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Unit information: After The Wall: Remembering the GDR in 2015/16

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Unit name After The Wall: Remembering the GDR
Unit code GERM32060
Credit points 20
Level of study H/6
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 2 (weeks 13 - 24)
Unit director Dr. Debbie Pinfold
Open unit status Open




School/department Department of German
Faculty Faculty of Arts

Description including Unit Aims

Ever since the fall of the Berlin Wall and the unification of Germany, writers, artists, film makers and the general public have continued to reflect on the GDR and the role that individual and collective memories of this past play in present day German national identity. Responses to the GDR range from museums, memorials and literary texts documenting political oppression to consumer-orientated Ostalgie (= nostalgia for the East). This unit draws on both autobiographical and literary texts from three different generations of authors who lived in the GDR and on recent films in order to explore a range of responses to the GDR past and investigate how and why such memories are constructed. The unit will be taught through a mixture of informal lectures and seminar discussions and students will be encouraged to develop their capacity for critical analysis through close reading and debate.


  • To introduce students to a significant body of knowledge of a complexity appropriate to final year level. The content matter will normally include one or more of the following: literature; social, cultural or political history; linguistics; cultural studies; film, television or other media.
  • To facilitate students' engagement with a body of literature, including secondary literature, texts, including in non-print media, primary sources and ideas as a basis for their own analysis and development. Normally many or most of these sources will be in a language other than English and will enhance the development of their linguistic skills.
  • To develop further skills of synthesis, analysis and independent research, building on the skills acquired in units at level I.
  • To equip students with the skills to undertake postgraduate study in a relevant field.

The unit is open subject to sufficient knowledge of German.

Intended Learning Outcomes

Students will:

  • Have a an overview of the memory landscape of the former GDR and an understanding of the debates around it
  • Be able to engage critically with specialist literature on the subject
  • Be familiar with a range of memory studies approaches
  • Develop their capacity for independent research, critical analysis and discussion
  • Develop their ability to present their ideas in a structured form, both orally and in writing

Teaching Information

The unit will be taught mainly through seminar discussions for which students will prepare with the aid of regular worksheets. Students will also be expected to deliver short oral presentations based on their own reading and research.

An optional fieldwork trip to Berlin during the Easter vacation will be suggested to the students as a possible enrichment activity.

Assessment Information

3,000 word essay 50%

3,000 word essay 50%

Reading and References

  • Aleida Assmann, ‘Four Formats of Memory: From Individual to Collective Constructions of the Past’ in Cultural Memory and Historical Consciousness in the German-speaking World since 1500, ed. by Christian Emden and David Midgley (Bern, 2004)
  • David Clarke and Ute Wölfel (eds), Remembering the German Democratic Republic: Divided Memory in a United Germany (Basingstoke, 2011)
  • Paul Cook, Representing East Germany Since Unification: From Colonization to Nostalgia (Oxford; New York, 2005)
  • Astrid Erll and Ansgar Nünning, A Companion to Cultural Memory Studies (Berlin; New York; 2010)
  • Nick Hodgin and Caroline Pearce (eds), The GDR Remembered: Representations of the East German State since 1989 (Rochester NY, 2011)
  • Anna Saunders and Debbie Pinfold (eds), Remembering and Rethinking the GDR: Multiple Perspectives and Plural Authenticities (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2013)