Keynote address

Goodbye Mutti: Specters of East German Culture and the Legacy of Angela Merkel


The current war in Ukraine can make Angela Merkel’s tenure as chancellor of Germany seem part of the distant past. The intricacies of her diplomatic relationship with Vladimir Putin have been swept away as Germany formulates a new foreign policy under its new coalition government in response to this crisis. Might other aspects of Angela Merkel’s legacy, such as her decision to close down nuclear power stations in Germany, be as quickly overturned? This presentation will examine the East German cultural context that informed Merkel’s energy policy as well as her identity as Germany’s first female chancellor. The reconstruction of the trope of mother and housewife in East German popular culture will be explored in Angela Merkel’s choice of pop music at her final public ceremony. Ultimately, a nuanced composite of home and work emerges in a person who will certainly prove a touchstone for years to come.

dr. nicole g. burgoyne

Nicole G. Burgoyne is an assistant instructional professor of German at the University of Chicago. She completed her doctorate at Harvard University in 2016 with a dissertation focused on the institutionalized process of censoring literature in East Germany. Prof. Burgoyne currently teaches intermediate and advanced German language courses, as well as seminars on literature, politics, and film. Her most recent article, to be published this year, addresses Georg Lukács’s literary criticism of Thomas Mann and Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn and examines the breadth of Lukács's aesthetics of Socialist Realism. Prof. Burgoyne is currently participating in an international working group on Alfred Döblin’s Berge Meere und Giganten with plans for an edited volume. She also leads a chapter of a community tutoring initiative called SPARK for German. For her work with Chicago Public Schools, she was awarded the 2021 Don York Faculty Initiative Award by the Neighborhood Schools Program at the University of Chicago.