14 FEBRUARY, THURSDAY
I Hermeneutics of the Temporal and Transformative Self
Jens Brockmeier: Juggling How Many Balls at Once? On Autobiographical Simultaneity
It is an astonishing aspect of human life that it is lived on more than one level at the same time. Often it is even lived in more than one world. By this I do not mean the multiple realities evoked by fantasy journeys, hallucinations, and other spooky adventures. Nor do I have in mind the phantasmagoric realities that we encounter in our dreams or those induced by drugs, psychotropic stimulants, and the like. What I am addressing is a fundamental quality of the human condition, the experience of simultaneity. This type of experience belongs to our normal everyday psychology, even if it also occurs in “abnormal” or psychopathological forms. Either way, it is part and parcel of the fundamental psychological makeup that allows human beings to inhabit more than one experiential world at a time, as it enables them to simultaneously have more than one self, without becoming a case of clinical interest.
The argument I would like to put forward gives center stage to the role of language and, more specifically, narrative in scenarios of simultaneity that characterize our autobiographical identity constructions. The argument has three aspects. First, narrative plays a crucial role in juggling the many balls of identity – at least in Western traditions. Second, it is narrative that allows us to become aware of the simultaneity inherent to our lives and identities. And third, there are forms and techniques of narrative that not only represent and reflect these scenarios of simultaneity but also create them. I will illustrate these three claims by discussing some examples from literary and everyday narratives.
Jan Tlustý: Narrative Identity, Hermeneutics, and Ethics
The aim of this paper is to point out the impact of Paul Ricoeur’s philosophy on explorations of narrative identity and to discuss some of Ricoeur’s less well-known ideas on identity in relation to recent developments in the world. Ricoeur’s reflections on narrative identity are innovative, among other reasons, for their overlaps with ethics; they can serve as a heuristic tool for analysis of various forms of political and ideological manipulations. Ricoeur introduced his notion of narrative identity in Oneself as Another(1990), which can be loosely understood as a completion of his mimetic conception of narrative presented in Time and Narrative(1983–85). Ricoeur elaborates on the problem of narrative identity in his further works (e.g. Memory, History, Forgetting,2004) by linking it with memory and ethics. He views narrative identity as fragile not only with regard to time, but also in connection with the other, alterity, and otherness. The other or otherness can be perceived as a threat to one’s own identity, leading to the development of various defence strategies on the individual as well as social level, such as rejection, exclusion, or enemy creation. Ricoeur analyses these mechanisms also with reference to ideology and history, and he shows how ideologies work with stories and how they use stories as a means of manipulation. My paper will demonstrate the pertinence of Ricoeur’s concepts to our current times by applying it to the political situation in Central Europe,especially to the anti-immigrant rhetoric of politicians.
Raquel da Silva: “There Are Many Mirrors and Many Curtains Between What I Am Today and What I Was Then”: Exploring Dialogical Positioning During Self-Transformation of Former Politically Violent Militants
II Posthuman and Postapocalyptic Narratives
Bo Pettersson: The Uses of Animal and Plant Fables
How we as humans give voice to our fellow creatures in literature tells us as much about us as about them, since literary animals and plants mirror us in different ways. In fact, they are often presented by way of anthropocentrism and/or anthropomorphism. Thus, a key question is: Can anthropocentric and anthropomorphic views of literary animals and plants contribute to our understanding of them, their respective identities and plights?
My claim is that most literary portrayals of animal and plants implicitly or explicitly are some kind of fables, since they focus on human-like activities and/or on the relations between humans and other creatures. I present a grid of how animals and plants are represented in terms of anthropocentrism and anthropomorphism on a scale of proximity and distance from humans and then go on to discuss some ethical considerations of animal and plant fables. In order to exemplify my approach I consider elephants and trees, since these creatures are often narrativized in literature, in part due to their respective longevity and memory. Finally, I show how the specific genre/s, the depicted creature and its relation to humans are combined in literature, at times so that anthropocentric and anthropomorphic uses in fact may further our understanding of the creatures portrayed.
