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GE13: Memory and Identity in German-speaking Europe since 1945

This paper will be available in the academic year 23-24.

This paper encourages students to look in detail and holistically at what it means to be German, or a speaker of German, in Europe after 1945. Clearly it means different things to different people in different places at different times, and the picture has changed profoundly since the end of World War II. Issues from the past nonetheless remain, and in their focus on history, politics, literature, film, and thought, the modules for this paper examine both continuity and change.

The paper will begin with an introductory historical lecture that gives an overview of key moments and shifts have taken place in the German-speaking world from 1945 to the present day. Historical narrative itself, that is, the question of whose historical 'truth' may be told, is a thread running through this paper. This question is engaged with directly in relation to the historicising of specific events (the Herero and Namaqua genocide, the Holocaust) and different regimes (the Stasi and the legacy of communism); it is also explored through literature and poetry by asking, for example, how have poets responded to historical transformations, and what are the limitations of lyricism in exploring those parts of history that may be considered beyond representation? How can first-person autobiographical and autofictional texts allow 'other' subjects to be written into historical discourses?

The potential for different aesthetic forms (poetry, prose, and film) to reflect on the complex and shifting landscape of divided Germany and the Berlin Republic is another key concern of this paper. The capacity of the body to resist restrictive narratives of gender, 'race', sexuality, and nationhood is examined through literary texts; Berlin's role in enabling national spaces to be queered and decolonised is also explored through the medium of cinema.

Each module will be introduced through a combination of cultural and political context and theoretical perspectives. GE13 is conceived as a follow-on paper for the current GE6, though it will not be a requirement to have taken that second-year paper.


1. Post-45 German history through poetry

2. Unmasterable Pasts: Historical Controversies and the Politics of Memory

3. Writing the subject from Nazism to Neoliberalism

4. Aesthetic acts of resistance

5. Contemporary Jewish Writing in Germany and Austria

6. Performing Berlin in Film: between Possession and Dispossession

7. The Politics of Desire in German Cinema

8. '"Zukunftsbewältigung”: Futures and Futurity in Contemporary German Culture’

Six out of the eight modules listed will be available in each year, with three lectures provided for each module. In 2023-24, modules 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 and 8 will be active. Lectures for modules 6, 2, and 4 will take place in Michaelmas, and for modules 5, 8 and 3 in Lent.


Preparatory reading: 

Peter C. Caldwell and Karrin Hanshew, Germany since 1945. Politics, Culture, and Society (London, 2018).

Sarah Colvin (ed.), The Routledge Handbook of German Politics and Culture (London, 2015).

Eva Kolinsky, W. van der Will (eds). The Cambridge Companion to Modern German Culture (Cambridge, 1998).

Ruth Wittlinger, German National Identity in the Twenty-First Century. A Different Republic After All? (Houndmills, 2010).

Jeffrey J. Anderson and Eric Langenbacher (eds), From the Bonn to the Berlin Republic: Germany at the Twentieth Anniversary of Unification (Oxford, 2010).

H. Glaser, Kleine deutsche Kulturgeschichte von 1945 bis heute (Frankfurt a.M., 2007).

H.-P. Schwarz (ed.), Die Bundesrepublik Deutschland: Eine Bilanz nach 60 Jahren (Munich, 2008).

Hannes Leidinger and Verena Moritz, Die Republik Österreich 1918/2008 (Vienna, 2008).

Full reading list

Please see the reading list for GE13 here.

Teaching and learning: 

Each module will be introduced through a combination of cultural and political context and theoretical perspectives. Students are encouraged to attend all the lectures but would normally select four topics for study in supervisions (with up to ten hours across the year). All lectures are accompanied by extensive handouts.

Learning resources:

The Moodle site for Ge.13 can be found here. Students should email the paper coordinator for the enrollment password.



From 2024: Assessment is by a combination of coursework essay and end-of-year examination. Further details are on the Moodle pages for the course.

Course Contacts: 
Dr Leila Mukhida