In 1980, the German Department’s 5th St. Louis Symposium on German Literature and Culture focused on the topic of contemporary German literature since 1965.
During preparation for the conference, it became obvious that contemporary German literature was poorly represented at North American university and college libraries. To remedy this situation, Paul Michael Lützeler, the Rosa May Distinguished University Professor Emeritus in the Humanities, established the Contemporary German Literature Collection at Washington University Libraries. In 2018, the collection was renamed in his honor. Built in cooperation with Olin Library, it is the largest collection of contemporary German literature since 1985 at an American university library.
Every year, Olin Library catalogs the new publications, incorporating them into the general collection. One of the important aspects of this cooperative work is the commented annual bibliography (Editor: Garth Reese, MLIS, PhD), which is published online, ensuring that a wide audience can familiarize itself with the newest publications.
The Mike Lützeler Contemporary German Literature Collection serves as a resource for Washington University’s Max Kade Center for Contemporary German Literature. Also established by Lützeler in 1984, the center promotes collaboration between American and German, Swiss, and Austrian thinkers. It welcomes visiting writers, critics, and fellows and provides summer research support at Washington University. The center is home to many scholarly collections and resources.
In 2002, the Max Kade Center began publication of the yearbook Gegenwartsliteratur. It deals with the last three decades of contemporary literature of the three German speaking countries: Germany, Austria, and Switzerland. The scholarly contributions can be written in German or in English. It is a refereed journal and, as such, a member of the Council of Editors of Learned Journals. Lützeler was the editor-in-chief from 2002 to 2020.
In February of 2023, Kurt Beals, associate professor German and Comparative Literature, became the director of the Max Kade Center.