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Novel theory : the creative treatment of German division and unification in selected works by Thorsten Becker, Thomas Brussig and Reinhard Jirgl

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  • Additional Information
    • Publication Information:
      University of Cambridge, 2006.
    • Publication Date:
    • Collection:
      University of Cambridge
    • Abstract:
      This thesis makes the distinction between the ‘literary’ and ‘creative’ treatment of division and unification in contemporary German fiction. ‘Literary’ in this case denotes works of fiction where division is presented as insurmountable, for example Peter Schneider’s 1982 Erzählung Der Mauerspringer. ‘Creative’, by contrast, applies to those works of fiction which ‘fictionalise’ division, principally through language and parody. Analysis of selected works by Thorsten Becker, Thomas Brussig and Reinhard Jirgl examines the extent to which the texts can be seen to leave interpretation to themselves, functioning as aesthetic and linguistic phenomena, while being mapped onto the cultural representation of Germany. The analysis examines the relationship between the literary texts and the discourse instructive in illuminating them, in order to investigate a proposed non-contemporaneity between literature and criticism in the period under discussion. The dissertation is divided into four chapters. The Introduction examines German literary criticism relating to the theme of German division, examining the relationship between culture and state in the two Germanies, introducing the Barthesian concepts of ‘readerly’ (lisible) and ‘writerly’ (scriptable) (1973), and ‘The death of the author’ (1968). The introduction then examines the Literaturstreit of the period 1990-1992 in light of these theories, and signals the hybrid of separation from authorial context, reflection on discursive practice and reader involvement which informs the analysis of the primary texts. The second chapter, on Thorsten Becker’s novel Die Bürgschaft (1985), introduces the relationship between novel and theory, questioning the relevance of postmodern theories of parody and intertextuality. The third chapter analyses Thomas Brussig’s novels Helden wie wir (1995) and Am kürzeren Ende der Sonnenallee (1999) and Becker’s Schönes Deutschland (1996). The discussion situates the novels within the context of personal history and marginal historical perspectives, and demonstrates the extent to which the texts undercut both themselves and the discourses instructive in illuminating them, in particular historical and visual discourse. The fourth chapter analyses Reinhard Jirgl’s novels Abschied von den Feinden (1995) and Hundsnächte (1997), which thematise Befindlichkeit in the new Germany and are notable in terms of their stylistic treatment of the theme. The discussion of Jirgl’s texts highlights their significance as highly crafted language systems in order to investigate their relationship with the language of literary criticism, and to examine conclusions drawn about their representation of contemporary Germany.
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