The William ’71 and Elke Durden Literary Series at Bremen #3: Lana Lux

by Janine Ludwig

For the third William ’71 and Elke Durden Literary Series at Bremen on November 9, 2017, we cooperated with the Institute for Cultural German Studies (IfkuD) at the University of Bremen. The student workshop, organized by Dr. Janine Ludwig, was the opener of a three-day conference on German-language literature written by migrant writers from Eastern Europe and Russia, under the title: Migration Foreground, Province Background. German Speaking (World) Literature from Eastern Europe.

In this workshop, the Dickinsonians currently studying in Bremen and German students talked with the author Lana Lux about her debut novel Kukolka. The novel tells the story of an orphan child named Samira who lives in a protectory in Dnipropetrovsk, Eastern Ukraine. At the age of seven, she loses her best friend Marina who is adopted by a wealthy German couple. Subsequently, she decides to flee the orphanage, hoping to make her way to Germany to reunite with Marina. Instead, she finds a new “home” in an Oliver-Twist-like gang of teenage beggars and thieves led by the pimp Rocky who adores her and calls her Kukolka (Russian for “little doll”). For years, she thinks he is saving money for her to make her finally see the “land of plenty” called Germany. When, at the age of twelve, she finds out  that this will never happen, she leaves him for a beautiful young man named Dima who becomes her great love and promises to take her to the wonderland that is Germany. He keeps his promise, but only to talk her into and later force her into prostitution. While still clinging to her naïve hopes for a better life, she ends up in a brothel with other Eastern European girls, with similar stories and the same shattered dreams. Samira manages to escape again, and a Ukrainian woman named Olga who can translate between both worlds helps her to finally meet her friend Marina again after eight years of separation.

With Lana Lux, who came to Germany at the age of ten from the same town as her protagonist, we discussed the different images and (mis-)perceptions of Germany as a new dreamland for migrants. Lux read passages from her both funny and hyper-realistic novel which we then analyzed. In this lively talk, our guest answered the students’ questions and told memorable stories from her childhood in the Ukraine, her first impressions as a school child in Germany, her experiences of being discriminated against as a Jew, and her yearning for her homeland which she has not visited in almost twenty years.

Lana Lux describing the scrutiny at the border control when she entered Germany

The workshop also related to our current seminar “German 340 – Comparative Cultures – USA/Germany” in which we analyze the former emigration from Germany to the United States and the myth of America as a “promised land” for immigrants. Comparing these findings, we opened the discussion to larger questions of flight and migration and cast a cultural studies oriented glance at the current image of Germany in the world.

At the evening of the same day, Lana Lux gave a public reading of her novel which was also sponsored by Bill and Elke Durden as part of our Literary Series. The IfkuD conference, which was open to our students as an opportunity to take a peek at up-to-date German academia, also cooperated with the renowned international literary festival globaleo (November 3-13).

Further information:

http://www.deutschlandstudien.uni-bremen.de/aktuelles/

http://globale-literaturfestival.de/

 

 

 

Annual Report 2016-17

Another year has gone by. Another group of students has spent a year in Bremen and has gone back to Dickinson for their senior year. Please find our program report on what we did in this past academic year here:

Durden Dickinson Bremen Program – Annual Report 2016-17

 

Greetings from Bremen!

Janine Ludwig, Academic Director

The William ’71 and Elke Durden Literary Series at Bremen #2: Thomas Meinecke

Workshop, Reading, DJ-Set

by Janine Ludwig

On June 2nd and 3rd, 2017, the Durden Dickinson Program in Bremen hosted the acclaimed writer Thomas Meinecke.

Please find the poster here: DLS Meinecke 2017 Poster (Grafikdesign Sibyll Wahrig)

Meinecke and Ludwig. Foto: Verena Mertz

Thomas Meinecke has received several prizes and many labels: postmodern author, writer of pop literature – although pop philosophy would be more accurate – feminist writer and even queer studies icon, because his new novel Self will surely become a reference text. Meinecke’s other professions as a musician, texter and singer of the alternative cult band F.S.K., as a DJ (Berghain, Pudel Club a.o.) and performer with the format “turntable” (Plattenspieler) at the Berliner Hebbel am Ufer, seem to reflect in his postmodern writing style: His writing technique has been described as sampling, t.i. mixing and juggling with phenomena of 20th and 21st century pop history as well as of diasporas and gender identities, and is based on a wide theoretical background, ranging from Judith Butler to Barbara Vinken.

 

Public lecture and DJ-Set in the club Spedition on June 3rd

Meinecke and Ludwig during the reading. Foto: Verena Mertz

His brand new novel Self (“Selbst”) deals mainly with blurring (gender) identities, love, and erotic desire by analyzing phenomena from fashion (androgynous models), music/ entertainment (e.g. David Bowie or Mykki Blanco music videos), and life style (techno clubs, selfies, beards, intimate shaving, feminist porn). As part of “The William ’71 and Elke Durden Literary Series at Bremen,” he held a public lecture in the off-scene arts & culture & music club Spedition which had hosted him before. An attentive audience of 60-70 people followed a lively mix of reading, video clips and discussion between Meinecke and presenter Janine Ludwig. Afterwards, DJ Winkhorst warmed up the crowd before Thomas started to turn the tables from midnight to 3 a.m.

