The Cultural Politics of the German Democratic RepublicThe Voices of Wolf Biermann, Christa Wolf, and Heiner Müller

by Ann Stamp Miller

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Book Information: 437 pages

Publisher: BrownWalker Press

ISBN-10: 1581124147

ISBN-13: 9781581124149

Year: 2004

The Cultural Politics of the German Democratic Republic: The Voices of Wolf Biermann, Christa Wolf, and Heiner Müller, deals with the intricate connection between the political structure of the East German government and cultural politics. Specifically, it focuses on the relationship between the government agencies and three authors. The study covers the period of dissent which began in the 1960s and ended with the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989. The evidence I use are the works of the authors and the government documents that reveal how the government bureaucracy dealt with the authors.

This text was written for not only scholars but a wider reading public to explain the predicament of writers governed by a socialist regime during the Cold War. It explores the difficulties the writers encountered in the 1960s with the government of East Germany and how their works did or did not conform to the cultural policy established by the GDR regime in 1951. The government believed that it was imperative for authors and artists to adhere to the literary policy of social realism prescribed by the East German Ministry of Culture. An author’s works were expected to conform to the political ideology of Marxism. The Ministry of Culture expected writers to depict the society through the glorification of Marxism. The East German cultural functionaries evaluated a piece of literature more for the author’s devotion to the political doctrine than the aesthetic quality of the work. If works did not conform, the government agencies such as the Ministry of Culture could apply pressure to the authors in many forms: censorship, silencing, fines, prosecution, surveillance and, for extreme cases, expatriation.

This study assesses three prominent writers of the former East Germany: Wolf Biermann, a lyricist; Christa Wolf, a novelist; and Heiner Müller, a dramatist. The analysis is based on the political content of the authors’ works and how the West German and East German critics evaluated them. Government documents from German State Archives revealed the sensitive nature of the political and writer conferences of the GDR. The study analyzes how the writers’ interpretation of socialism increasingly deviated from that of the East German regime. Over time, the writers chose to express themselves in a different manner and thus, encountered problems and conflicts with the Ministry of Culture. The various poems, novels, and dramas of these East German authors illustrated the degree of dissension which began in the 1960s and continued through 1989. The metaphors employed by the authors reflected the struggle that the East German intellectuals experienced with the regime and their commitment to reform the existing socialist system from within.

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About the Author:

Ann Stamp Miller has a Ph.D. in European History and a Master's Degree in European Literature and Languages. The author conducted extensive research in Berlin, Germany for the past few years in order to produce this text. She teaches History, German, and Women's Studies at TransPacific Hawaii College in Honolulu, Hawaii.

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