Astrid Erll | Reading Literature as Collective Texts: German and English War Novels of the 1920s as Media of Cultural and Communicative Memory

Written by on October 5th, 2014 // Filed under 18. 1/2 Public Memory II

Literature is a medium which exerts considerable influence in cultures of memory. As ‘collective texts’ literary works
can shape individual and collective memory. The forms and social functions of such ‘memoryficational’ narratives are
studied from a historicocultural and comparative perspective, by drawing on the paradigmatical case of the socalled War Fiction Boom: towards the end of the 1920s, English and German cultures of memory witnessed an almost singular literary phenomenon. A host of narrative texts about the First World War appeared on the literary market and became important media of collective memory. This article focuses on war narratives by Erich Maria Remarque, Frederic Manning, Josef Magnus Wehner and Edmund Blunden. An analysis of their specific ‘rhetoric of collective memory’ provides insight into different configurations and challenges of English and German cultures of memory in the 1920s as well as into possible effects of literature on collective remembering.

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