This paper analyzes Draesner’s 2014 family novel Sieben Sprünge vom Rande der Welt as a narrative site of memory (Erinnerungsort) of not just the German, but the European experience of war, displacement, and trans-generational trauma. Draesner uses eight different voices to illustrate how historical memory is constituted and inscribed into the respective characters. I am particularly interested in the literary creation of postmemory (Hirsch), i.e. the creative and integrative writing of trauma. Does it lead to overcoming the fragmented pasts of a nation of German perpetrators in the older generation? How - if at all - does the novel render ideas of European identity and integration in the younger generations?
Anke S. Biendarra is Associate Professor of German and a core Faculty member in European Studies at the University of California, Irvine. During 2015-17, she is serving as the Study Abroad Director Northern Europe for the University of California system and is based in Berlin. Research interests: Literature and culture of the 20th and 21st century, particularly post-GDR literature, the literature of unification, globalization, transnationalism, Europeanization. She has published widely on aspects of identity, gender, and Engagement, on effects of globalization in literature and film, and on pop literature. Recent books: Germans Going Global: Contemporary Literature and Globalization (Berlin/New York, 2012); Visions of Europe. Interdisciplinary Contributions to Contemporary Cultural Debates(co-edited with Gail Hart; Frankfurt 2014). She is currently working on a monograph analyzing transnational German-language texts from Central and Eastern Europe and configurations of European cultural identities.
Writing between the cultures, poeta docta Ulrike Draesner uses postmodern strategies in order to transform scientific knowledge and cultural tradition in literary texts. Pastiche and ‘Kontrafaktur’, hybrid writing and postromantic irony are means to revise literary fiction as well as neurobiological facts. My essay examines these strategies in Draesner’s poems and stories – up to the new volume subsong (2014) – and gives a draft of the underlying poetic structure of her work.
Michael Braun studied German Literature in Aachen, Bonn, Edinburgh, and Pittsburgh, D. Phil. 1992. Since 1992 Head of Literary Section, Konrad Adenauer Foundation, since 2002 also Professor of Modern German Literature, University of Cologne. Guest Lecturer at Universities of Bergamo, Bielefeld, Bonn, Innsbruck, Jena, Metz, and Washington University St. Louis. Publications among others: Wem gehört die Geschichte? Erinnerungskulturen in Literatur und Film (2nd ed., 2013) , Das literarische Fragment (2002), Stefan Andres, Werke (Ed., 8 vol., 2007-2015). Current research: Memory Cultures, theories of contemporary literature.
Abstract TBC – on nature poetology and reflection
Mary Cosgrove is Professor of German at the University of Warwick. Her publications include Born under Auschwitz: Melancholy Traditions in Postwar German Literature (2014); (with Anna Richards, ed.), ‘Sadness and Melancholy in German-Language Literature and Culture,’ Edinburgh German Yearbook VI (2012); (with Anne Fuchs and Georg Grote eds.), German Memory Contests: The Quest for Identity in German Literature, Film and Discourse since 1990 (2006, 2nd ed. 2010) and Grotesque Ambivalence: Melancholy and Mourning the Prose Work of Albert Drach (2004). Research and interests contemporary German literature, recent German memory debates, Holocaust historiography, psychoanalysis, trauma theory, and European melancholy traditions. Her next project explores the connections between literature, culture and pathology with a particular focus on boredom, sloth, laziness and idleness.
‘Sprite’ refers to the epigraph Draesner contributed last year to a collection of Shakespearean poems, her choice focussing on Puck and Midsummer Night's Dream: I would use it as a starting point to trace English literary interconnections in and through her work.
Tobias Döring is Chair of English Literature at the Ludwig-Maxilimians-Universität Munich, Germany. His main fields of interest are Shakespeare and Early Modern Studies, as well as Postcolonial Studies, with further interests also in other contemporary writing and comparative perspectives. He is a regular reviewer for Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung. His book on Thomas Mann and Shakespeare: Something Rich and Strange (co-edited with Ewan Fernie) is coming out with Bloomsbury in autumn 2015, including a chapter by Ulrike Draesner.
