Dr Debbie M Pinfold

B.A., M.A., D.Phil(Oxon.)

  • BS8 1TE

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Personal profile

Research interests

I studied German and French at St Hugh's College, Oxford and went on to do the research for my D.Phil there. My thesis focused on the child's narrative perspective and the way it has been used to present the events of the Third Reich; a revised version of this thesis subsequently appeared under the title The Child's View of the Third Reich in German Literature: The Eye Among the Blind (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 2001). Following my time at St Hugh's I spent two years in Hamburg where I worked on the radio plays and novels of Gert Hofmann (1931 - 1993) before returning to the UK and to my previous focus on representations of childhood in the political sphere, albeit in quite different contexts. I collaborated with Dr Ruth Whittle (Birmingham) on a book about women's writings about the German revolutions of 1848/9, Voices of Rebellion: Political Writing by Malwida von Meysenbug, Fanny Lewald, Johanna Kinkel and Louise Aston (Bern: Lang, 2005), in which my contribution concentrated on the way the women represented their childhoods, and the political implications of these representations, before turning my attention to literary representations of childhood in the former GDR.

The work on childhood in the former GDR, especially on Jana Hensel's Zonenkinder (2002) paved the way for a new departure in my research, the move into memory studies. Between 2009 and 2011 I was Co-Investigator (with Dr Anna Saunders, University of Bangor) on an AHRC-funded interdisciplinary network 'After the Wall: Reconstructing and Representing the GDR' which was set up to consider the ways in which memories of the GDR continue to be represented in and impact on present day Germany. The network hosted three two-day workshops, each focusing on a central topic (memory and forms of representation; evoking the GDR Alltag; recalling the GDR dictatorship), and a three-day international conference entitled ‘Remembering and Re-thinking the GDR: Multiple Perspectives and Plural Authenticities?’ (September 2010). A volume of selected papers from the conference appeared in 2013 in Palgrave Macmillan's Memory Studies series under the title Remembering and Rethinking the GDR: Multiple Perspectives and Plural Authenticities, and more information on the network’s activities can be found on the ‘After the Wall’ website. Amongst other things, this network has helped to engender a new generation of UK researchers on the memory of the GDR and a postgraduate conference series, The GDR Today, which has met five times since its inaugural meeting at the University of Birmingham in 2014. 

Work on memories of the GDR paved the way for research into memory of the former Eastern Bloc as a whole, and into some work with the local community in Bristol. In September 2011 I co-organised (with Dr Sara Jones, now University of Birmingham) a conference entitled 'Remembering Dictatorship: Socialist Pasts in Post-Socialist Presents', which resulted in a special issue of the journal Central Europe  12/ (2014), edited by Sara Jones and myself, also entitled 'Remembering Dictatorship'. The conference further served as a launchpad for a new Bristol-based memory project 'East meets West: Post-Socialist Communities in a British Context', in which Dr Claire Hyland and I explored memories of socialism amongst Eastern European citizens living in Bristol and the surrounding area. We  displayed the results of the project at the M-Shed Museum, Bristol in May 2012: https://www.bristol.ac.uk/news/2012/8494.html.

My ongoing work on cultural representations of Germany's challenging pasts, both Third Reich and GDR, my public engagement with the local community, and especially my work with schools in my capacity as the SML Schools Liaison Officer and beyond have all fed into my new research project 'Beyond Nazi and Stasi'. This project explores the cultural memory of Germany in the UK since 2000, especially the interface between expressions of German cultural memory and the British cultural and educational sphere. I am particularly interested in discussing this topic with teachers of German at secondary level, so if you would like to discuss this further, do get in touch!

I would welcome proposals for postgraduate work in literary Vergangeheitsbewältigung; GDR literature; the cultural memory of the GDR; literary constructions of childhood; perceptions of Germany in British contexts.


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