West German culture of the 1950s continues to be viewed as one of critical
amnesia, stifling homogeneity, and political conservatism, while the mid-
to late 1960s are seen as a time when decisive breaks occurred in how
post-war Germany dealt with the legacy of the Nazi past and in the degree
to which West Germany was willing to open itself up to international influences.
The seminar will attempt to revise this stereotypical picture by examining
the relative heterogeneity as well as the inner conflicts of West German
post-war culture, in particular in the late 1950s and early 1960s. By
reading landmark texts by Böll, Celan, Grass, Johnson, Sachs, Walser,
and Weiss, discussing visual materials and films by Staudte, Thiele, and
Wicki, exploring music by famous Schlager stars as much as avant-garde
composers such as Stockhausen, and engaging with theoretical and philosophical
texts by Adorno, Anders, Arendt, Habermas, and Heidegger, this seminar
seeks to complicate the popular view of the so-called "miracle years."
Special attention will be given to the way in which writers, philosophers,
and filmmakers, around 1959 tried to address the trauma and violence of
the Holocaust; to the reconfiguration of masculinity and gendered identity
in the post-war era; to mainstream anxieties about American popular culture
and the rise of consumption-centered attitudes; to the growth of a rebellious
youth culture and issues of generational conflict, and to the cultural
effects of new technologies of entertainment such as television. Most
readings in German. Class discussion in English.
Materials marked "ERES" in the course schedule are availabe from the Electronic Reserve System at Washington University. Login and password to be announced in class.
All other books available for purchase at the Washington University Bookstore: