The Challenge of Mütterliteratur: Gender, Generation, and the Genres of German Cultural Memory

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Johns Hopkins University Press

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Current models of German postwar memory culture often contrast an accusatory second-generation Väterliteratur with a more self-reflexive third-generation family writing. This article demonstrates that reading second-generation books about mothers in the context of historical cultural memory undermines this distinction. Ingeborg Drewitz’s Gestern war heute (1978), Barbara Bronnen’s Die Tochter (1982), and Helga Novak’s Die Eisheiligen (1979) share key features with the post-Wende “new family novel” typified in recent scholarship. These similarities suggest that changing enactments of gender and cultural memory have allowed previously feminized experiences and memory practices to evolve into the basis for a national memory culture.


This article first appeared in GERMAN STUDIES REVIEW, 41.1 (2018): 41–59.


gender and memory, German memory culture, mothers in literature


German Studies Review, Volume 41, Number 1, February 2018, pp. 41-59.