REISE AN DEN “GEDÄCHTNISORT” POLEN IN ROMANEN ZEITGENÖSSISCHER DEUTSCHER AUTORINNEN
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This thesis explores the significance of the journey to Poland in contemporary German literature by women. The texts are Bronjas Erbe (2001) by Beate Rygiert, Himmelskörper (2003) by Tanja Dückers, Pawels Briefe (1999) by Monika Maron, Die Töchter (1976) by Jeannette Lander, and Kindheitsmuster (1976) by Christa Wolf. I argue that Poland, as the site of the Holocaust and of the expulsions, serves as a site of memory in these texts, and that the journey to Poland allows the Jewish and non-Jewish protagonists to come to terms with the past. During their journey, most of the protagonists find what they were looking for. Further, through direct contact with Poles and Polish culture, most of the protagonists are able to overcome prejudice and stereotypical thinking. Since both the authors and their protagonists belong to different generations, i.e., those who experienced WWII directly and their children and grandchildren, the ways in which family history is passed on from one generation to the next and how it is re-collected within the German Polish context is the major concern of these texts. The immediate contact with the Polish sites triggers a process of remembering in the first-generation protagonists who are then able to pass it on to their children to fill the gaps in the family’s collective memory. The members of the younger generations become actively involved in helping to restore this memory. While conflicts between the generations escalate in Poland, the process of working through these conflicts on Polish ground helps the family members to better understand each other. I read the texts through anthropologist Victor Turner’s three-phase model of separation, liminality, and reaggregation. Poland in the five texts can thus be interpreted as a liminal space or, to use Mary Louise Pratt’s term, a contact zone. Since the texts focus on the experience of the female protagonist and traveler, the role of women as keepers of family memory is also stressed. Because of their intense probing of ethnic stereotypes and the legacy of the past, the five texts can be seen as contributing significantly to fostering a better understanding between Germans and Poles and non-Jewish and Jewish Poles.