During the summer semester of 2017, we are teaching a seminar on “Life Writing of Lesbian and Gay Male Authors in 1970s Germany” at Humboldt University of Berlin. The seminar is open for undergraduates in German Literature, European Literatures and Gender Studies. The objective of our seminar is to examine the specific constructions of queer subjectivity that are shaped by the autobiographical view in the context of gender and sexuality. The seminar asks how queer life writing is connected to significant literary tendencies in the Germans 1960s and 1970s like documentary literature and New Subjectivity. We are especially interested in problematizing the claim of authenticity as stated in many of the texts and its relationship to the binary of closet and disclosure lying at the core of the concept of coming out. In a historical perspective the question is raised, how the issue of possible confession reacts to canonical texts of autobiographical writing such as Augustinus’s Confessiones and Rousseau’s Confessions.
By reading classical theoretical texts on authorship and autobiography by Michel Foucault, Philippe Lejeune and Paul de Man, we aim to problematize the position of the author and try to grasp the specific relationship to extra-textual reality life writing often claims.
The literary texts we will read range from documentary literature like Maxie Wander’s Guten Morgen, du Schöne (1978), over confession-like personal accounts like Judith Offenbach’s (pseudonym of Luise F. Pusch) Sonja (1981) to highly stylized and canonized autofictions like Hubert Fichte’s Versuch über die Pubertät (1974). We will read seemingly anachronistic accounts like Kurt Hiller’s Leben gegen die Zeit (1978), as well as key texts of 1970s movements like Verena Stefan’s Häutungen (1975).
The examination of life writing of the 1970s allows for an illustrative and complex way of cruising the 1970s with a focus on subjectivities and their transformation in and by literature.