German Life Writing in the Twentieth Century. Birgit Dahlke, Dennis Tate and Roger Woods (Eds). Camden House, 2010. (review)

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This edited volume of essays explores life writing, in its broadest possible forms, within German language culture in the twentieth century. The term ‘life writing’, chosen by the editors for its inclusivity, encompasses both autobiography and biography as well as ‘ego documents’ such as letters, chronicles, family histories and travel writing. In the introduction to the volume, Roger Woods sets out the value of examining life writing for studying major turning points in Germany's history in the twentieth century, following the trend in autobiography scholarship for seeing both self and life story as culturally determined constructs (Campbell & Harbord, 2002 Campbell, J. and Harbord, J., eds. 2002. Temporalities, Autobiography and Everyday Life, Manchester and New York: Manchester University Press.Woods makes a particular case, when analysing life writing, for being sensitive to similar patterns of behaviour within any given group (habitus singular), to divergent patterns of behaviour within a group (habitus plural), as well as to tensions and discrepancies within the mind of a particular subject (habitus plural of the individual). The latter two models, particularly, illustrate that patterns of behaviour, which scholars may take as representative, have their limits. Thus, Woods argues, life writing texts comment and challenge each other on significant issues and events, diversifying our understanding of a given epoch.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)107-8
Number of pages2
JournalJournal of Contemporary European Studies
Issue number1
Early online date23 Mar 2012
Publication statusPublished - 2012


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