers of the so-called second generation (born around 1940, i.e. Bernhard Schlink and Peter Schneider) as well as works by younger writers (Thomas Hettche, b. 1964, and Katharina Hacker, b. 1967) articulate stereotypical, antisemitic, anti-American, and sexist rhetoric. Are such textual representations of stereotyping a reference to similar issues found in everyday life? Do works by these writers, then, have the effect of enabling readers to work through those very issues with the ultimate goal of eliminating them, or does such fiction rather function to confirm the troubling stereotyping even further?


Location: Close/Hipp (Business Building) Room 402