Call for Papers
Beyond Enemy Lines:
Literature and Film in the British and American zones of Occupied Germany, 1945-1949
Conference: 2-3 July 2015
Keynote speakers: Stephen Brockmann, Jennifer Fay
Confirmed speakers include: Richard Bessel, Giles MacDonogh, Helmut Peitsch, Martin Scheider, Werner Sollors
In 1945 Britain and the US sent occupation armies comprising thousands of soldiers to reconstruct the country they had just bombed. In both armies, there were writers and filmmakers sent in military uniform (some of them former Germans or Austrians) alongside professional civil servants and soldiers. In some cases, they were chosen because of their profession; it was clear to both governments that literature and film were going to be essential in converting the Germans to western democracy and in competing with the Soviet Union. In others, they were selected simply because they spoke German (often following visits in the 1920s and 30s when Germany was a favourite destination for young British liberals). These figures included the writers John Bayley, Peter de Mendelssohn, Goronwy Rees, Stephen Spender and Rex Warner and the filmmakers Alberto Cavalcanti and Humphrey Jennings from Britain, and the writers W.H. Auden, James Stern and Carl Zuckmayer and the filmmakers Erich Pommer and Billy Wilder from the US.
A research team at King’s College London is investigating the cross-fertilisation of Anglo/American and German literature and film during the Allied Occupation of Germany between the end of the war and the creation of the Federal Republic of Germany in 1949. This is the first study to survey in detail the cultural landscape of the British and American zones of Germany, exploring in particular the British and American writers and filmmakers who worked in Germany during the Occupation, either as part of the Allied Control Commissions or as independent (although rarely neutral) participants.
In July 2015 we will host an international conference bringing scholars together to offer new interpretations and hypotheses on these themes. Proposals for papers are invited addressing in particular the two related themes outlined below. We are especially keen that some of the papers should compare culture in the British and/or American zone with policy in the Russian and/or French zones. We welcome papers from scholars working in any discipline.
1) The belief in the transformative power of culture in Occupied Germany
By 1946 the Allies in all four zones of Germany engaged in using culture to advertise the superiority of the occupiers, to transform German society, and to maintain peace more generally. Film, literature and fine art were pressed into the service of denazifying the Germans and, in the case of the western Allies, converting them to democracy. At the same time, thousands of dollars were plunged into the new organisation, ‘UNESCO’, whose credo that ‘since wars begin in the minds of men, it is in the minds of men that the defences of peace must be constructed’ was widely accepted. On the other hand, Adorno's much misunderstood "Nach Auschwitz ein Gedicht zu schreiben ist barbarisch" seemed to capture the prevailing sense of hopelessness and suspicion as regards the capacities and uses of culture. In the context of the (re)-construction of Germany (1945-1949), papers addressing this topic might consider the following questions:
Can Culture transform?
Who exactly believed in the transforming power of culture and why? How exactly did they define the culture they believed in? Which writers, critics and artists held contrary views on the capacities of culture at this time, and why? What was the difference between the British, American and French notions and function of ‘culture’, the German ‘Kultur’ and the Russian ‘êóëüòóðà’ (kul’tura)? What were the effects of these differing definitions?
Culture and Allied ‘rehabilitation’:
How did the differing ideas of culture across the zones intersect with the competing notions of ‘(re) -education’, ‘Bildung’ and ‘Erziehung’? What was the relationship between popular and high culture, and which was seen as potentially more transformative? Was culture seen more as a weapon or as a drug? What were the effects of economic policies on the distribution and consumption of culture? Why were certain cultural artefacts selected to democratise and why were others rejected? To what extent was culture integral to the beginning of a postwar European consciousness? What was the intention and effects of the various cultural congresses that took place in Germany under the auspices of the various Occupation authorities and of other organisations?
The reception or rejection of the cultural products imposed on Germany:
Which cultural products were successfully transferred and assimilated and which were not? What factors determined their success or failure? What were the reactions of the Germans to the cultures which were to democratize them? Where and how are these reactions registered? How might we conceptualise the attempted imposition of culture in Germany by institutions and the Allied authorities in this instance? Can it be considered typical of the activities of occupying forces, or rather more redolent of the colonial activities that some of the Allies engaged in elsewhere?
2) Peddling fictions in Occupied Germany
Whether or not we accept the notion of the Stunde Null (zero hour), to some extent the end of the war created a tabula rasa in Germany in which identities could be shed, images could be created and new stories could be told. All four Occupation authorities were invested in peddling fictions both of their own countries and of Germany, as it was and could be. At the same time, Europeans were offered competing visions of an imagined postwar Europe. And in the middle of all this, the ruins of Germany became the source for new genres of fiction and imaginative journalism. Papers addressing this topic might use the occupation period (1945-1949) as a point from which to look back as well as forward.
Fictions about the past:
What cultural traditions did the occupying powers draw on and wish to project in their zones? What conceptions of Germany’s past, its culture, its national identity informed these approaches? Which fictions about the past were carried over into the occupation period, and what new fictions arose from this era? What fictions about the immediate postwar period are still peddled today?
Contemporary fictions: Did Germany and the Germans become a fiction politically at this time? What were the fictions peddled relating to the idea of ‘Occupation’ itself and how did this relate to ‘liberation’ and, more uneasily, to ‘annexation’? What did people tell themselves they were doing as they engaged in occupying a country? To what extent did Germany become a testing ground for competing social and political orders? What was the role of the postwar religious revival in creating and peddling fictions about Germany and how did these relate to the fictions of the occupiers? To what extent was Germany a place to try out new personalities and new artistic styles? What kind of imaginative responses did postwar Germany induce in the British and American writers and filmmakers who visited it either as cultural ambassadors or as journalists?
Fictions about the future:
What did the occupying powers imagine the future status of Germany to be? To what extent did these projections coincide or contradict German conceptions of the future? What founding myths from the occupation period were crucial to the emergence of the Federal Republic in the West and the German Democratic Republic in the East? To what extent did the European Union emerge out of these fictions? Was the idea of Europe itself a fiction (and how did the new ideal of a ‘good’ Europe’ relate to the ‘bad’ Europe that Hitler wished to will into being)?
Media involved in peddling fictions:
To what extent did the press participate in peddling or subverting particular fictions? How did newspapers produce public opinion (and where does the private reside in this)? To what extent do the narratives of the war in literature and the visual arts in this period demonstrate a tendency to peddle fictions? How has the interpretation and reinterpretation of images contributed to particular fictions?
Finally, papers may also provide more theoretical engagement with the topic: How might we theorise occupation? What theoretical frameworks might we draw on (particularly in relation to cultural policy)? To what extent can occupation itself be construed as a fiction?
Proposals (title and 100 word abstract) are invited by 29 March 2015. Please send these to [log in to unmask] and [log in to unmask]
The conference is being organised by Lara Feigel, Elaine Morley and Emily Oliver.
The German Studies Call for Papers List
Editor: Stefani Engelstein
Assistant Editor: Olaf Schmidt
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