novels were published narrating histories of the German Democratic Republic
(GDR), Simon Schwartz’s drüben!, Claire Lenkova’s Grenzgebiete, and Flix’s (Felix
Görmann) Da war mal was... (2009). Directed at the generation of young adults who
witnessed the collapse of the GDR but were too young to understand the complexity
of their country’s divide, these three publications imparted the experience of living
in East Germany through the eyes of the children that grew up there. Since 2009,
more graphic novels thematizing the GDR have begun to appear, and what started as
a commemoration of the fall of the Berlin Wall has quickly turned into a trend in the
representation of East German experience.
Among the autobiographical, fictional, and non-fictional graphic narratives
on East German history, there is a particular subgroup of this emergent genre, which
I have termed graphic historiography. This category of graphic novels is decidedly a
niche phenomenon, featuring about a half dozen comic books that bare striking
similarities. Highly curated and officially funded by German political, historical and
cultural institutions, they feature graphic narratives that themetize important
events in East German history and well-documented aspects of living in the GDR.
Furthermore, these graphic novels are heavily researched with traces of that
process clearly signaled within the texts themselves.
Through my analysis of photographic images as markers of authenticity in
Susanne Buddenberg and Thomas Henseler’s Berlin – Geteilte Stadt, this
presentation demonstrates how graphic historiography curates the East German
past through the mobilization of archival images, while simultaneously revealing
history’s contradictions. By drawing attention to history’s curation via the archival
documents required to establish historical writing’s “authenticity,” graphic
historiography demonstrates how history itself is also a construction.
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