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Socialist literature, two views? An examination of the works of Anna Seghers and Christa Wolf.

Jackson, Mandy; (1990) Socialist literature, two views? An examination of the works of Anna Seghers and Christa Wolf. Doctoral thesis (Ph.D.), University College London. Green open access

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Abstract

This thesis examines the work of two writers - Anna Seghers and Christa Wolf - who have been extremely influential in literary developments in the GDR since it was founded in 1949, but who have been very differently received by critics in the East and West, mainly because they are seen to possess different views of socialist literature and its role in a socialist society. This is in spite of the fact that Christa Wolf has often mentioned Anna Seghers as an important influence on her work, and frequently calls upon Anna Seghers' statements on literature to support her own poetological position. The aim of the thesis is to establish the extent to which their contrasting reception is justified by examining the two writers' views of what constitutes socialist literature, and the similarities and differences between them. It looks first at the development of socialist literature in Germany and in particular at the adoption in the GDR of the Soviet doctrine of socialist realism as the basis of its literary policy. It goes on to examine the works of Seghers and Wolf and their place in those developments and then brings the two together in order to establish where the similarities and differences in their works lie. The findings are that both Seghers and Wolf have a very similar view of the role that literature has to play in the establishment of a truly socialist society, a role which they see as being linked to literature's capacity to explore reality and the possibilities open to people, and thus assist them in their quest for personal fulfilment. However, there is an important difference. For whereas Wolf places her art in the service of the individual, Seghers frequently chose to place hers in the service of the socialist state. This results in a different attitude towards the doctrine of socialist realism, since Seghers is concerned to simply extend its boundaries, but Wolf directly challenges them. Christa Wolf has tended to underplay this essential difference between herself and Seghers and has instead emphasised the similarities in an attempt to lend her own work greater legitimation as she sought an alternative to socialist literary theory.

Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Qualification: Ph.D.
Title: Socialist literature, two views? An examination of the works of Anna Seghers and Christa Wolf.
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
Language: English
Additional information: Thesis digitised by Proquest
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10108249
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