Ulrike Draesner’s latest novel (2014) presents us with a story of flight and expulsion and their long-lasting traumatic effects across generations. Interestingly, the two main characters, father and daughter Grolmann, are both keen primatologists exploring the boundaries between men and primates. Part of their fascination with primatology seems to arise from its mirror function: by exploring primates’ behaviour one hopes to learn more about human nature and its origins. Throughout the novel, however, the boundary between animal and human animal gets blurred. The novel plays with these concepts on a number of different levels: it confronts us with human traits in primates, such as empathy; and animalistic traits in humans, such as aggression. What is more, the identity of the main characters is deeply influenced, even threatened, by their scientific endeavours. Moreover, there are a number of interesting images of the animal throughout the novel that serve as a leitmotif in the characters’ memories. In my contribution, I want to explore both the science-driven human-animal relationship and the images of the animal in the novel, allowing me to trace a further twist in Draesner’s complex and intensive reflection on science throughout her work.
Anna Elissa Ertel studied German literature, German linguistics and psychology at the University of Freiburg (Germany) and completed her doctoral thesis on poetry and science in the works of Ulrike Draesner and Durs Grünbein in 2008. She currently works in the field of science management at the Freiburg Institute for Advanced Studies (FRIAS).
Ulrike Draesner’s poetic language, recorded where breath and script inter-translate, unvoices conventional reading modalities and comforts: its orthography refuses to capitalize; its punctuation – if the stops and starts may be called that – is rarely executed by comma or period; its sequentialities, shunning the reliability of bespoke narrative, queering the common sense of marching lines and subaltern clauses, are born at the intersection of worldly impulse and bodily pulse, vulnerable to the loops of memory. Her writing favours an innovative reading experience, an exchange that explores the process by which our various modes of encountering the world cut, merge and elide to form the sociable space of a poem. Her work is charged with a delicious, inquisitive restlessness: it is conscious of provisionality, aporia, and process. Visually acute, her poems are keen to discover, reflect on, and body forth the complex blendings of thought, sound, smell and image, delivering a revealin g diffraction (an echo of broken aptness) to the reader’s ear. The present article will use reading and research generated by translating Ulrike Draesner’s poetry to contextualize her idiom among ‘experimental’ English-language work that answers Julia Kristeva’s injunction to search for a ‘discourse closer to the body and emotions, to the unnameable repressed by the social contract’.
Iain Galbraith’s poems have appeared in the TLS, Poetry Review, PN Review, Edinburgh Review, New Writing and many other journals and books. A winner of the John Dryden Translation Prize and the Stephen Spender Prize for Poetry Translation he is also the editor of five poetry anthologies, while his recent translated books include a selection of W.G. Sebald’s poetry, Across the Land and the Water (2011), John Burnside’s selected poems in German, Versuch über das Licht (2011), and Jan Wagner’s Self-portrait with a Swarm of Bees (2015). He is an occasional lecturer, and in 2014-15 taught Poetics of Translation at the University of Applied Arts in Vienna. He grew up in Scotland and now lives in Wiesbaden, Germany.
Just before the digital revolution of photography, a number of German novelists used photography in order to explore an ambivalent relation between documentation, imagination and memory. Influenced by theories of photography from Benjamin to Barthes, these writers, including the much studied W.G. Sebald but also Marcel Beyer or Monika Maron, exposed photographic objectivity as a myth. Ulrike Draesner’s photographic discourse has so far escaped scholarly attention. However, my paper will show how Draesner’s work, too, consistently engages photographic thinking and practice, especially in the context of debates about bioaesthetics and the post-human. A main focus will be on Draesner’s novel Mitgift (2002), where photographic practice and the consumption of images play a central role in mediating the characters’ relation to each other and to their environment
Silke Horstkotte teaches German literature at the University of Leipzig, where she also got her Ph.D. and Habilitation. Her areas of specialty are contemporary writing, literary visuality, narrative theory, and the interdisciplinary field of literature and religion since 1800 but especially in the present. She has published two books, on Clemens Brentano and on photography and memory in contemporary German literature, as well as numerous articles and edited collections. From 2016-2018, she will hold a Marie Curie Fellowship at the University of Warwick.
This paper examines the depiction of reproduction in Draesner’s texts, especially the short stories ‘Gina Regina’ and ‘Süße Kaverne’, exploring its ethical implications. Draesner's complex, posthumanist view of reproduction involves a challenge both to conservative, (hetero-)normative views of the matter and to a 'postmodern' model involving marketisation and (potentially) exploitation. Draesner consistently in her work explores the nature and status of the human subject, suggesting new ways of framing both humanity and morality.
