M.A. Thesis: "At a Crossroads between Paris and Moscow: Latin America, Sinn und Form, and the Socialist Republic of Letters
When I flew to Manchester, England in September 2007 to begin a one year MA degree in German Studies, I had no idea that I would eventually write my MA dissertation on the East German cultural journal Sinn und Form ["Sense and Form"]. Indeed, I had never even heard of Sinn und Form at that point. But over the course of the year my interests in the ways in which culture evolves, bends, and occasionally breaks under the influence of dictatorship evolved.
In the end I conceived of an M.A. project that examined how translations of Latin American poetry and prose were used in the journal under two long-term editors, Peter Huchel and Wilhelm Girnus, from 1949 to 1981. Sinn und Form occupied a unique place in East German cultural politics - at the crossroads, I argue, between Paris (the arbiter of literary taste in the West) and Moscow (the arbiter of literary taste in the Eastern Bloc). The journal's editors often used works in translation by established Latin American writers to circumvent some of the Do's and Don't's of East German cultural politics.
One the biggest challenges of this project was pulling together the many threads involved. These threads included such things as:
- GDR cultural politics and history
- Theories of world literature, transnational literary exchange, and translation
- Theories of political and symbolic capital and how they relate to one another
- The literary journal as genre
- Both German and Latin American literatures - two areas that are rarely brought into close proximity with one another.
On this page, you will find the first chapter from this dissertation, as well as a comprehensive list of all the Latin American literature that Sinn und Form published during the years covered by my thesis. Although I have since moved away from this area of study, I’m still very proud of the work I did on it. At first glance, it might seem like quite a narrow topic, but one of the most valuable lessons I learned from this project was the importance of giving narrow topics a much broader significance.