Leeds-Swansea Series in Contemporary German Literature

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Talk Conference

Leeds-Swansea Series in Contemporary German Literature – Constructing the Nation in Literature and Film

  • 16 Jul 2012 — 18 Jul 2012

Swansea University

UK

http://www.swan.ac.uk/history/research

Organised by Professor Julian Preece (Swansea) and Professor Frank Finlay (Leeds)

This Colloquium explores the contention that the national question is being posed across Europe at present, which is in turn manifested in contemporary works by German, Austrian and Swiss authors (and indeed by writers of German from other national backgrounds), both thematically and in terms of form. For example, globalization may be argued to have fostered two extreme tendencies: on the one hand championing the dissolution of national allegiances, while on the other provoking a return to the nation state as a bastion of identity. Writers react in a variety of ways: by taking hybrid culture as a given and investigating tensions which arise within in it and which in turn determine their use of literary narrative or dramatic or poetic forms; by seeing dangers in the disappearance of national cultural models, which can also be a reaction against the perceived hegemony of the ‘Sixty-Eighters’ (cue: Thilo Sarrazin’s 2010 inflammatory bestseller, Deutschland schafft sich ab); or by engaging with uncritical uses of tradition. Political disputes have gone to the heart of how society is ordered. Some German writers follow French trends in terming neo-liberal capitalism ‘Anglo-Saxon’. In the forms and themes of literature, political developments are reflected, explored, and challenged in all sorts of ways - sometimes arguably anticipated.

The Colloquium will ask: what has literature in German been saying lately about nations, nationalisms, and nationalism’s ‘others’: globalism, Europeanism, Atlanticism, cosmopolitanism, provincialism, political religion, or ‘unpolitical’ attitudes? Contributors are asked to interpret their chosen novels, dramas, volumes of poetry, or films as metaphors / narratives of the twenty-first century nation. Possible topics include:

images of the nation as construed by imaginative writers of the younger generation such as Katharina Hacker, Daniel Kehlmann, Michael Kumpfmüller, André Kubitschek, Ingo Niermann / Alexander Wallasch, Charlotte Roche, Katrin Röggla, and Uwe Tellkamp, as well as established figures, like Grass, Jelinek, and Walser; themes, such as national-unity narratives; nation and gender / race / class; the crisis year of 2005; the historical novel; leftwing vs. rightwing nationalisms; dystopias; political fiction and non-fiction.