Monika Maron und Jenny Erpenbeck: DDR im Zeichen der Moderne
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Literature by authors from the GDR has often been read with a focus on its sociopolitical context ‒ before and after the fall of the Wall. This rather one-dimensional approach has resulted in a lack of engagement with the more complex issues raised in many of those texts. Frequently, they address broader theoretical questions and delve into universal themes, which tend to be overlooked or sidelined. This PhD thesis concentrates on a selection of post-Wende texts by Monika Maron and Jenny Erpenbeck, two authors from the former East Germany. Starting from the premise that both authors' oeuvres serve on one level as critical investigations of the GDR and the significant aftermath of its collapse, I aim to demonstrate that these narratives have more to offer. My analysis brings to light the complexity of the examined works by addressing what it regards as their central themes: the exploration of questions around the topics of Heimat and memory. This research project draws attention to the texts' representation of underlying issues such as dislocation and fragmentation, and in doing so it examines how both authors depict concerns that go beyond the GDR and its demise. A key task is the analysis of the ways in which Monika Maron and Jenny Erpenbeck portray the symptoms of a wider ‘modern conditionʼ, a state characterized by instability and uncertainty. Based on the concept of ambivalence, introduced to the debates about modernity by Zygmunt Bauman in the early 1990s, this original comparative approach explores the failure and the ultimate collapse of the socialist utopia as a paradigm for the breakdown of the ‘grand narrativesʼ in modern, Western pluralist societies. Thus, this PhD thesis illuminates how both authors position themselves in relation to competing discourses about the GDR, and it simultaneously alerts the reader to the texts' inherent complexity by revealing their strong ties to topical issues regarding the much-debated term of modernity. Ultimately, I claim that Maron and Erpenbeck set out to investigate the impact of larger processes of fragmentation, and try to establish the possible role of and a ‘placeʼ for the individual that is exposed to historical forces and the rapid changes of spatio-temporal parameters within modernity, of which the GDR experience forms one part.