Date of Award
Master of Arts
Daniel H. Magilow
Maria Stehle, Sarah V. Eldridge
The literary prize speeches of German-Jewish author Barbara Honigmann make up only a small part of her mainly narrative oeuvre, yet they are relevant to her writing. On the one hand, they provide insights into the difficulties of being a German-Jewish author in the twenty-first century, on the other hand, they are also politically significant. In them, Honigmann recalls the crimes of the National Socialists against the Jewish population during the Third Reich, as well as the suffering under the socialist dictatorship of the German Democratic Republic.
Analyzing three of her speeches that were delivered between 2001 and 2015 in the second chapter, I will argue in this thesis that Honigmann’s literary award speeches reflect different formations of memory. Honigmann herself communicates personal, individual memories in them, but she also reflects about collective memories, for example, in the environment of her family or with friends and work colleagues in the GDR. In her speeches, however, Honigmann also conveys political memories, questions them critically, and ultimately also addresses cultural memories that have influenced her as an author. For a better understanding of her speeches, this thesis offers excursuses on coming to terms with the past in divided Germany and on the controversial concept of “inner emigration.”
Besides examining the discourses of memory, I will point out Honigmann’s discourses about what it means to her to be a German-Jewish author in the third chapter. Three aspects are of relevance here. First, the function of literature for Honigmann is to establish a connection between reader and author and to provide insights into unknown realities. Second, the significance of exile for Honigmann’s life and writing, and third, what it means for her to be a good artist. For Honigmann, it is important that good artists must distinguish themselves not only through their work, but also through their moral actions. The last chapter then summarizes the main findings of this thesis.
Schmid, Achim, "“Vom Verstehen rede ich vorsichtshalber nicht”: Discourses of Memory and German-Jewish Literature in Selected Literary Award Speeches by Barbara Honigmann. " Master's Thesis, University of Tennessee, 2023.