Publication practice and the perception of British and Irish literature in the former German Democratic Republic between 1949 and 1989

2020-02-20T08:52:46Z (GMT) by Volker Jansen
The purpose of this study is to investigate the cultural, political and ideological objectives that led to the issuing of British and Irish literature in the German Democratic Republic (GDR) and to analyse the socio-cultural dimensions of the reception of British literature in the GDR between 1949 and 1989. Its purpose is to examine the complicated relationship between the political organisation of the GDR and the prevailing ideology with regards to British and Irish literature. The motivation for this choice of topic derives from a lack of a comprehensive academic work on the subject of the publication and reception of British and Irish literature in the former GDR.
The study examines to what degree the function of imported British and Irish literature was to praise Marxism and bring the population of the GDR to a better understanding of socialist ideology. Consequently, English classics—the social novels of prominent 19th century British writers—and those of post-war anti-imperialist, anti-colonial, social realist and modernist British and Irish authors are evaluated with reference to their reception in the GDR. Given the fact that these works were not written to meet the requirements of Socialist Realism, the objective is to assess the reason(s) for their translation and publication in the GDR. This is achieved by tracing the outline of socialist ideology in the political works of the founders of the GDR by examining archival documents; by studying the publications of the GDR’s literary critics, scholars, editors and officials; and finally, by analysing the relevance of this to published works of British and Irish literature.
Key issues—like the reception of British and Irish literature in socialist society, the relationship between realism and modernism in literature, and the complex relationship between publisher, ideology and cultural politics—are examined by regarding these as more than purely theoretical issues or abstract cultural problems. Instead, these are considered to be social issues that can only be settled at the level of practice. Consequently, in conjunction with socialist ideology, the project examines to what degree East German intellectuals (publishers, censors, scholars and politicians) were bound by both their history and the socialist ideology and culture they wished to establish. It will also consider the extent to which this influenced publication strategies for different genres of British and Irish literature. Additionally, the focus lies on the examination of strategies for the avoidance of conflicts between the ruling party and presiding authorities. The analysis is supported by an evaluation of the relationship between the development of socialist literary theory and the process of cultural transformation in the GDR.
A close textual analysis of a large number of British publications (poetry, drama, fiction), and the study of socio-cultural, ideological and political conditions in the GDR, reveals that publication strategies match the course of socio-cultural change.
The analysis is based on academic works written by leading (former) East German scholars of literature (Marxist literary critics) as well as on a variety of sources such as historical documents available at archives, censorship reports and contemporary literary scholarship. The study is substantially based on historical sources.