The William ’71 and Elke Durden Literary Series at Bremen #4: Bernd Schirmer and Kerstin Hensel

by Janine Ludwig

Like everything this year, the planned fourth “William ‘71 and Elke Durden Literary Series at Bremen” could not take place in presence. But we organized it virtually and in a modified form and extended it to two dates.

For this purpose, we have declared two sessions of the video seminar “Forgotten and Overlooked Wende Literature,” taught by Janine Ludwig and Uwe Spörl at the University of Bremen, as “Open Classes.” In this seminar we discussed Wende novels of the 1990s, which in the 30th year of German Unity once again showed us the upheavals and peculiarities of the years 1989/90 as well as the East German experiences and perceptions of that time. On June 23, 2020, the author Bernd Schirmer, who had been the invited guest for the DDLS, took part in the meeting via zoom, in which his satirical short novel Schlehwein’s Giraffe was discussed. During the eventful and stimulating one and a half hours, Schirmer read passages from his text and answered questions from the students, including about his personal experiences as a writer with the (post-)reunification period.

On July 14, 2020, the author Kerstin Hensel was a guest in the second public session, in which her multi-layered narrative Tanz am Kanal was analyzed. Hensel, who is also Professor of German Verse Language at the Ernst Busch Academy of Dramatic Arts in Berlin (Hochschule für Schauspielkunst Ernst Busch), provided fascinating insights into her writing and also discussed the question of whether and how literature can “process” history at all, or what Wende literature actually is.

Both seminars were open to guests from all over the world, and representatives of the following institutions were present: Cardiff University, University of Oxford, National University of Ireland, Galway, University of La Réunion, University of Wisconsin – Madison, University of Lille, University of Birmingham, Old Dominion University, Norfolk (VA), International University Alliance.

This was the 4th event of the “William ‘71 and Elke Durden Literary Series at Bremen.” Organized by the “Durden Dickinson in Bremen Program” of Dickinson College, PA, USA, in cooperation with the Institute for Cultural Studies of Germany (ifkud) of the University of Bremen and the network “Literature in Divided Germany” (LIGD, Berlin).

We would like to heartfully thank Bill and Elke Durden and the University of Bremen for their generous support.

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