The World War II diary A Woman in Berlin: Eight Weeks in the Conquered City (2005) documents one woman’s story of survival in the spring of 1945 in Berlin, during which upward of 130,000 women were raped by soldiers of the Red Army. First, this essay introduces the politics of recuperating the English translation of the diary within the context of the scant supporting historical documentation and memorialization of Berliner women’s experience during the occupation. Second, it demonstrates how the diary produces a feminist account of survival and a narrative for collective trauma by examining the diarist’s representations of the effects of rape and rubblestrewn Berlin. Third, the essay details the complicated publication history of the diary through a consideration of the relationship between the trauma sustained by the survivors of mass rape and the blows to German national identity that it documents.
“A World of Tomorrow”: Trauma, Urbicide, and Documentation in A Woman in Berlin: Eight Weeks in the Conquered City
Sarah E. Cornish is associate professor of English and director of graduate studies at the University of Northern Colorado, where she teaches courses in transatlantic modernism, modern women writers, and film studies. She is cofounder of the Feminist inter/Modernist Association, and her research on the modern city and material culture in interwar and midcentury literature and film focuses particularly on women writers and makers. Her work has been published in Feminist Modernist Studies, Virginia Woolf Miscellany, The Space Between, Woolf Studies Annual, the Rocky Mountain Review, and in the MLA volume Teaching Modernist Women’s Writing in English.
Sarah E. Cornish; “A World of Tomorrow”: Trauma, Urbicide, and Documentation in A Woman in Berlin: Eight Weeks in the Conquered City. Twentieth-Century Literature 1 June 2020; 66 (2): 185–206. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/0041462X-8536154
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