German Literature

Critical works

Heinz Ludwig ArnoldHeinz Ludwig Arnold (ed), Literatur und Migration (Munich: Text+Kritik, 2006)

A collection of essays by and about German authors, from Vladimir Kaminer to Feridun Zaimogilu, who have a Migrationshintergrund or who deal with postcolonial issues and/or questions of migration in their works. Deals with both contemporary and earlier German writing on migration, giving a good introduction to the sheer range of work available on the subject. Also has a useful bibliography.


Silvia Bovenschen, Die imaginierte Weiblichkeit (Frankfurt: Suhrkamp, 1979)

The full title of this book is Die imaginierte Weiblichkeit: Exemplarische Untersuchungen zu kulturgeschichtlichen und literarischen Präsentationsformen des Weiblichen: it’s an interrogation of the lack of well-known women writers in German literature, and of male writers’ presentations of women.


Jo CatlingJo Catling (ed), A History of Women’s Writing in Germany, Austria and Switzerland (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000)

A monumental reference work that moves from medieval times to the post-Wende period, and concerns itself with both women’s writing and the historical context within which this writing took place. It includes discussions of factors limiting women’s participation in literature, as well as the relationship between female writers, male writers and male patrons.


Brigid Haines and Margaret LittlerBrigid Haines and Margaret Littler, Contemporary Women’s Writing in German: Changing the Subject (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004)

This book surveys the work of Ingeborg Bachmann, Christa Wolf, Elfriede Jelinek, Anne Duden, Herta Müller and Emine Sevgi Özdamar in order to provide insights into issues of gender, nationality and race. Focusing on ‘textual representations of trauma’, it attempts to challenge traditional views on German national identity. It examines each of the writers through the lens of contemporary theories, thus forming a critique of the benefits and drawbacks of these theories as well as of the works in question.


Emily JeremiahEmily Jeremiah, Nomadic Ethics in Contemporary Women’s Writing in German: Strange Subjects (New York: Camden House, 2012)

This book engages with both postmodern literary theory and with women writers living outside the German-speaking countries to discuss issues as diverse as environmentalism, Jewishness and sexuality, with a particular focus on gender identity.


Ortrud Gutjahr and Stefan Hermes (eds), Maskeraden des (Post-)Kolonialismus: Verschattete Repräsentation ,der Anderen’ in der deutschsprachigen Literatur und im Film (Würzburg: Königshausen & Neumann, 2012)

A book of essays on representations of (post)colonialism in German literature, from the colonial period to the present day. The emphasis is on Africa and topics covered include Kafka’s Der Hungerkünstler, colonialism under the Weimar Republic and Third Reich, and the writing of Uwe Timm. Not directly related for the Oxford German course, but useful background reading for those interested in issues related to German colonialism.


Georgina PaulGeorgina Paul, Perspectives on Gender in Post-1945 German Literature (New York: Camden House, 2009)

An analysis of specific German authors from the 1970s to the 1990s (including Ingeborg Bachmann, Christa Wolf and Elfriede Jelinek), which studies both men’s and women’s writing and focuses on the role of literature and culture in enforcing gender binaries. The author is a fellow of St Hilda’s and teaches the finals paper option on Christa Wolf.


Robert TobinRobert Tobin, Warm Brothers: Queer Theory and the Age of Goethe (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2000)

This book looks at eighteenth-century German writers, particularly Goethe, through a queer theory lens, and assesses the impact that they had on later literature and theories of sexuality. Covers a wide range of different authors, including Thomas Mann, so could be of use for multiple finals papers.



Ingeborg BachmannIngeborg Bachmann, Malina (Frankfurt: Suhrkamp, 1971)

Set in late twentieth century Vienna, this novel explores the existential condition of the female narrator, who reflects on her situation as a woman and as a writer in her contemporary society in an emotional, subjective narrative style. The plot revolves around her relationship to two men: her partner Ivan, and his thoughtful housemate Malina. The story deconstructs her psychological and emotional state, and Bachmann herself saw it as an unconventional autobiography.


