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Posted 21 January 2009

Politics of memory in Germany study selected as outstanding academic title

In recognition of its excellent scholarship and presentation, the significance of its contribution to its academic field, and its value as an important treatment of a subject area, Phantoms of War in Contemporary German Literature, Films and Disclosure, by Professor Anne Fuchs has been selected as an outstanding academic title for 2008 by Choice, the official publication of the Association of College and Research Libraries.

This year's Outstanding Academic Titles list includes 679 titles in 54 disciplines and subsections selected from approximately 7,000 scholarly titles reviewed by Choice during 2008. Choice editors base their selections on the reviewer's evaluation of the work, the editor's knowledge of the field, and the reviewer's record.

According to Professor Fuchs, since German unification in 1990, a new discourse has emerged about familial origins, legacies and issues of generational identity, which also readdresses important questions of historical agency, choice and responsibility from the perspective of unification.

With contemporary German discourse witnessing an upsurge of family stories about the long afterlife of the National Socialist era, Phantoms of War in Contemporary German Literature, Films and Disclosure charts a detailed topography of the changing politics of memory in today’s Germany.

Asking why the disturbance of tradition remains an agitated topic, in this new study Anne Fuchs offers in-depth interpretations of major works by established and newer authors as well as a range of films and recent historical debates. By exploring the rediscovery of family origins and traditions, and examining the fashionable concepts of generation and genealogy, the author develops an original theory of family narratives, a category situated at the intersection of public and private discourses.

Her interdisciplinary approach is exemplified in a major chapter on resistance narratives where she engages with museum discourse, historiography, autobiography, fictional works and films in order to illuminate how, from the Cold War period to the Fall of the Wall, both East and West Germany attempted to construct a positive moral legacy, facilitating identification with post war society. However, in the final analysis she argues that the books, films and public debates under discussion “demonstrate that this quest for a viable tradition in unified Germany remains ambivalent and, ultimately, strongly contested.”

Anne Fuchs is Professor of Modern German Literature and Culture at the UCD School of Languages and Literatures, University College Dublin. She was one of the Principal Investigators of the PRTLI3 funded research programme on Memory and Meaning in the 21st Century conducted by UCD’s Humanities Institute.


In January, every year Choice publishes a list of Outstanding Academic Titles that were reviewed during the previous calendar year.

When awarding Outstanding Academic Titles, the editors apply several criteria to reviewed titles: overall excellence in presentation and scholarship; importance relative to other literature in the field; distinction as a first treatment of a given subject in book or electronic form; originality or uniqueness of treatment; value to undergraduate students; and importance in building undergraduate library collections.

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Politics of memory in Germany study selected as outstanding academic title