Christa Wolf’s literary legacy is still highly controversial. This study re-examines some of her major works in a new perspective. It leaves behind the polemic denouncement of her character and the discrediting of her literature in light of her Stasi-collaboration, exploring instead the social and political environment in which Wolf grew up. It investigates the continued effects of a suppressive childhood upbringing in Nazi Germany, as well as the trauma of World War II and the immediate post-war years. Examining the themes of memory and identity as reappearing topics in Wolf’s writing project reveals the impact these historical times had on the author’s life and on her poetology. A close reading of her novel Kindheitsmuster, published in 1976, situates the development of repression, alienation and a fragmented sense of self. The reappearance of these themes in Stadt der Engel oder The Overcoat of Dr. Freud, written between 1993 and 2010, documents their ongoing relevance in her oeuvre. Revisiting Wolf’s texts with this focus offers an illumination of the persistence of behavioural patterns connected to repression and the suppression of emotions and demonstrates Wolf’s significance as an author who was eager to document her experiences as authentically as possible.
Jeannine Jud teaches German at the National University of Ireland, Galway where she received her doctorate in German literature. She is an active member of the Christa Wolf Gesellschaft for which she wrote a chapter on the reception of Christa Wolf in Ireland, published in 2015.