115th Annual Conference - Honolulu, Hawaii
Friday, November 10 - Sunday, November 12, 2017

Herta Müller's Atemschaukel and the Reshaping of German Cultural Memory

Karin Bauer, McGill University

Shifting the focus of critical investigation away from narratives of trauma, autobiographical and biographical detail, and personal experience—all of which are undoubtedly central to Herta Müller’s text— to questions of memory, this paper seeks to explore how Müller’s novel Atemschaukel participates in reshaping German cultural memory.


How may Herta Müller’s writings participate in reshaping German cultural memory? Challenging notions of Germanness, victimhood, and postwar national identity, Müller’s texts constitute a unique contribution to German literature and to German cultural memory. In response to Atemschaukel, scholarship has more recently begun to examine Müller’s texts in relation to memory and testimony within the context of Romanian and Romanian-German remembrance of historical trauma. Focusing on the pressures exerted on German cultural memory by Müller’s work, my paper discusses Müller’s Atemschaukel in relation to German cultural memory. It investigates how the novel challenges and transnationalizes German cultural memory and how her ‘fremde Blick’ both intersects and clashes with dominant topoi of German memory culture.