Emily Jeremiah is Senior Lecturer in German at Royal Holloway, University of London. She is the author of Troubling Maternity: Mothering, Agency, and Ethics in Women’s Writing in German of the 1970s and 1980s (Maney/MHRA, 2003) and Nomadic Ethics in Contemporary Women’s Writing in German: Strange Subjects (Camden House, 2012). She is also co-editor, with Frauke Matthes, of Ethical Approaches in Contemporary German-Language Literature and Culture (Edinburgh German Yearbook 7, 2013), and an award-winning translator of Finnish poetry and fiction.
This paper will examine voice in Draesner from her early essays about bilingualism and body and voice to her most recent collection subsong (which uses the analogy with patterns of birdsong to say something about human experience). It will further draw on Draesner’s work in Oxford during her stay in residence in 2015-16; an experimental take on bilingualism and identity which takes its cue from her ‘SoloSwim/Der Kanalschwimmer’ (on channel swimming). It will demonstrate how the construction of poetic voice works, and further how it impacts on, and indeed creates, identity.
Karen Leeder is Professor of Modern German Literature at the University of Oxford and Fellow in German at New College. She has published widely on contemporary German literature especially poetry including Schaltstelle (2007), Flaschenpost (2007) Durs Grünbein: A Companion (2013, ed. with Michael Eskin and Chris Young), Figuring Lateness (2015) and several articles on Draesner. She is also a translator.
The analysis of Mitgift focuses on the representation of corporeality, arguing that Draesner’s mode of writing highlights the experiencing, mutating body aligned with nature. I link the corporeal themes to the text’s treatment of time by tracing how notions of the split self and self-other relations map onto to the representation of the non-coincidence between the past and present and the text’s philosophy of history. A key layer of symbolisation connects the central character, Aloe, to her father, Holger, whose war-time experience of ‘Flucht und Vertreibung’ is re-told at several points in the text. I highlight the paradoxes surrounding the treatment of history where, on the one hand, a somatic and empathetic connection to the past is suggested but, on the other, a Benjaminian philosophy of history is evoked which stresses the interruption of intervening eras and the impossibility of getting back to the past ‘so wie es war’. The father-daughter relationship in Mitgift can be seen to be a forerunner to relation between Simone and Eustachius Grolmann in Sieben Sprünge vom Rand der Welt in which the family’s experiences and memories of ‘Flucht und Vertreibung’ are central to the narrative. The representation of this aspect of history as well as the representation of the family’s experience of the National Socialist treatment of the physically and mentally disabled through the uncle/brother figure, Emil, will be examined and contextualised.
Teresa Ludden is Lecturer in German at Newcastle University and works and publishes on contemporary German literature and critical theory and film.
This paper will examine Ulrike Draesner’s short stories, in the collections Reisen unter den Augenlidern (1999), Hot Dogs (2004) and Richtig liegen (2011) as well as selected standalone texts (e.g. ‘Süße Kaverne’). Beginning by placing Draesner’s short stories in the context of the boom in German short story writing from the mid-1990s onwards, the chapter will then focus on form and style/language as well as themes such as depictions of body image and modern technology, which link the stories to each other and to Draesner’s other prose writings. Draesner experiments with form not only on the level of individual stories, but also in the wider structures of the collections: Richtig liegen consists of ‘paired’ stories (‘Geschichten in Paaren’, a deliberate pun on relationships which are a key theme in the collection), and Draesner further links texts through shared characters (see ‘Gina Regina’ in Hot Dogs and ‘Süße Kaverne’), drawing attention to further facets of shared thematic concerns (in this case with reproduction and technology). As in Draesner’s other prose texts, the narrative voice(s) are highly self-conscious and poetic, with frequent word play drawing attention to the language of the text and the récit (the narrative or linguistic level) as opposed to the histoire (the story or plot, the supposed reality being depicted); this distinctive stylistic aspect marks Draesner’s texts out from many other contemporary short story writers.
Lyn Marven is Senior Lecturer in German at the University of Liverpool. Her research focuses on contemporary German-language literature, particularly by women writers and authors writing in German as a second language. She is the author of Body and Narrative in Contemporary German Literatures and has published on Nobel Laureate Herta Müller, gender and representations of the body, and lifewriting amongst other topics and authors; she is currently researching Berlin literature by women. She is also a translator.
