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Staat; Stadt; Subjekt: The Body and the City in Contemporary Austrian Fiction

BOLTON, PHILIP,JOSEPH (2012) Staat; Stadt; Subjekt: The Body and the City in Contemporary Austrian Fiction. Doctoral thesis, Durham University.

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Since the publication in 1960 of Hans Lebert’s, Die Wolfshaut, Austrian fiction has been dominated by the so-called Anti-Heimatroman or ‘critical regional novel’, which deploys the provincial setting as a key vehicle for the socially-critical representation of the Austrian nation. Such is the dominance of the Anti-Heimatroman that critics have identified a concern with regional Austria as one of the few constants of post-war Austrian writing. In the vast majority of the literature produced since the 1960s, therefore, Vienna has no role to play; the capital has occupied only a marginal position on Austria’s literary landscape. Recently, however, critics have acknowledged a return to the city in Austrian fiction. This thesis provides the first detailed account of this ‘urban turn’, focussing on the question of how the literary text’s socially-critical function has evolved as a result of the transition from province to metropolis. Placing its focus at the intersection of the body and (primarily urban) space, it provides readings of five novels published during the 1990s and 2000s. Its five case studies draw on the work of Michel Foucault and Walter Benjamin to explore the role that the subject’s interaction with urban topographies plays in contemporary literature’s critical engagement with Austrian realities.

Chapter One challenges the established view that the Anti-Heimatroman became obsolete during the 1980s. It examines the construction of the gendered Heimat in Norbert Gstrein’s Das Register (1992), and explores in particular the extent to which Gstrein’s work draws on the generic norms of the Anti-Heimatroman. Turning to novels that are set in Vienna, subsequent chapters isolate two phases in the evolution of literature’s engagement with the realities of present-day and historical Austria. Readings of Lilian Faschinger’s Wiener Passion (1999) and Doron Rabinovici’s Suche nach M. (1997) show that during the 1990s, the city replaces the province as a privileged backdrop for critical engagement with the problematic discourses that structure Austria’s post-war identity politics. By contrast, the post-Jahrtausendwende texts discussed here, Arno Geiger’s Es geht uns gut (2005) and Thomas Stangl’s Ihre Musik (2006), are marked by a turn inward, as writers become more interested in the emotional, psychological and existential orientation of the urban subject. But this turn inward results ultimately in a shift outward, enabling Austrian writers to focus on more universal socio-political issues.

This thesis explores the development of literary engagement with Austrian realities during two decades of Austria’s literary history that remain conspicuously under-researched. The contemporaneity of the urban turn demands a critical focus on younger authors who have traditionally stood in the long shadows cast by their better-established colleagues. This unconventional approach, which leads away from the Austrian canon, is the source of second contribution that this thesis makes to Austrian Studies. By engaging explicitly with novels produced by younger authors, this thesis asks what the work of newer constellations of Austrian writers can tell us about the changing status of literature, and of its relationship to the society of which it is a product.

Item Type:Thesis (Doctoral)
Award:Doctor of Philosophy
Faculty and Department:Faculty of Arts and Humanities > Modern Languages and Cultures, School of
Thesis Date:2012
Copyright:Copyright of this thesis is held by the author
Deposited On:08 Jan 2013 09:06

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