The Spatial Imagination of Accelerated Globalization in Contemporary German-language Novels
Kreitinger, Brooke D.
This dissertation investigates how contemporary German-language novels respond to changes in the ways in which people imagine living in relation to others under current conditions of globalization. I pay particular attention to how literary texts evoke alternative frames of belonging and modes of living under conditions of social transformation. I use theoretical contributions from literary scholars as well as cultural and social theories to identify literary models of transnational, cosmopolitan existence. In particular, I draw on Michel de Certeau's The Practice of Everyday Life to assess how literature grapples with issues of human space as their narrators and characters navigate socio-cultural, spatial and political boundaries. The selected novels explore everyday life on various scales of space. In Die Vermessung der Welt (2005), Daniel Kehlmann engages with Eurocentric notions of the global scale in the early modern era. I contend that the disjuncture between his protagonists' models of fluid space in contrast to the dominant model of absolute space results from cultural conditions associated with the capitalist logic of competition and individual success, which leads to unethical, alienating forms of intersubjectivity and a lack of agency. I then elucidate how Jenny Erpenbeck's Heimsuchung (2008) and Kerstin Hensel's Im Spinnhaus (2003) question cultural dimensions left intact in Kehlmann's world of flows by depicting the domestic space in eastern German provinces in order to unsettle patterns of behaviors that have resulted in fixity despite social transformation. Lastly, I assess how Perikles Monioudis' Land (2007) and Feridun Zaimoglu's Liebesbrand (2008) challenge modern approaches to space by engaging with questions of interpersonal proximity and forms of affinity associated with postmigrant existences in translocal settings of post-Cold War Europe. With recourse to the discourse of globalization, I contend that these novels grapple with perceptions and experiences of globalization through themes of alienation, stagnation in the face of acceleration, and difficulty in creating emotional bonds. By investigating the everyday interactions and behaviors that occur in the respective imagined worlds, I uncover notions of Germanness and cultural conditions that the authors associate with the contemporary malaise depicted in their novels.
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