CHDR Presents: Ursula Lehmkuhl

Tuesday, March 12, 2024 2 p.m. to 3 p.m.

Dr. Ursula Lehmkuhl is Professor of International History at the University of Trier and
Academic Director of the “Deutsche Auswandererbriefsammlung,” hosted and curated by the Research Library Gotha.

She will deliver her talk: Narrative Tropes as a Transatlantic Bonding Instrument: Political Liberalism and the "Revolutionsnarrativ" in the Letters and Memories of the German-American Bohn Family, 1852-2005

The talk will present a “reading” and analysis of the collective life story of the Bohn family based on the intersected stories told by four closely linked layers of documents produced by different members of the family at different times: (1) the letters written by the immigrant in the 1850s and 1860s, (2) the childhood memories of the two youngest sons in the form of short essays written in the 1950s on the occasion of the 100th anniversary of Johann Heinrich Carl’s immigration which are now part of the two volume family history compiled in 1982, (3) historical accounts about the family and the village written by Roland Wehrmann in the late 1950s and 1960s and translated by Duane Manson, the American family historian in the late 1980s, and (4) short summaries and excerpts of the letters clipped to the original letters written by the owner of the letter collection, Roland Wehrmann, in the 1990s as part of his efforts and interest in reconstructing and writing the family history.

The letters, the family history and the reading summaries are elements of a multi-layered temporally and spatially interwoven collective family history based on memories of the political active and engaged “pater familias”. This family history constructs the image of a political active family with strong liberal and social democratic political orientations, covering a time period of almost 150 years. The three layers of historical documents allow the reconstruction of the diachronicity and multi-locality of self-representation and identity construction through shared memories. Furthermore, on the basis of these documents it is possible to show how memory influenced the narrative structure of the stories told and thus to demonstrate how the past is dealt with in the everyday life.

CHDR Presents is an ongoing talk series hosted by the Center for Humanities and Digital Research where scholars share innovative, award-winning, creative research to both showcase their work and foster collaboration. Free and open to the public.

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