This paper focuses on Ulrike Draesner’s essayistic work, focusing especially on the volumes Zauber im Zoo (2007), Schöne Frauen lesen (2007) und Heimliche Helden (2013). All three texts deal with the subject of authorship. In Schöne Frauen lesen Draesner studies examples of female authors; in Heimliche Helden male ones. Her Poetics lectures Zauber im Zoo focus at least ostensibly on herself as an author. On the one hand Draesner discloses a good deal about herself while talking about other authors, especially while talking about female colleagues. The female Other seems to be a special object of identification to her, but also relating to her male colleagues Draesner writes herself very close to and into the Other’s work and being. Conversely Draesner doesn’t reveal very much about herself as an author when she apparently sets out to do so, i.e. in her autopoetic lecture ‘Zauber im Zoo’. Instead she focuses on ‘Heimat’ and ‘Herkunft’ explaining that these in effect can Schöne Frauen lesen (p. 69) Draesnser asks how one can ‘tell a life’. The answer she gives with her essayistic texts enacts a poetic credo of sorts as she depicts the author’s existence as an essay itself. While describing the life and writing of fellow creative artists as performative acts of ‘Autopoiesis’ she constructs and presents her own creative identity. In Schöne Frauen lesen Draesner writes: ‘Texte sind Spiegel. In ihnen zeigen wir uns selbst so, wie kein anderer uns sieht oder von uns weiß, und begegnen uns nicht selten in Gestalten, von denen wir bislang nichts ahnten.’ (p. 28) Draesner’s view of the Other is never naïve as she uses her or him to depict her own portrait while reflecting this process at the same time.
Julia Schöll is a Tutor at the Department of German, University of Bamberg. She gained her Ph.D. with a dissertation (published in 2004) on Thomas Mann’s exile novel Joseph und seine Brüde; followed by her Habilitation in 2011, published as Interessiertes Wohlgefallen. Ethik und Ästhetik um 1800, 2015. Her fields of interest include: literary and philosophical discourses around 1800; theories of identity and subjectivity; German modernism and exile literature (1933-1945); contemporary German-speaking literature and poetical theory; intermedial relations between drama and film.
This paper will examine the intertwining of history and personal story in Ulrike Draesner’s novel Spiele (2005). The novel’s protagonist remembers the historical events of Munich Olympics 1972. While remembering, the personal story becomes part of history, thereby blurring the historical setting with the subjective perspective. A comparison to Draesner’s latest novel Sieben Sprünge vom Rand der Welt will reveal that the novel’s major theme is not a postmodern play with history, but enlightening personal questions by putting them into a historical context.
Erik Schilling is Assistant Professor of German literature at the University of Munich (LMU). He studied Classics, German and Italian literature in Munich, Pavia, Salamanca and Stanford. Having finished his Ph.D., he was a visiting scholar at Harvard University. He has published on historical novels, poetry and literary theory. From 2015–2017, he is a Humboldt Fellow at Jesus College, Oxford.
Ulrike Draesner’s first book was published to critical acclaim – but unusually, it was neither poetry nor narrative, but an academic monograph: a study of narrative coherence in Wolfram’s ‘Willehalm’. References to Wolfram and Gottfried are notable in her early poetry; while these belong to a group of early thirteenth century literature often perceived as strikingly ‘modern’ in their exploration of subjectivity, her more recent work has turned to the ‘Nibelungenlied’ – a narrative about the catastrophic failure of civilised society which has been read in very different ways by successive generations of Germans. Draesner’s adaptation responds to the troubled history of ‘Nibelungenlied’ reception by engaging with the notion of heroism, but it also raises interesting questions about the nature of poetic voice – a vexed issue for medievalist interpretations of the ‘Nibelungenlied’ because of its deliberate archaism and lack of coherence. The aim of the chapter will be to consider poeti c strategies of coherence and rupture in the re-voicing of what has often been seen as the epitome of heroic masculinity by a female poet.
Almut Suerbaum is Fellow and Tutor in German at Somerville College, Oxford. Recent publications include co-edited interdisciplinary volumes on Aspects of the Performative in Medieval Culture (2010), Polemic: Language as Violence in Medieval and Early Modern Discourse and essays on the phenomenon of voice in medieval secular and religious lyric.