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Friederike Eigler

Title

Professor and Chair

Department

Department of German
Research

Research

All of my scholarship is informed by a strong interest in literary theory, cultural studies, and interdisciplinary approaches to literature. While the point of departure for most of my research continue to be close engagement with literary texts, the projects themselves have drawn upon post-colonial studies, feminist criticism, science studies, memory studies, and more recently upon the so-called “spatial turn.”

Over the past several years, my research has focused on two interrelated areas of interest: Competing notions of ‘Heimat’ in contemporary literary and visual discourses, many of which reflect critically on the concept’s contested history over the course of the 20th century while exploring new “productions of locality” (Appadurai) in contemporary Germany and Europe. Linked with this overarching interest in ‘Heimat’ is my research on the role of space and place in narrative theory and narrative practice. This focus invites engagement with transdisciplinary discourses on space and the “spatial turn” while it also draws attention to the specific contributions literary and cultural studies can (and have) made to critical studies of space and place.

Two book projects examine changing notions of Heimat, space, and place in German and European contexts since World War II. The first one is an international anthology, co-edited with Jens Kugele and titled Heimat’ at the Intersection of Space and Memory (de Gruyter 2012). It includes twelve contributions by experts in Germanistik, German studies, Film studies, Historiography and Geography from Germany, Finland, Great Britain, Ireland, and the US. From the current vantage point of transnational developments, the contributors revisit the varied notions of Heimat as represented in literature, film and urban reconstruction from the 18th century to the present.

The second one is a monograph titled "Heimat, Space, and Narrative: Towards a Transnational Approach to “'Flight and Expulsion'." In this forthcoming study, I propose a new approach to the traditional notion of Heimat by considering the concept within critical discourses on space and by looking at how recent literary texts find new ways of engaging with the fraught historical issues of "Flucht und Vertreibung" and the "Lost Heimat" in the East.

Taken together, both books challenge static or regressive notions of place traditionally associated with Heimat and examine instead the social and cultural production of places of belonging. In a recent article titled “Critical Approaches to Heimat and the Spatial Turn” (New German Critique #115), I outline some of the main theoretical parameters that inform both the edited volume and my monograph.

My last monograph explored the role of individual and collective memory in novels written since the unification of Germany ("Gedächtnis und Geschichte in Generationenromanen seit der Wende," Erich Schmidt Verlag, 2005). Based on a comprehensive review of what some have called the “Memory Boom” in German literary and public discourses since 1990s, the book engages in in-depth readings of contemporary novels by Monika Maron, Zafer Senocak, Kathrin Schmidt, and Stephan Wackwitz. Overall the book asserts that many second and third generation writers have found new and productive ways of engaging – via the narration of family histories -- with 20th German history in general, and with the postmemories of Nazi Germany and the Holocaust in particular.