Date of Award

1-1-2010

Document Type

Campus Access Thesis

Department

Languages, Literatures and Cultures

Sub-Department

German

First Advisor

Agnes C. Mueller

Abstract

This thesis analyzes Günter Grass's Im Krebsgang (2002), and W. G. Sebald's Austerlitz (2001) with regard to trauma and memory. It will be argued that both texts call for a working through of Holocaust guilt, i.e. for the traumatic events of World War II, to be remembered, whereby Im Krebsgang makes aware of the problems resulting from private memories being transmitted or becoming public without contextualisation, whereas Sebald's text shows that private memories of Jewish victims are lacking in the public, but can help Germans to come to terms with their past. Using Dominick LaCapra's concept of trauma, the thesis's first chapter will discuss the nature of trauma dealt with in the the two texts. Im Krebsgang focuses on the trauma of German suffering that has not been worked through. Instead it has been transmitted from the war generation to the following two, for which the student generation of 1968 is being blamed. Their repression of German suffering, combined with their stress on German guilt, results in a dangerous battle for the interpretation of the German Nazi past in the generation of the grandchildren. Austerlitz deals with the Jewish character Austerlitz who is traumatized by the Holocaust and has forgotten all of his childhood memories, which come back, however, as the repressed. Both texts, and as the second chapter will show, can be placed within the context of a current German memory contest. In Im Krebsgang this contest is apparent in the opposition between private memory that stresses suffering, and public memory focusing on guilt. Trying to make private memory public, however, can have negative consequences, if it is not made clear that German suffering is the result of German perpetration. In Austerlitz the memory contest becomes apparent in the inability of public monuments and archives to remember and convey the impact of the Holocaust, which can only be done by private memories in the act of communication.

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