Challenging history

Fanny Sarrazin

Stephan Ehrig (PhD 2013-) is focusing on the literary reception of early 19th-century author Heinrich von Kleist in the German Democratic Republic (GDR).

'Heinrich von Kleist (1777-1811) was a problematic author in the GDR (former East Germany). His work was instrumental in the Nazi era but later, Kleist became a role model for authors in the 1970s – authors who were trying to find a new position within the socialist cultural sphere. At the same time, on the stage, Kleist’s plays were used to criticise both West German 'imperialism' and GDR politics.

'My research looks at how the different ways Kleist was received permeated cultural production and policy in the GDR. I hope to write a 'small' cultural history, and challenge more monolithic approaches to the GDR’s cultural sphere.

'I felt I needed to do a PhD after I finished my Masters and found I still had so many unanswered questions. But, to do so, I had to find funding. I’m so happy to be in Bristol – it’s a great university, in an inspiring city, and I feel lucky to have been chosen to study here.

'The Department of German is excellent, not only in terms of its facilities, but also its incredible staff. My supervisors, Dr Debbie Pinfold and Dr Steffan Davies, provide me with lots of support, and have helped me forge connections with many other researchers in my field. I hope I’ll be able to stay in academia when I’ve finished my PhD.'

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