Touching on Taboos: Elfriede Brüning and the Reception of Partnerinnen in the GDR

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Colleges, School and Institutes


This article analyses the reception and publication of Elfriede Brüning’s collection of fictional portraits, Partnerinnen (1978), in the context of official and critical discourse regarding female emancipation in the GDR. I examine the extent to which this writer, loyal to the SED, contributes to criticism of GDR gender politics and how publishers, reviewers and readers react to her portrayal. Through analysis of unpublished correspondence, I consider if political questions played a role in the publication process. I explore the reception of the text via analysis of
newspaper reviews and of letters written by Brüning’s readers. Reviews by leading literary critics point towards an attempt to steer the reading of the text; however, articles in other publications and the reaction of Brüning’s readers indicate that this attempt to manipulate reception was not successful. The fragmentation of opinion regarding the work points towards the difficulty of identifying the parameters of permissible debate in the GDR. This was not simply a question of knowing Party directives on a particular issue, but was linked to the positioning of prominent individuals in relation to official rhetoric. This, in turn, points towards the role played by East German authors in the dissolution of binary values and the fragmentation of ideology in the last decades of the GDR’s existence.


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)71-82
Number of pages12
JournalGerman Life and Letters
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2011