Between Heimat and Fremde: New Configurations of Happiness in Contemporary German Literature and Film
Hügler, Rebecca Octavia
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This thesis investigates representations of happiness in recent German literature and film. The interpretations focus on how happiness is negotiated in the context of home and travel, of Heimat and Fremde, in order to understand happiness, not only insofar as it contributes to “the good life”, but also as an element that shapes public discourses. My readings of works of fiction take into account how notions of happiness have shifted since the turn of the millennium. One reason for this shift is the heightened interest in happiness research, one of the most thriving interdisciplinary research fields of the last decade, which includes disciplines such as psychology, neurosciences, political science, sociology and economics. The following texts and films are examined in this context: Sommerhaus, später (1998) and Nichts als Gespenster (2003) by Judith Hermann, Transfer Lounge (2003) by Gregor Hens, Die Habenichtse (2006) by Katharina Hacker, Head-On (German: Gegen die Wand, 2004) by Fatih Akın, When We Leave (German: Die Fremde, 2010) by Feo Aladağ, Der Blick hinab (2007) by Shirin Kumm, Unveiled (German: Fremde Haut, 2005) by Angelina Maccarone, Cherry Blossoms (German: Kirschblüten – Hanami, 2008) by Doris Dörrie and Zehn (2010) by Franka Potente. My theoretical framework is informed in part by Sara Ahmed’s 2010 influential study, The Promise of Happiness, which takes a critical view toward recent happiness research from a cultural studies perspective. My analysis is directed at the ways in which concepts of happiness are narrated, negotiated and challenged within the context of transnational stories, which are inscribed with the effects of “supermodernity” (Augé) in a globalized world. I show how these works subvert themes and motifs that are associated with happiness, such as home and Heimat and travel or migration into the West. Finally, my readings show how these works mediate and reflect public dialogues and traditional notions about what makes us happy or unhappy, and I demonstrate how new configurations of happiness arise from these narratives.