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Situating a German Self in Democratic Community: Greek Tragedy and German Identity in Christa Wolf’s Mythic Works

Robert Pirro

In times of political or social crisis, issues of identity and affiliation

tend to become more salient. In response to the threatened or actual

disruption of the routines of material provision, social order, and

ideological legitimation, definitions of self and community that had

formerly been considered authoritative come under more frequent

and more extensive questioning. Responses to this condition of

uncertainty and doubt about identity and affiliation are typically

forthcoming from many different quarters: party politicians, leaders

of social movements, public intellectuals, religious authorities. Such

responses can also be quite varied as was the case, for example, in

the aftermath of the fall of the Berlin Wall. Only months after the

event and with major questions about the future of the two Germanies

in the air, Jürgen Habermas surveyed the various possible sources of German identity that were on offer at that time—economic prestige

(“DM nationalism”), cultural inheritance, linguistic unity, ethnic

descent, historical fate, aesthetic experience, and constitutional patriotism—

and found all but the last seriously wanting.3 In any given

episode of crisis and questioning, most responses will ultimately

have little or no effect; the eventual reestablishment of the routines

of provision, order, and legitimation usually means that one or

another set of definitions of self and community has won out and

become authoritative for a critical mass of citizens.

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Tragedy, Surrogation and the Significance of African-American Culture in Postunification Germany: An Interpretation of 'Schultze Gets the Blues'

Robert Pirro

In the aftermath of unification, the loss of job security and other forms of social support under East Germany's comprehensive (if increasingly inefficient and corrupt) system of welfare state paternalism, coupled with a newfound dependence on West German financial largesse, not only disoriented former East Germans, but also led to pressures on them to repress their past experiences of solidarity and distinctiveness. Schultze Gets the Blues, the critically acclaimed box office hit from director Michael Schorr, relates the story of a retired mineworker and accordionist for a town band in the economic backwaters of eastern Germany who undergoes a lifechanging conversion to the Cajun folk music of Zydeco. Drawing from Joseph Roach's notion of surrogation and Cornel West's articulation of an African-American tragic sensibility, this article casts Schultze in the role of a postunification mediating figure reconciling East German solidarity and localism with West German individualism and multiculturalism.