Lüneburg Reading List

A canon orientation prescribed by the curriculum in schools, as it was still valid in educational traditions up to the 1960s, exists only to a very limited extent today. However, precisely because there is no longer a bindingly defined literary canon in schools and universities, it is important for teachers of German literature to become acquainted with the historical and intertextual dimensions of literature independently in the course of their teacher training, i.e. by reading as broadly as possible, independent of seminars. The 'Lüneburger Leseliste' would like to offer an orienting guide to this.

Those who begin to deal with literature more intensively will soon realise that every text bears the traces of other texts. Or, as the literary scholar Julia Kristeva put it: "Every text builds itself up as a mosaic of quotations, each text is the absorption and transformation of another text." Intertextual relations exist not only between texts of different times and epochs, but also between literary texts of different language areas. The texts of the German-language canon are thus also in dialogue with the literary canons of other languages.

Without an awareness of the history of these references of texts to other texts, the qualities of an individual literary work can often hardly take shape. This is all the more true when literary texts turn out to be deliberate reworkings or adaptations of literary material or violate historically existing rules and writing conventions. Anyone who is not familiar with the texts of the German-language literary canon that was formed in the 18th and 19th centuries will also lack fundamental possibilities for assessing 'non-canonical' or canon-critical works of the recent present.

At the same time, literature has always functioned as a place for articulating and negotiating central references to existence (love, death, justice, etc.). But only a corpus of texts that can be assumed to be read and generally known will be able to become the object of conversation and discussion in this way. A cultural memory that we no longer remember is no longer a cultural memory.

Justified cause for criticism of normative canon specifications is given by the fact that women and minorities are largely excluded as authors in many areas from the traditional, 'Western' European literary canons. The dominant discursive order within which German-language literature has been created and handed down since early modern times can, however, in our opinion, neither be reversed by a selection of canons based on literary historical criteria nor should it be concealed by a canon that is, as it were, 'embellished'. Against this background, however, the proposed selection, deliberately formulated in historical terms, also provides a basis for critically addressing the social processes of inclusion and exclusion in processes of cultural tradition-building.

We recommend the following texts of recent German literature, which we consider fundamental, to all students of German for academic self-study. The year numbers indicate the publication date of the work. In exceptional cases, such as texts published posthumously, the dates of origin are also given, and in the case of dramas, the dates of the first performance (UA). In order to acquire an elementary literary historical coordinate system, future teachers of German should have read a selection of at least 30 texts intensively as part of their studies. In addition, a more in-depth study of one or more of the texts mentioned is recommended as part of a bachelor's or master's thesis.

download reading list in German

Thomas Gann for the literature department of the IDD