Memories of the GDR: multiple temporalities and embodied spectatorship in filmic narratives of East Germany
AuthorCleverley, James Edward
AffiliationSchool of Languages and Linguistics
Document TypePhD thesis
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© 2019 James Edward Cleverley
This thesis investigates cultural memories of East Germany through case studies of post-unification German films, analysing the extent to which they challenge or support dominant narratives. The past and the present are found to be co-dependent in the productive memory work of these films, their use of multiple temporalities being central to this project. Applying methodologies from memory studies together with an embodied, phenomenological film theory, this study interrogates the affective and sensorial qualities in the spectator's film experience. I argue that the ostensibly very different works in this corpus of films share similarities in the way they play self-consciously with time as they undertake complex memory work, and that they thus present accounts of the former German Democratic Republic (GDR) and re-unification which complicate and challenge dominant narratives about the East German past and present-day German unity. Theories of embodied spectatorship support the contention that these films offer sensorially affective and affecting sites of memory and that the spectator, as an embodied, material subject, is central to that memory work. These films suggest that there is an ongoing desire, or need, to evaluate the place of the East German past within national constructions and narratives, both with their thematic presence among other German-language films, and their deliberate and reflexive attitudes towards time and temporality. I argue that films which tell nuanced stories of the GDR, of eastern Germany, and of the temporal linkages between these, will be better able to speak to the profound, complex truths embedded in history and memory.
KeywordsGerman; film; memory; embodied; GDR; cultural memory; body; identity; phenomenology
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