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Doctoral Student Supervision (Jan 2008 - May 2019)
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The thesis at hand investigates horse-riding in two novellas of the German Jahrhundertwende era: Hugo von Hofmannsthal’s Reitergeschichte (1899) and Theodor Storm’s Der Schimmelreiter (1888). Cultural and Literary Animals Studies (CLAS), a newly evolving, interdisciplinary area of research, constitutes the framework for the analysis which focuses on equitation as a human-animal relationship with cultural and literary entanglements. Two theories from the larger context of posthumanism and concerned with humanimal practices are used to untangle the multitude of agents involved in riding: the Companion Species (CS) approach as introduced by Donna Haraway and the Cultural Techniques (CT) approach as introduced by German Media Studies scholars. The CS concepts allow an analysis of the human-equine figures and contact zones in the texts, while the CT notions enable an examination of the recursive chains of operations in horse-riding as a body technique. I have combined the approaches to engage with the material and semiotic complexities of equitation. Entangling them generates new methodological tools: world-making, emerging thirds, natureculturalization and earthiness. The literary texts are accompanied by research in Equitation Science and horsemanship manuals to enable even deeper practical insights. The interpretations of Reitergeschichte and Der Schimmelreiter untangle the concatenated links, loops, and liminal zones between the rhythmic movements of rider, horse and earthy ground. Therefore, the earthiness of riding stands out and in a larger conceptual and cultural context, it indicates the seismic shifts of the Jahrhundertwende’s trembling transitions in art, science and society, and humanity’s grounding troubles. The thesis thereby expands the CLAS framework into the fields of Ecocriticism and Environmental Humanities.
This dissertation examines a variety of Alternate Histories of the Third Reich from the perspective of memory theory. The term ‘Alternate History’ describes a genre of literature that presents fictional accounts of historical developments which deviate from the known course of history. These allohistorical narratives are inherently presentist, meaning that their central question of “What If?” can harness the repertoire of collective memory in order to act as both a reflection of and a commentary on contemporary social and political conditions. Moreover, Alternate Histories can act as a form of counter-memory insofar as the counterfactual mode can be used to highlight marginalized historical events. This study investigates a specific manifestation of this process. Contrasted with American and British examples, the primary focus is the analysis of the discursive functions of German-language counterfactual literature in the context of German normalization. The category of normalization connects a variety of commemorative trends in postwar Germany aimed at overcoming the legacy of National Socialism and re-formulating a positive German national identity. The central hypothesis is that Alternate Histories can perform a unique task in this particular discursive setting. In the context of German normalization, counterfactual stories of the history of the Third Reich are capable of functioning as alternate memories, meaning that they effectively replace the memory of real events with fantasies that are better suited to serve as exculpatory narratives for the German collective. To develop the theoretical framework for this new category, the dissertation delineates and contrasts pertinent theories of both collective memory and counter-memory and harnesses the scholarly findings of these fields to expand existing critical understandings of the genre of Alternate History. The combination of this sociological approach with the methodology of literary studies is applied in a close reading to an exemplary selection of Alternate Histories, grouped into three themes which correspond closely to prominent narratives of German collective memory: The universalization of National Socialism, the motif of the ‘good German,’ and the myth of German victimization. This approach demonstrates in detail the narrative strategies that constitute alternate memory in the context of German normalization.
This study analyzes four autobiographical accounts written after the fall of the Berlin Wall by former data subjects, i.e., by individuals who have been under the surveillance of the East German Stasi (Staatssicherheit). Following a suggestion by Cornelia Vismann, I refer to these texts as “file-based autobiographies.” The term reflects the fact that they were written in response to the opening of the Stasi archives and the passing of the Stasi Files Act, which allowed data subjects to access their files. By constructing narratives using files written and compiled by informers and secret police officials rather than relying on their own, personal memories, these data subjects challenge the traditional aesthetics of autobiographies and subvert the usual expectations of autobiographical reading. “File-based autobiographies" constitute nothing less than a new autobiographical sub-genre. Rather than offering a personal story that begins in early childhood and ends later in life, data subjects engage in a revision of their lives using files written by a hostile third party. The four case studies show how people under surveillance may need to draw on such documents, even if they are inaccurate, in order to support their claims of authenticity and thus fulfill the autobiographical pact. In this way, these autobiographers acquire and re-functionalize the hostile documents, thus challenging the original purposes for which the files were kept. They show that using their files not only results in unexpected memory processes, but is also a political and literary process that supports their personal agendas and targets particular audiences. Access to and subsequent use of their files gives them the authority to discuss their reaction to the opening of the Stasi files as well as the records themselves.