 

Workshop at the University of Bremen, in cooperation with the IfkuD, on June 2nd

Meinecke (left), next to Janine Ludwig and students. Foto: Verena Mertz

In addition, Meinecke gave an intimate breakfast workshop to both our current group of Dickinsonians and Bremen students at the University of Bremen the day before. One of the threads of his multi-perspective novel happens to deal with utopian, libertarian German immigrants in Texas in the mid-19th century. Ironically, a German society of nobleman (“Adelsverein”) bought land in Texas in order to get rid of German communists by sending them there to colonize it. However, they were duped with dour land, and the colonists, a bunch of intellectuals with little farming experience anyhow, struggled for survival. They did, however, under John O. Meusebach, manage to sign a peace treaty with the hostile Comanche tribe – supposedly the only one which was never broken and is still commemorated annually by the Comanches today.

Lee making a good argument. Foto: Verena Mertz

Meinecke has extensively researched on these settler colonies and produced a film (at the behest of Alexander Kluge/dctp) for which he interviewed the descendants of the “Texas Germans” – who still speak the language, infused with some English terms: “Die sind hier reingemoved.” „Die Kuh ist über den fence gejumpt.“ Despite the settlement fiasco, the descendants still proudly remember the peace treaty as well as the fact that the colonists opposed slavery and some even defected from the confederate Army (and were killed in consequence). We watched snippets from the film, read passages from the book and discussed the idea of “communes” without government, but shared work and property. The workshop presented amazing insights into an almost forgotten culture between the “Beethoven Männerchor” in San Antonio, the “Wurstfest” in New Braunfels, the “Vereins Kirche” and “Social Turn Verein” in Fredericksburg (named after Frederick of Prussia). All this followed up nicely to the seminar “German 340: Comparative Cultures – USA/Germany” which Janine Ludwig taught in fall 2016/17 and which (among other things) covered German immigration to the US in the 18th and 19th centuries. But most of all, it was a unique opportunity for the students to meet, work, and discuss with an author of such a stature in an almost private atmosphere.

The William ’71 and Elke Durden Literary Series at Bremen, this year in cooperation with the Institute for Cultural Studies (IfkuD) at the University of Bremen and the Kunst- und Kulturverein Spedition e.V., was sponsored by Bill and Elke Durden and the Dickinson College. We are grateful for the generous support and also thank the Spedition for wonderfully hosting Saturday’s evening event.

The William ’71 and Elke Durden Literary Series at Bremen #1: Kerstin Hensel

kerstin_hensel_portraet

Kerstin Hensel

An advantage of being part of the Dickinson-in-Bremen program is having the opportunity to participate in a variety of cultural events, such as in a private workshop with German author Kerstin Hensel, preceding a reading of one of her books, Lärchenau, later that evening at the theater in Bremen. This workshop provided us with the comfortable environment in which to ask Frau Hensel, who began her writing career in the GDR, many questions concerning literature, culture, and cultural politics behind the Wall, as well as what it meant to be an East German author after Germany’s Reunification. I was interested to learn about how art for the masses was endorsed by the communist government in East Germany, and to learn about the extent in which growing up in the East affected Hensel’s opinions and motivations as a writer. I did not expect to learn that Frau Hensel, despite growing up in the GDR, does not identify herself as an East German writer, but rather as a German writer. It was also interesting to learn that one can differentiate East German from West German writings by recognizing stylistic differences between them. Overall, this workshop allowed me to bring a greater understanding and appreciation of literature to Frau Hensel’s book-reading later that night, and I was thankful to be offered the opportunity to better familiarize myself with the literary culture of East Germany and of the time of German Reunification. >Carol Rynar<

The opportunity to hear a reading from a prominent German author in addition to also participating in a personalized workshop was very exciting. We were able to ask Frau Hensel questions about her background in the DDR and how this has influenced her work today or how she approaches writing novels. This fascinating discussion was very applicable to our theme of Deutsche Einheit and taught me a lot about the foundation of life in East Germany. At the reading, we were treated to segments of her novel Lärchenau and could form parallels between her earlier workshop with us and the story and writing style that we were presented with. This was a really interesting experience to be a part of, and I gained valuable insights into the teachings and thoughts of a modern German author. >Helen Schlimm<

I really enjoyed the workshop wit Kerstin Hensel. I learned a lot about how literature was created and received in the German Democratic Republic. I had no idea that East Germany had such a strong reading culture and how culturally aware the common person was. >Ira Lauer<

Kerstin Hensel reading from her novel "Lärchenau".

Kerstin Hensel reading from her novel “Lärchenau”.

The Kerstin Hensel meeting was informative and interesting. She read an excerpt of one of her books in which she wrote an alternative ending to Hänsel and Gretel. In her version, Hänsel and Gretel accept their captivity and live a secure life with the mean witch. When she finally dies, Hänsel and Gretel are unsure what to do with their freedom and approach the new, unknown world with hesitancy and fear. She wrote this story as a symbol for the people in the DDR, who grew comfortable in their life in the communist east. Overall it was definitely a valuable learning experience, and I really enjoyed listening to a German writer talk about her past and her writing methods. >Phoebe Allebach<

Click HERE to see the flyer of the event.