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Unit information: After The Wall: Remembering the GDR in 2019/20

Please note: Due to alternative arrangements for teaching and assessment in place from 18 March 2020 to mitigate against the restrictions in place due to COVID-19, information shown for 2019/20 may not always be accurate.

Please note: you are viewing unit and programme information for a past academic year. Please see the current academic year for up to date information.

Unit name After The Wall: Remembering the GDR
Unit code GERM32060
Credit points 20
Level of study H/6
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 2 (weeks 13 - 24)
Unit director Dr. Debbie Pinfold
Open unit status Not open




School/department Department of German
Faculty Faculty of Arts


Ever since the fall of the Berlin Wall and the unification of Germany, writers, artists, film makers and the general public have continued to reflect on the GDR and the role that individual and collective memories of this past play in present day German national identity. Responses to the GDR range from museums, memorials and literary texts documenting political oppression to consumer-orientated Ostalgie (= nostalgia for the East). This unit draws on both autobiographical and literary texts from three different generations of authors who lived in the GDR and on recent films in order to explore a range of responses to the GDR past and investigate how and why such memories are constructed. The unit will be taught through a mixture of informal lectures and seminar discussions and students will be encouraged to develop their capacity for critical analysis through close reading and debate.


  • To introduce students to a significant body of knowledge of a complexity appropriate to final year level. The content matter will normally include one or more of the following: literature; social, cultural or political history; linguistics; cultural studies; film, television or other media.
  • To facilitate students' engagement with a body of literature, including secondary literature, texts, including in non-print media, primary sources and ideas as a basis for their own analysis and development. Normally many or most of these sources will be in a language other than English and will enhance the development of their linguistic skills.
  • To develop further skills of synthesis, analysis and independent research, building on the skills acquired in units at level I.
  • To equip students with the skills to undertake postgraduate study in a relevant field.

The unit is open subject to sufficient knowledge of German.

Intended learning outcomes

Successful students will be able to demonstrate:

  1. advanced knowledgeable/overview of the memory landscape of the former GDR and an understanding of the debates around it;
  2. advanced skills in the selection and synthesis of relevant material;
  3. be skilled to evaluate and analyse relevant material from a significant body of source materials in English and German, at an advanced level;
  4. respond to questions or problems by presenting their independent judgements in an appropriate style and at an advanced level of complexity;
  5. an ability to transfer these skills to other working environments, including postgraduate study
  6. an ability to articulate a critical position in both oral and written form as appropriate to level H.

Teaching details

The unit will be taught mainly through seminar discussions for which students will prepare with the aid of regular worksheets. Students will also be expected to deliver short oral presentations based on their own reading and research.

Assessment Details

1. ONE assessed presentation (40% of total mark) consisting of THREE components:

a) 10%: Individual portfolio of materials used in presentation (e.g. PPT fileand/or Handout)

b) 20%: Presentation (delivery, detail, clarity, etc. as outlined in SML’s criteria for marking presentations)

c) 10%: Reflective re-assessment of presentation, 500 words to be submitted on BB within 1 week of the presentation

2. ONE 3,000-word coursework essay, to be submitted at the end of the teaching block.

Given the usual size of the class, presentations will be delivered jointly with other students. Marks for 1(a) and 1(c) are individual; the mark for 1(b) is for all members of the group.

Reading and References

  • Aleida Assmann, ‘Four Formats of Memory: From Individual to Collective Constructions of the Past’ in Cultural Memory and Historical Consciousness in the German-speaking World since 1500, ed. by Christian Emden and David Midgley (Bern, 2004)
  • David Clarke and Ute Wölfel (eds), Remembering the German Democratic Republic: Divided Memory in a United Germany (Basingstoke, 2011)
  • Paul Cook, Representing East Germany Since Unification: From Colonization to Nostalgia (Oxford; New York, 2005)
  • Astrid Erll and Ansgar Nünning, A Companion to Cultural Memory Studies (Berlin; New York; 2010)
  • Nick Hodgin and Caroline Pearce (eds), The GDR Remembered: Representations of the East German State since 1989 (Rochester NY, 2011)
  • Anna Saunders and Debbie Pinfold (eds), Remembering and Rethinking the GDR: Multiple Perspectives and Plural Authenticities (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2013)