Culture in the Shadow of Trauma?

Lutz Koepnick

in The Oxford Handbook of Modern German History

Published in print September 2011 | ISBN: 9780199237395
Published online September 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks in History

 Culture in the Shadow of Trauma?

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  • Modern History (1700 to 1945)


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In the ruins of World War II, culture was meant to mend the spiritual wounds and traumatic losses of everyday life by providing meanings and orientations unscathed by the functionalization of aesthetic culture during the Nazi era. This article focuses on the culture ballgame cast under the shadow of trauma raged by the war and its aftermath. Art, literature, theater, film, and music, in both emerging Germanys, were no doubt embraced as conduits for a resurrection of the spirit. However, the traumas left by the immediate past led artistic practitioners and their recipients alike to believe that such a resurrection could only succeed if aesthetic experience was allowed to unfold in relative distance to postwar politics. Postwar German culture, in each of its initial four occupational zones and later in both of its Cold War incarnations, cannot be subsumed under one rubric, let alone be retold with the help of one master narrative.

Keywords: culture; traumatic losses; aesthetic culture; art; literature; theater; film; music; aesthetic experience

Article.  9503 words. 

Subjects: History ; Modern History (1700 to 1945)

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