Pieces of the past
: Collage forms in twenty-first-century German literature

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


This thesis examines works of twenty-first-century German literature that use collage to engage with histories of the Holocaust, the Second World War, and the Cold War. Analysing works by Nora Krug, Herta Müller, Katja Petrowskaja, and Emine Sevgi Özdamar, I argue that these authors employ collage techniques to destabilise the unity of hegemonic memory narratives, and to create evolving negotiations with the past that unsettle identitarian categories. “Collage” is a term most often associated with modern art forms that involve cutting and pasting, but it can be and has been applied to a much broader range of contexts in which diverse fragments are recombined, from craft practices to experimental literary compositions. This variety is reflected in the works discussed in this thesis, which I analyse with reference to diverse traditions of collage, and strands of critical theory with which they overlap – including the philosophy of Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari, and the writing of Walter Benjamin. Drawing on these frameworks, I trace how the fragmented structures of collage can challenge the parameters of master narratives that promote homogenising, formulaic, or self-congratulatory engagements with the past – for example a German state memory culture that can project an image of national “success” in grappling with Nazi atrocities, or narratives of the Cold War that marshal diverse histories into flat, ideological unities. As the authors in this study use collage to prompt more active, more critical, or more complex approaches to twentieth-century histories, they underline the fluid and evolving relationship that exists between memory and identity.
Date of Award1 Jan 2022
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • King's College London
SupervisorAine McMurtry (Supervisor) & Ben Schofield (Supervisor)

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