Jouni Teittinen: Speculative Memories: Narrating the Present in Post-Apocalyptic Literature
Narratives of a destroyed future are not only ubiquitous in today’s media culture but increasingly also in academic discussions. Recently, via their oft-visited thematics of memory, commemoration and mourning, these speculative fictions have garnered interest also within the field of memory studies. Echoing Mark Currie’s remark that “memory has a form that lends itself to anticipation as much as to recollection”, scholars have probed the ways in which futural narratives ask after what kind of an age ours will turn out to have been. What destruction we will have planted, yes, but also how today’s personal and cultural experiences come to matter against the projected perspective of cataclysmic loss.
In this presentation, with particular reference to post-apocalyptic literature, I will elaborate on some of the questions raised by these narratives’ “anticipation of retrospection” and the adjacent mourning for the future. How do fictions of a destroyed future address and position us as their readers or spectators? In other words, who is the “we” here and by what relation to its disappearing “world” does it become so casually defined? Further, what kinds of cultural identity work might narratives of future destruction involve, and what relations can we trace between collective memory of a disaster and the collective anticipation of one?
Juha Raipola: Re-Envisioning Grand Narratives as Stories of Imagined Communities
In contemporary narratology, “grand narratives” are typically understood as a synonym for master narratives, or the normatively privileged socio-cultural forms of interpretation. Within such an interpretation, grand narratives can only be called “narrative” in a rather metaphorical sense. As they do not concern individuals nor create a concrete world, grand narratives lack some of the key characteristics that most scholars would associate with narrative form.
In this presentation, I will approach the narrative elements of grand narratives from a more pragmatic point of view. Rather than succumbing to the Lyotardian or conventional narratological interpretations of grand narratives, I aim to focus on the narrative features of diverse “large-scale” discursive representations that purport to explain contemporary human existence. My primary examples will include different “grand narratives” of the proposed geological epoch of the Anthropocene. By interpreting grand narratives as stories of imagined communities, I wish to contribute to a better understanding of identity formation in relationship to cultural self-interpretation.
III Autobiographical Writing
Yu-Hua Yen: The Narrative Integrity of Narrating Selves: The Case of Fictional Autobiographies
Mark Freeman and Jens Brockmeier, in their discussion of narrative and identity, proposed the idea narrative integrityto address the way “conceptions of the good life are woven into the narrative fabric of human identity” (75, “Narrative Integrity: Autobiographical Identity and the Meaning of the Good Life”, Narrative and Identity: Studies in Autobiography, Self and Culture, 2001). The concept draws attention to the relationship between ethics and aesthetics in autobiographical narratives and life writing in general. Giving an account of one’s life involves not only the need to tell the truth but to tell it in a certain shapely form—the formal integrity of one’s life-story is related to its ethical integrity.
This paper extends Freeman and Brockmeier’s concept by considering the idea of narrative integrity in the context of fictional autobiographies—fiction as a rhetorical vehicle to engage with the potential tension between ethics and aesthetics in self-representation and life-storytelling. Narrative integrity refers to the resolution of the dual demands of ethics and aesthetics—to tell a true story and to tell a compelling story—and the fictional autobiography engages with this tension on the representational level by the autodiegetic narrator and on the rhetorical level of the text as a whole. I wish to emphasise the significance of the fictional nature of these writer’s engagement with the project of autobiography, that the particular representation of self-narration is used rhetorically, not autobiographically, and this offer certain advantages over writing nonfiction. In this paper I use Julian Barnes’s Man Booker prize winning novel The Sense of an Ending(2011) as example to show how consistency—a form of narrative integrity—both does and does not work, that as an organising principle of one’s life story and in extension one’s selfhood it has limited, if also necessary, value. I suggest this ambivalence calls for our further engagement in the challenges of autobiography rather than resignation, which Barnes’s narrator chooses to do.
