Christa Wolf Analysis

Other literary forms

(Survey of Novels and Novellas)

Christa Wolf’s reputation rests primarily on her novels. Her short stories were collected into one volume in 1980, Gesammelte Erzählungen; this work was updated and translated in 1993 as What Remains, and Other Stories. Her most important essays, reviews, speeches, and interviews are found in Lesen und Schreiben: Aufsätze und Betrachtungen (1971; The Reader and the Writer: Essays, Sketches, Memories, 1977), Lesen und Schreiben: Neue Sammlung (1980), Die Dimension des Autors: Essays und Aufsätze, Reden, und Gespräche, 1959-1985, 1987 (partial translations The Fourth Dimension: Interviews with Christa Wolf, 1988, and The Author’s Dimension: Selected Essays, 1993), and Auf dem Weg nach Tabou: Texte, 1990-1994, 1994 (Parting from Phantoms: Selected Writings, 1990-1994, 1997). She has also collaborated on the screenplays of several films and, with her husband, Gerhard Wolf, wrote the script for Till Eulenspiegel (1972). Wolf has also published her correspondence with author Brigitte Reimann, Sei gegrüsst und lebe: Eine Freundschaft in Briefen, 1964-1973 (1993), and her correspondence with author Franz Fühmann, Monsieur, wir finden uns wieder: Briefe, 1968-1984 (1995). In 2003, she published the unconventional autobiographical work Ein Tag im Jahr: 1960-2000 (One Day a Year: 1960-2000, 2007).


(Survey of Novels and Novellas)

Before publishing her first short story, “Moskauer Novelle,” Christa Wolf had prepared for her own literary career by working for several years as a reader and reviewer for a variety of East German publications. She rose to the position of editor of Neue deutsche Literatur, the periodical of the German Writers’ Union (1958-1959). Her fame began with her first novel, Divided Heaven, a work that evoked lively discussion in both East and West Germany and that quickly became known beyond the borders of the two German states. She received the National Prize III Class of the Academy of the Arts in 1964 for this novel. In 1972, she shared with Walter Kempowski the Wilhelm Raabe Prize of the city of Brunswick and in 1980 received the prestigious Georg Büchner Prize from the German Academy of Language and Poetry in Darmstadt. In the spring of 1974, she was Max Kade Writer-in-Residence at Oberlin College, Ohio. In 1983, Wolf was a guest professor at Ohio State University, where she received an honorary doctorate. In 1985 she was made an honorary fellow of the Modern Language Association of America (MLA). In 1987, the City of Munich, Germany, awarded her its Geschwister-Scholl Prize, which comes with twenty thousand German marks. Wolf’s fortunes then suffered a temporary reversal, and in 1993 the City of Munich attempted to revoke the prize. In 1992-1993, Wolf was a research fellow at the Getty Center for the History of Art and the Humanities in Santa...

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Discussion Topics

(Masterpieces of World Literature, Critical Edition)

What problems does Christa Wolf depict in the relationship of sensitive or creative individuals to their society?

How does Wolf use earlier myths and historical time periods to investigate issues in her own society?

In what ways do individuals, particularly women, in Wolf’s work have difficulty in finding a stable self, or in coming to say “I”?

What is Wolf’s attitude toward utopias? What utopias are suggested in her writings?

How does Wolf view the possibility of a socialist society after the fall of the Berlin Wall and the end of the German Democratic Republic?

How does Wolf use autobiographical situations to illuminate the social and political issues of her day?


(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Drees, Harjo. A Comprehensive Interpretation of the Life and Work of Christa Wolf, Twentieth Century German Writer. Lewiston, N.Y.: Edwin Mellen Press, 2002. An ambitious study of Wolf and her work, making links between her fiction and her life.

Finney, Gail. Christa Wolf. New York: Twayne, 1999. A thorough introduction and overview of Wolf’s life and works.

Fries, Marilyn Sibley, ed. Responses to Christa Wolf: Critical Essays. Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 1989. Twenty-one excellent essays in English. Conference proceedings of the special session on Christa Wolf at the 1982 Modern Language Association of America convention. Contains a list of secondary articles and books and review articles on each of Wolf’s books.

Love, Myra N. Christa Wolf: Literature and the Conscience of History. New York: Peter Lang, 1991. Deals with the main works up to Cassandra from different theoretical points of view. Presupposes familiarity with all the works.

Resch, Margit. Understanding Christa Wolf: Returning Home to a Foreign Land. Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 1997. Separate sections clearly identified in the table of contents provide good analyses of all the major works up to 1990. Contains a useful chronology, a list of selected articles in English, and an annotated bibliography of critical works.

Rossbacher, Brigitte. Illusions of Progress: Christa Wolf and the Critique of Science in GDR Women’s Literature. New York: P. Lang, 2000. Shows how considerations of gender are implicated in the critique of scientific-technological progress expressed by East German women writers, particularly Wolf

Smith, Colin E. Tradition, Art, and Society: Christa Wolf’s Prose. Essen, Germany: Die blaue Eule Verlag, 1987. Provides lists that cannot be found elsewhere: the seven books edited by Wolf between 1959 and 1985, her many reviews, essays, and articles from 1952 to 1985, and conversations and interviews from 1959 to 1984. Secondary literature is conveniently subdivided into the literature on specific works. Each chapter deals with a single work.

Wallace, Ian, ed. Christa Wolf in Perspective. Atlanta: Rodopi, 1994. Eleven of the thirteen essays are in English. They deal with individual works, with Wolf’s politics, and with themes and imagery. Written after Wolf came under attack from Western journalists.