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Cultural Studies of Modern Germany
History, Representation, and Nationhood in Modern Germany
Russell A. Berman

The opening of the Berlin Wall reopened a host of political, cultural, and historical concerns. The German past, which seemed frozen beneath the divisions of the Cold War, has reemerged, eliciting both enthusiasm and apprehension. Russell A. Berman argues that, for the Germans, national unity will mean either encompassing democracy or exclusionary politics—a dilemna that is far from new in German history.

With his characteristic wit and originality, Berman probes the ambiguities of German nationhood. Taking the theoretical perspective of Cultural Studies, he looks at literature, painting, and film from the nineteenth and twentieth centuries to consider how nationhood is constituted and how it can be represented, what holds a citizenry together and what separates it from other populations, and how the legacy of a past history frames the definition of identities and institutions in the present.

Berman offers a thoughtful discussion of the methods of the emerging school of Cultural Studies and of the Frankfurt School of critical theory, showing how they diverge in their treatment of cultural issues. He then applies the framework of Cultural Studies to representations of the German nation. He offers definitions of Germany in the nineteenth century: in the poetry of Heinrich Heine (contrasted with Walt Whitman), in a visual representation of Jewish emancipation, and through a contrast with Italian unification. Berman explores nationhood and modernism through discussions of cinema, expressionist painting, and the politics of deconstruction. The final chapters of Marking Time span post-war literature from Heinrich Böll to Peter Handke and conclude with a discussion of the post-unification debate on the Gulf War. Throughout, Berman demonstrates how Cultural Studies can uncover the cultural assumptions in politics as well as the political agenda of culture.

Russell A. Berman is professor of German studies and comparative literature at Stanford University. He is the author of Modern Culture and Critical Theory: the Legacy of the Frankfurt School, published by the University of Wisconsin Press, Between Fontane and Tucholsky, and The Rise of the Modern German Novel.


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December 1993

LC: 93-009987 DD
240 pp. 6 x 9

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Paper $16.95 s
ISBN 978-0-299-14014-4
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The 1993 cloth edition of this book is out of print, but the paperback is still available.

“Berman’s unifying themes in this superb piece of work are the plural within the singular (or difference within similarity) and the politicization of art vs. the aestheticization of politics. But virtually every topic covered, from a relatively unknown painting by Moritz Oppenheim to German and American responses to the Gulf War of 1991, is dealt with in striking and original ways.”
—David Gross, University of Colorado at Boulder

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