Klára Soukupová: Write about Love, not Politics! Construction of Identity in Autobiographical Narratives
Autobiographies as broad, publicly received texts have a strong influence on the shape of collective sharing of ideas of the past. At the same time, these literary works reflect period norms of perception of the past. How a person remembers their own past is influenced by the culture of which he/she is part. Autobiographies refer to real characters and events, but at the same time they are subjective literary works of art. Autobiographical texts frequently use the same narrative schemes as the fictional texts, such as novels or poems. For the adequate interpretation of the text of autobiography is therefore necessary to ask why the author uses this schemes and what effect these strategies have. This issue will be demonstrated primarily in the autobiography of the Czech authoress Heda Margolius Kovály (1919–2010) Under a Cruel Star (1973). Her life was dramatic, and in many ways tragic, but at the same time it included paradoxical and ambivalent situations. On the one hand, Heda Margolius Kovály was wife of one of the prominent Communist officers – Rudolf Margolius; on the other hand, her husband was found guilty of conspiracy during the show trial in 1952, sentenced to death and executed, her property was confiscated, she and her young son Ivan were persecuted… Was she victim, or culprit? How does she talk about the politics and the Communist government? The authoress displays herself in the text in accordance with a specific pattern and plot; her positioning in the story is therefore a matter of a selected and combined narrative – thematic and compositional – technique. We have to analyse this narrative technique to make out what kind of story Heda Margolius Kovály tells us.
Maarit Leskelä-Kärki: “Message from the Middle of a Crater”: Uses of narratives in Women Writers’ Diaries
Diaries of writers are among the least interesting ones, argues Philippe Lejeune, a distinguished scholar in autobiography and diary studies. He says how they have for him always seemed like a false genre, although he admits that this is an unjust argument. (Lejeune, On Diaries, 2007) By all this Lejeune, perhaps, refers to the (too) conscious way of narrating one’s life, that can be particularly true when thinking of a published diary of an author. However, there’s no need to think that a diary would in any case be an authentic, truthful and spontaneous account of a life – on the contrary, diary writing is about narration, conventions, self-reflection and potential reader whether the diarist is a professional writer or not. Thus, unlike Lejeune, I see diaries of writers as extremely interesting, particularly from the perspective of writer’s identity.
Diaries of professional writers constantly question the thin lines between intimate, private and public, and one can ask how identities are then constructed in between these spaces and how diary is used as a form to narrate writing and writer’s identity. The three (short) examples of my paper consist of published diaries of three Finnish women writers from the 1970’s and 1990’s. Aila Meriluoto (born in 1924) published her diaries from the years 1953–1975 in 1996, Eeva Kilpi (born 1928) published an autofictive novel Naisen päiväkirja(Woman’s diary) in 1979, and in the early 1990’s Helvi Hämäläinen, who belongs to an older generation of woman writers (born in 1907), edited and published some of her earlier diaries from 1955–1988 together with an editor (Ritva Haavikko). All these diary texts were important in bringing to publicity the experience of a woman writer. In their narrative strategies, they use different ways to negotiate the intimate and public identities of writers, and they use various narrative means to discuss women’s writing, authorship and relation to literary publicity.
IV Politics of Narrative
Jonas Mirbeth: When We Read Mao: Non-Western Influences in May 68 Discourse and its Academic Reception Today
In her excellent study on the events of May 68(Univ. Chicago Press 2002) and their shared collective memory, Kristin Ross has shown that Western intellectual discourse of the time was strongly influenced by thinkers and theorists from the Global South, after violent conflicts in North Africa and East Asia had enhanced solidarity of a growing Western readership. As a famous example, the 1974 issue “En Chine” by the Europe-wide known French avant-garde journal Tel Quel(1960–1982) not only shows such a long-held fascination with the East Asian country, but also marks a peak in a belated awakening of May 68 ideals. While these ideals aimed to strengthen anti-authoritarian forms of government, the issue unravels a naïve exoticism and fatal misconception of the actual sociopolitical situation in China.
About 50 years later, lecture series, conferences, book publications, and exhibitions not only renarrate the sociopolitical protests for an end of the wars in East Asia, but also seek to investigate the implications of these historical events for today, like the exhibition Parapolitics: Cultural Freedom and the Cold Warat Haus der Kulturen der Welt (HKW) in Berlin has done. At HKW particularly, the connection to the present is given through its critically acclaimed forms of ‘museal story telling’. In my paper, I want to ask: What is the academic reception today of postwar Western intellectual fascination with East Asia? This question aims at the center of our academic traditions (anti-authoritarianism, rationalism, and democratic values), which have been strongly influenced by university reforms as a result of 1968. Particularly despite a history of contradicting engagement with left-wing radicalism, I want to ask how we incorporate the memories of May 68, its ideals, and concepts into institutional work today.