Maja HaderlapMaja Haderlap, Engel des Vergessens (Göttingen: Wallstein, 2011)

This autobiography explores the history of the author’s family and their neighbours, farmers living in a valley between Austria and Slovenia. The book describes this community’s resistance to the Third Reich, and how this history has been carried on to the next generations – a common theme in contemporary German literature. In 2011 Haderlap was awarded the Ingeborg-Bachmann prize for this work.


Judith HermannJudith Hermann, Alice (Frankfurt: Fischer, 2009)

This set of five linked short stories explores a series of bereavements experienced by the titular Alice, slowly uncovering her psychology while examining her relationships with various men throughout her life. The narrative focus, however, remains on the bereavements rather than on Alice’s character itself, and raises questions about memory, the portrayal of women in literature and the limits of writing to express a person’s inner life.


Terezia MoraTerezia Mora, Seltsame Materie (Reinbeck: Rowohlt, 1999)

Mora is a contemporary Hungarian-German author. Seltsame Materie is a collection of ten short stories about people living in Hungary, close to the Austrian border, in the 1990s. The stories bring issues of national identity and belonging to the fore while dealing with the everyday problems, feelings and lives of these people: children, farmers, drunks or murderers.


Herta MüllerHerta Müller, Atemschaukel (Munich: Hanser, 2009)

This novel recounts the fictional experience of seventeen-year-old Leopold Auberg in a labour camp in the Soviet Ukraine, bringing to public attention the historical persecution of German-Romanians under Stalin. Müller is a Romanian-German author who was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in the same year that she published this work.


Pyotr Magnus NedovPyotr Magnus Nedov, Zuckerleben (Cologne: Dumont, 2013)

The debut novel of Nedov, who was born in the Soviet Union in 1982 and has grown up in various cities of central and Eastern Europe. The story moves between the narrator’s journey to Italy in 2011, and his past in the Soviet Union, juxtaposing the current economic crisis in Europe with the fall of the Soviet Union.


Emine Sevgi ÖzdamarEmine Sevgi Özdamar, Das Leben ist eine Karawanserei (Cologne: Kiepenheuer & Witsch, 1991)

This novel describes the life of a young Turkish girl whose family is driven by poverty to move from Malatya to Istanbul, Bursa and Ankara. It is a dynamic book with a simple plot that has given German readers insight into the lives of people growing up in Turkey; a country Germany is deeply connected with due to its dense immigrant population.


Charlotte RocheCharlotte Roche, Feuchtgebiete (Cologne: Dumont, 2008)

A very popular and controversial work of contemporary German fiction; this novel deals with eighteen-year-old Helen Memel, who is very open about her body and her sexuality. Hence the content of this book is extremely graphic: she discusses her masturbation practices, as well as her relationship to menstrual blood and other bodily fluids. Through this work the author deals with both taboo topics such as female masturbation and unconventional sexual practices, and social issues surrounding the family.


Zafer SenocakZafer Senocak, Gefährliche Verwandtschaft (Munich: Babel, 1998)

This complex novel, by a leading contemporary German-Turkish intellectual, uses a protagonist of Turkish and German-Jewish origins to explore questions of identity. It describes the ambiguity and liminality of his situation – in which he perceives himself as German but the state and the people who surround him seek to label him as the ‘other’, a foreigner – and highlights the fact that such reductive treatment of people’s identities puts limits on multiculturalism.


Friedrich TorbergFriedrich Torberg, Die Tante Jolesch (Munich: dtv, 1975)

An unconventional, funny and poignant autobiography told through a series of anecdotes recording Jewish life during the interwar period. Torberg’s writing spans Vienna, Prague and the other cities of the former Austro-Hungarian empire, describing Jewish life across the social classes to give a portrait of an era and a people eradicated by the Third Reich.


Ilija TrojanowIlja Trojanow, Der Weltensammler (Munich: dtv, 2006)

This novel is based on the biography of Richard Francis Burton (1821-1890) and focuses his travels as an official for the East India Company, as one of the first Europeans to venture on the pilgrimage to Mecca, and on a journey to central Africa to find the source of the Nile. It focuses on the notion of transcultural identity, and in 2006 was awarded the Leipziger Buchmesse prize and was a finalist for the Deutscher Buchpreis.

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