Matthew Miller’s The German Epic in the Cold War explores the literary evolution of the modern epic in postwar German literature. Examining works by Peter Weiss, Uwe Johnson, and Alexander Kluge, it illustrates imaginative artistic responses in German fiction to the physical and ideological division of post–World War II Germany.
Miller analyzes three ambitious German-language epics from the second half of the twentieth century: Weiss’s Die Ästhetik des Widerstands (The Aesthetics of Resistance), Johnson’s Jahrestage (Anniversaries), and Kluge’s Chronik der Gefühle (Chronicle of Feelings). In them, he traces the epic’s unlikely reemergence after the catastrophes of World War II and the Shoah and its continuity across the historical watershed of 1989–91, defined by German unification and the dissolution of the Soviet Union.
Building on Franco Moretti’s codification of the literary form of the modern epic, Miller demonstrates the epic’s ability to understand the past; to come to terms with ethical, social, and political challenges in the second half of the twentieth century in German-speaking Europe and beyond; and to debate and envision possible futures.