GDR Literature in German Curricula and Textbooks: Exploring the Legacy of GDR Authors, 1985-2015

Elizabeth Priester Steding

Palgrave Macmillan, 2023

This book analyzes the changing portrayal of GDR literature in German Gymnasium textbooks 1985-2015. Addressing the need for textbook research to broaden its focus from GDR history to GDR literature, the author presents case studies of well-known GDR authors (Bertolt Brecht, Johannes R. Becher, Anna Seghers, Wolf Biermann, and Christa Wolf), each examining a particular aspect of the societal discourse about GDR literature and the tension between (literary) text and (historical) context. Taken together, the case studies reveal the frequently underestimated power of ideology in literature textbooks. They also show how attempts to package these authors into simplified categories ultimately reveal the profound complexities of the GDR literary legacy. By examining the clear tension between literature and politics in textbooks and curricula, the author demonstrates how ideological messages are transmitted in all textbooks, as well as the importance of attending to overt and covert ideology. 

Elizabeth Priester Steding is Professor of German at Luther College (Iowa), USA. Her research focuses on (post-)GDR literature and culture.