A Chronotopographical History of GDR-literature
Although there is a burgeoning interest in GDR-literature, more than twenty years after the Berlin Wall came down, current research on the subject faces two major problems: on the one hand, there is yet no clearly discernible body of texts; on the other hand, an appropriate theoretical framework is still missing. In attempting to reconsider the different waves of GDR-writing under the socialist regime and in its aftermath, the project withdraws from present socio-historical approaches and sets out to explore the subject from a chrono-topographical angle. The cue will thus be taken from two defining characteristics of GDR-literature: firstly, the fact that this writing developed within a strictly confined geo-political space; and secondly, the issue that it is rooted in the contested key-space of the socialist working world which, in turn, determines a changed social reality.
Based on these assumptions, however, the project chooses Mikhail Bakhtin’s notion of the ›chronotope‹ as its central analytical category in order to describe different forms of the ›temporalization of space‹ manifested in GDR-literature. As will be evident in the analyses that are to follow, its modes of engagement vary considerably. Therefore the project has a twofold aim: first, the specific chrono-topographical order constructed in the texts will be investigated with regard to both the mutual relationship between various chrono-topographical structures as well as on the ways they are related to political, philosophical and scientific discourses. A second main focus lies on the description of the historical transformation of the chronotopes, paying attention especially to how chronotopes presented in GDR-literature written before the Wall came down differ from those provided by texts pertaining to the so-called Post-GDR-literature.
According to the guiding thesis of this project, in GDR-literature three outstanding chronotopes can be identified: a ›Utopian Chronotope‹, an ›Idyllic Chronotope‹ and a ›Liminal Chronotope‹. Evidently, Post-GDR-literature generates its own major chronotopes: a ›Transformative Chronotope‹ and a ›Memorial Chronotope‹. Yielding typical experiences of time in the former GDR, the ›Utopian Chronotope‹, foregrounding an ideology of progress rooted in a linear time-model, the ›Idyllic Chronotope‹, dealing with socialist absorption by means of the charged sphere of the ›niche‹ and, last but not least, the ›Liminal Chronotope‹, showing a tendency to devaluate time in view of socio-economic stagnation, can be seen as aesthetic representations of a space-related knowledge of temporality. In this respect, these chronotopes are conceptualized as thresholds, hovering between social and artistic models of temporalities. After 1989, however, they are replaced by the here so-called ›Transformative‹ and/or ›Memorial Chronotopes‹. Emerging from narrative (re)enactments of the geo-space of the former GDR, they either appear in the guise of re-appropriations of the land or imaginary spaces of remembrance.
This ›ensemble of chronotopes‹ provides a strong notion by means of which usually divided literary movements, such as ›Aufbau-‹, ›Ankunfts-‹ and/or ›Wendeliteratur‹, can now be shown as interrelated phenomena. The collective of chronotopes reflects the co-presence of multiple themes and thus helps to view the synchronic set of different ›ästhetische Eigenzeiten‹. To sum up, the elaboration of a poetics of spatial polychronies allows for new perspectives and therefore promises to be highly valuable in terms of a chronotopographical re-writing of the history of GDR-literature.