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Feeling Differently: Democratic Sentiments vs. Communities of Ressentiment in Postwar West Germany

In the immediate postwar period (1945-1948) the defeated German population stood before a strong ethical imperative to evince appropriate emotions of guilt and remorse in response to the Nazi atrocities and the destruction of World War Two. Alongside official emotional norms propagated through Allied directives and actual practices of denazification and reeducation, pockets of emotional resistance festered in the population. My paper explores the collision between the democratic imaginary of fledgling West Germany and anti-democratic, militant, and nationalist emotional subcultures by analyzing the aesthetic conceits and enormously popular reception of the now largely neglected 1950s best seller, Ernst von Salomon’s *Der Fragebogen*. What kind of structural and historical dynamics can be read through this text's display of perverse and counter-hegemonic emotions? What can this reactionary affective stance teach us about processes of subject constitution in transitional political configurations? What might the battle between former (Prussian nationalist and National Socialist) and contemporary (Allied democratic) hegemonic emotional regimes at work in the reception of von Salomon’s textual “acting out” teach us about the importance of the politics of emotion in the public sphere?
Anna Parkinson is Assistant Professor in the Department of German at Northwestern University and is an affiliate of the Critical Theory Cluster and the Gender & Sexuality Program. Her work on twentieth- and twenty-first century German literature and film has been supported by the Einaudi Foundation, the “Languages of Emotion” Cluster at the Freie Universität Berlin, and the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD). In 2013-2014 she was awarded an academic fellowship at the American Psychoanalytic Association. She has been invited to speak at universities in the United States, Germany, the UK, and Australia and her work has been published in journals, including New German Critique and REAL-The Yearbook for English and American Studies, and in edited volumes on contemporary German film, psychoanalysis, and memory studies. She has just completed a book manuscript titled "An Emotional State: The Politics of Emotion in Postwar West German Culture."



Wednesday, March 5, 2014. 05:15 PM


Pigott Hall (Bldg. 260), Room 216


The Department of German Studies




Free and open to the public.