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Dr Debbie Pinfold

I studied German and French at St Hugh's College, Oxford and went on to do the research for my D.Phil there. My thesis focused on the child's narrative perspective and the way it has been used to present the events of the Third Reich; a revised version of this thesis subsequently appeared under the title The Child's View of the Third Reich in German Literature: The Eye Among the Blind (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 2001). Following my time at St Hugh's I spent two years in Hamburg where I worked on the radio plays and novels of Gert Hofmann (1931 - 1993). Since then my research interests have continued to focus on representations of childhood in the political sphere: I collaborated with Dr Ruth Whittle (Birmingham) on a book about women's writings about the German revolutions of 1848/9, Voices of Rebellion: Political Writing by Malwida von Meysenbug, Fanny Lewald, Johanna Kinkel and Louise Aston (Bern: Lang, 2005), in which my contribution focused on the way the women represented their childhoods, and the political implications of these representations. I am currently working on the political and literary discourse of childhood in the former German Democratic Republic.

Between 2009 and 2011 I was Co-Investigator (with Dr Anna Saunders, University of Bangor) on an AHRC-funded interdisciplinary network 'After the Wall: Reconstructing and Representing the GDR' which was set up to consider the ways in which memories of the GDR continue to be represented in and impact on present day Germany. The network hosted three two-day workshops, each focusing on a central topic (memory and forms of representation; evoking the GDR Alltag; recalling the GDR dictatorship), and a three-day international conference entitled ‘Remembering and Re-thinking the GDR: Multiple Perspectives and Plural Authenticities?’ (September 2010). A volume of selected papers from the conference is due to appear in 2013; in the meantime, more information on the network’s activities can be found on the ‘After the Wall’ website.

I am currently expanding my interests beyond the former GDR into the former Eastern Bloc as a whole. In September 2011 I co-organised (with Dr Sara Jones, now University of Birmingham) a conference entitled 'Remembering Dictatorship: Socialist Pasts in Post-Socialist Presents', which also served as a launchpad for a new memory project 'East meets West: Post-Socialist Communities in a British Context'. I would be interested in hearing from anyone living in Bristol or the surrounding area who has memories of living under state socialism: please contact socialismeyewitnesses@gmail.com for further information.

I would welcome proposals for postgraduate work in literary Vergangeheitsbewältigung; GDR literature; the way the GDR is remembered in united Germany and beyond; and literary constructions of childhood.

Research keywords

  • Cultural memory of the former GDR
  • Representations of childhood
  • GDR literature
  • Coming to terms with the Third Reich past
  • Women's writing
  • Twentieth-century and contemporary narrative writing