The Marxisms of West Germany's "1968" : remaking a public critique through literary magazines

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2021-04-08

Authors

Lampe, Josch

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Abstract

My dissertation focuses on two of West Germany's preeminent literary magazines—Kursbuch (founded in 1965) and Literaturmagazin (founded in 1973)—and the ways in which they sought to shape and redefine a literary public sphere as a site of intellectual, cultural, and political critique during the long '68, as well as their role in the reevaluation and dissemination of different, global Marxisms. It combines archival research on the editorial correspondence and conceptualization of these respective magazines with a detailed analysis of their content in order to better understand the intellectual event "1968" and its immediate aftermath as part of a larger contested history of publishing practices in West Germany after 1945.

My work outlines how these two publications not only trafficked in different Marxisms at different times and to different ends, but also took part in the (re)constitution of an engaged literary public sphere through the creation, design, and circulation of competing conceptions of literary magazines. More critically, I argue that Kursbuch and Literaturmagazin suggest clear evidence of a continuation of Marxist debates from earlier eras about the links of aesthetic judgment and political action (such as the so-called Realism-Modernism Debate), indicating that "1968" is a mere interim stage in an unfinished debate on Marxist aesthetics. My project therefore recoups a set of West German and international voices that have been too often overlooked as viable experiments in Western Marxisms within an international framework, not just as part of West Germany's nation-(re)building and World War II recovery. In other words, these magazines brought to public discussion a broader spectrum of leftist thought. I illustrate how the journals' editorial staffs were assessing West Germany by addressing its weaknesses through the lenses of an inherently international, multilayered, and often incoherent set of Marxist agendas in the making.

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