Love and Legitimacy in the East German Cultural Imagination
Publication Year: 2010
At first glance, romance seems an improbable angle from which to write a cultural history of the German Democratic Republic. By most accounts the GDR was among the most dour and disciplined of socialist states, so devoted to the rigors of Stalinist aesthetics that the notion of an East German romantic comedy was more likely to generate punch lines than lines at the box office.
But in fact, as John Urang shows in Legal Tender, love was freighted as a privileged site for the negotiation and reorganization of a surprising array of issues in East German public culture between 1949 and 1989. Through close readings of a diverse selection of films and novels from the former GDR, Urang offers an eye-opening account of the ideological stakes of love stories in East German culture. Throughout its forty-year existence the East German state was plagued with an ongoing problem of legitimacy. The love story's unique and unpredictable mix of stabilizing and subversive effects gave it a peculiar status in the cultural sphere.
Urang shows how love stories could mediate the problem of social stratification, providing a language with which to discuss the experience of class antagonism without undermining the Party's legitimacy. But for the Party there was danger in borrowing legitimacy from the romantic plot: the love story's destabilizing influences of desire and drive could just as easily disrupt as reconcile. A unique contribution to German studies, Legal Tender offers remarkable insights into the uses and capacities of romance in modern Western culture.
Published by: Cornell University Press
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Title Page, Copyright, Dedication
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Research for this book was made possible by the generous fi nancial support of the Deutscher Akademischer Austauschdienst (DAAD), the Franke Institute for Parts of chapter 1 appeared as “Realism and Romance in the East German Cinema, 1952–1962” in Film History 18.1 (2006). I have presented portions of other chapters at the University of California, Berkeley; the University of Oregon, Eu-...
Introduction: Eros and Exchange
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At the end of Leander Haußmann’s 1999 fi lm, Sonnenallee, a light romantic comedy set in East Germany in the 1970s, the camera pulls back through the open border to the West, and the color fades to black and white. On the sound track, Nina Hagen sings: “Du hast den Farbfi lm vergessen, mein Michael” (You forgot the color fi lm, my Michael). In suddenly—and polemically—remembering to ...
1. Wares of Love: Socialist Romance and the Commodity
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...—Willi, factory-militia captain, stopping East German call girls Klein’s 1966 fi lm, Geschichten jener Nacht (Stories from That Night)The problem is summed up by a pair of juxtaposed photographs in the May 1954 issue of the East German entertainment magazine Das Magazin. The fi rst looks outward from a bookshop at a young couple window-shopping arm in arm ...
2. Love, Labor, Loss: Modes of Romance in the East German Novel of Arrival
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Und wenn kein Unterschied ist zwischen der Liebe zueinander und der Liebe zu And what if there’s no difference between love for one another and love for an As we saw in chapter 1, the GDR of the 1950s came to look rather like a consumer culture. This had practical consequences, but also, and perhaps more importantly, philosophical and ideological ones. After all, consumer culture is es-...
3. Corrective Affinities: Love, Class, and the Propagation of Socialism
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...—Kurt Bartsch, from the poem “Sozialistischer Biedermeier” In Pursuits of Happiness, Stanley Cavell explores a genre of American fi lm he calls the “comedy of remarriage.” In the fi lms that comprise this genre, all of which were made between 1934 and 1949, “the drive of [the] plot is not to get the central pair together, but to get them back together, together again” (1–2). Cavell identifi es ...
4. W(h)ither Eros? Gender Trouble in the GDR, 1975–1989
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...—One of the mottos adopted by the “Nonsense Council” (Unsinnskollegium) of witches and fools in Irmtraud Morgner’s Amanda: Ein HexenromanIn 1993, Nancy Lukens and Dorothy Rosenberg published an anthology of translations called Daughters of Eve: Women’s Writing from the German Democratic Republic. In their preface, they explain that the title of the anthology is borrowed ...
5. Eye Contact: Surveillance, Perversion, and the Last Days of the GDR
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...—Ich kann nicht glauben, sagte sie, daß es bei der Stasi liebenswerte Männer gab.—I can’t believe, she said, that there were likable men in the Stasi.—From a conversation between Marianne, the protagonist of Brigitte Burmeister’s 1994 novel, Unter dem Namen Norma (Under the Name Norma), and Corinna Kling, a friend of Marianne’s boyfriend from Mannheim (in the former FRG)...
Coda: A Chameleon Wedding
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If the most satisfying ending to a love story is a wedding, then it might be meta-phorically apt to end this historical account on November 9, 1989, with the images seen around the world of people dancing in the streets and atop the Wall. At the conclusion of the German-German love story, this could be a restorative celebra-tion like those that end the comedies of Plautus and Shakespeare. Of such fi nales, ...
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Page Count: 224
Publication Year: 2010
Series Title: Signale : modern German letters, cultures, and thought