Smoldering Narratives. The Literary Afterlife of the Thirty Years War (1618-1648) in 21st-Century German Culture
The Thirty Years War (1618-1648) was conceived as the defining German trauma until the 20th century, when the Second World War made it fade into the background. Therefore it is striking that a renewed fascination with the Thirty Years War has arisen in 21stcentury German academic and public discourse. Because of its structural parallels with our ‘new wars’ (e.g. Syria), some historians have even declared the Thirty Years War a ‘paradigm’ for the 21st century. Whereas historians and political scientists are studying these analogies extensively, the topic has hardly caught the attention of literary studies. Yet, literature is the place par excellence that connects and compares the past and the present. My research project will fill this gap by studying the literary representations of the Thirty Years War in contemporary German literature against the backdrop of this remarkable new fascination. How do contemporary authors form and distort, stage and exploit the Thirty Years War as a literary construction? How do they reactivate this war to engage with pressing present-day questions and debates, such as changed ways of warfare, the mediatization of war, and the complex interplay of urgent global issues like violent ethnic conflicts, mass migration, and environmental problems? In this way, my project will not only investigate literary representations of the Thirty Years War in the strict sense, but also situate this war in a broader thematic and discursive field.
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