Geist und Macht in den 1960er Jahren: Drei Wege zu einer „kurzen Ehe“ oder wie die westdeutschen Schriftsteller politisch wurden
This dissertation investigates the grounds for the West-German writer’s politicization during the 1960s with its most prominent manifestation being the brief alliance between the authors and the Social Democratic Party. In the past, scholars have explained the political engagement of these intellectuals by stressing the writers’ aversion of the conservative Christian Democratic government, through interpreting historic events (such as the building of the Berlin Wall) as catalysts for political engagement, or by focusing on specific individuals within the political or literary scene—specifically, Willy Brandt and Günter Grass. This dissertation, however, looks at the phenomenon of the political writers as the result of reconfigurations in west-German self-perception and as a response to compromised identities. It begins with an analysis of the writers’ search for their role in a democratic state. Drawing on the tradition of the French interventionist public figure from the turn of the 19th century that emerged with Émile Zola, German writers appropriated the concept of the “intellectual,” thus turning what had been for over fifty years an exclusively derogatory term in Germany into a positive self-description. This dissertation then moves to studying the larger collective of the west-German people and their need for a positive self-image after World War II. Drawing on Margarete and Alexander Mitscherlich’s psychoanalytic work on Germany’s postwar society as well as Benedict Anderson’s concept of “imagined communities,” this study demonstrates how a new national self-image was built around the country’s literary heritage that gave writers a more prominent role and significant authority in the public realm. Lastly, through a biographical case study of Günter Grass, this dissertation looks at the impact of the novelist’s Nazi past on his own identity and its correlation to Grass’s politicization. Through the author’s closeness to Willy Brandt, a former member of the resistance movement and contemporary social democrat, Grass attempted to counter his own tainted past, seeking redemption through his work in the political arena.