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Heimdurchsuchunger : deutschschweizer Literatur, Geschichtspolitik und Erinnerungskultur seit 1965 Schallié, Charlotte

Abstract

My dissertation (HEIMDURCHSUCHTJNGEN: DEUTSCHSCHWEIZER LITERATUR, GESCHICHTSPOLITLK UND ERINNERUNGSKULTUR SEIT 1965) examines the importance of literature as a receptacle for collective memory-work in Swiss-German society since 1965. The thesis analyzes how representative Swiss-German authors explore the experience of their country's role and attitude in the Second World War, and its ongoing effects in contemporary society. The year 1965 ushered in an era where many intellectuals challenged the officially sanctioned historiography and semiofficial publications which perpetuated the notion that Switzerland remained politically neutral between 1933 and 1945, displaying a unified collective resistance in the face of Fascism and the Holocaust. Influenced by West Germany's emerging documentary theatre in the 1960's, Swiss authors introduced innovative literary and historical techniques such as oral history to subvert misguided collective assumptions and revealed their country's economic—and to some extent ideological—involvement with the Third Reich. Their criticism focused less on what actually occurred during the decisive wartime years than on the culture of amnesia in postwar Switzerland. Beginning in the 1960's, the issue as to who controlled memory and used it to what end became a pressing concern in public debates. I focus on how exemplary writers such as Walter Matthias Diggelmann, Max Frisch, Niklaus Meienberg, Otto F. Walter, Thomas Hiirlimann, and Urs Widmer evolved into outspoken public figures fiercely criticizing their country's efforts at "Vergangenheitsbewaltigung" - efforts to master the past. The writings by these and other authors portray a society in which various Swiss individuals fought any attempt to tarnish the nation's carefully constructed image of wartime heroism. During the early Cold War years in particular, the political culture of Switzerland discouraged any dissent and marginalized those who spoke out against the 'Establisment' as deviant communists. I propose looking at literature as a means of developing a more complex and differentiated understanding of memory and its expression. My research draws on the theoretical writings of Maurice Halbwachs, Pierre Nora, Jan and Aleida Assmann, and Michel Foucault.

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