Narrating nations : individual memory and collective identity in the early prose of Günter Grass and Thomas Bernhard / by Timothy Bruce Malchow.
The German author Günter Grass (1927–) and the Austrian author Thomas Bernhard (1931–1989) were once considered controversial provocateurs but are now canonical figures whose oeuvres are evoked in representing postwar national identity in their respective societies. This dissertation explores each author's use of the institution of literature to contest dominant narratives of national identity and discourse on the recent past. It focuses especially on Grass's Die Blechtrommel (1959) and Bernhard's Frost (1963), investigating both the representation of individuals' memories and the social relevance of the novels' canonical intertexts. The introduction explores the authors' early lives and the applicability of theoretical approaches to national identity (especially Benedict Anderson and Prasenjit Duara) to reading literature in a sociohistorical context. Chapter One focuses on Die Blechtrommel and contains three sections. The first section addresses the novel's allusions to the Bildungsroman, tracing the reception history of this genre in relation to narratives of German national identity. The following section treats the protagonist's represented memories of the Nazi era, emphasizing their difference from historical discourse. The final section relates historiography on the Adenauer era to the novel and considers the narrative's moments of self-reflexivity about its social implications as an artwork. Chapter Two, on Bernhard's Frost, also has three sections. The first discusses the social and national import of intertextual allusions to Adalbert Stifter's Der Nachsommer, which had been canonized as an Austrian Bildungsroman. The next section explores the representation of the protagonist's inchoate memories. The final section locates the novel's social relevance in its representation of the compartmentalization of human identity and the alienation of memory from rationality and activity. The conclusion discusses the authors as nationally representative figures. Grass's status in Germany may be attributed to his self-appointment as the representative of a German cultural nation opposed to the ostensibly inauthentic West and East German nation-states. Bernhard, by contrast, never affirmatively posited an alternative point of identification beyond the Austrian nation-state. His treatment of institutions with a symbolic function in predominant narratives of national identity has made him susceptible to posthumous canonization as a nationally representative Austrian author.
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