Keywords: Democracy, Global South, Intellectual history, May 68, Maoism, Memory studies.
Jurga Jonutyte: Social Outcast or Heroic Fighter or Maybe Neither?
My presentation is based on the oral narratives told by Lithuanian people with physical disability, who grew up and started their professional life in Soviet times. Nowadays, they encounter two typical (equally radical and equally humiliating) attitudes to their personality: the first one, which comes from Soviet past, is identifying them with lower social stratum associated with illness, poverty, and lack of intellectual skills; and the second attitude, a post-Soviet one, consists of dignifying them as heroic survivors of the abusive Soviet system and fighters against the rude circumstances. This last position is very often expressed in the public media of contemporary Lithuania.
In the Soviet Union, life of people with physical disabilities was imagined as secluded and dull, starting from childhood in special “ghettos” (the outlying soviet boarding schools for handicapped children) and ending with a blockade in the impoverished individual homes (because of no possibility to be employed and pursue a professional career). Indeed, these circumstances appear in the memory-narratives, but they do not play any significant role in the processes of self-identification. Narrative identity of Lithuanian people with physical disability certainly goes by these two radicalizations. In the most of narratives, disability as such is viewed in a very peripheral position. It never becomes a center of a personal story or identity.
My goal is to explain this typical inversion done in post-Soviet memory, when the social attitudes of Soviet times are turned upside down, but the logics of their construction remains intact. The two poles of pendulum viewing people with physical disability as social outcasts or heroic fighters are constructed using the same logics of radical biopolitics. According to this logics, a society is imagined as something solid, where individuals have to prove (by fight or self-justification) their position.
Jitendra Singh: Political Narratives and the Politics of Narrative
In media debates on elections these days the term ‘ideology’ with reference to a political party has been substituted with ‘narrative’. Any major national or regional party needs to have a ‘narrative’ distinct from the ‘other’ which is accepted by the nation/target voting community as their ‘own’. Every nation generally has a traditional epic or grand narrative which defines its identity. Political leaders try to substitute that epic with an alternative narrative. The paper based on this arguement looks at the processes involved in political narratives and their key elements. In any given culture, the periphery is an area of exemplary energy that is unorganised, chaotic and in a state of flux. On other hand, the centre happens to have fixed structures, well defined identity. These fixed structures include the grand narratives. For the periphery to move to the centre requires acquisition of mass, order and self description(identity) even if it may be at the cost of liberty. Similarly, any political party lying at the centre (the ruling party) or at the periphery (the national level opposition party or the regional parties) both need a narrative. Hence, the political parties create their own grand narratives. These political narratives are often of epic stature with an epic hero at the centre and exploit the cultural amnesia of the people. These narratives redefine cultural metaphors and with skilful use of the media play with the collective memory of the people. Though the paper is largely based on the Indian context, it can surely be applied to other international/global contexts.
15 FEBRUARY, FRIDAY
V Storytelling and Critical theory
Markku Lehtimäki: From Self-Fashioning Subjects to Storytelling Animals: The Changing Focus of Stephen Greenblatt’s Cultural Poetics
In his studies representing New Historicism and Cultural Poetics, Stephen Greenblatt emphasizes the historical embeddedness of literary texts and other cultural artifacts. His famous theory of self-fashioning is about how given writers of the English Renaissance occupy various institutional fields, moving between them and refashioning themselves as shape-changing subjects who play with various identities. On the basis of his early work – studies such as Renaissance Self-Fashioning(1980) and Shakespearean Negotiations(1988) – Greenblatt maintains that a certain theoretical formula about a given literary text “runs the risk of losing the dark specificityof that account, the risk of absorbing the unspeakable but spoken rupture of human relatedness into an abstract, pre-packaged schema.” Greenblatt’s method of reading a particular era through its marginal texts and various documents as well as with the help of anecdotes and other small stories has, however, resulted in sweeping, large-scale narratives in his more recent work. In The Swerve: How the World Became Modern(2012) and The Rise and Fall of Adam and Eve(2017) Greenblatt cross-pollinates a well-documented historical research with the power of imaginative storytelling to tell versions about the human origins and the birth of the modern era. In addition to being popularized versions of his own cultural poetics and demonstrations of his own narrative skills, Greenblatt’s recent best-selling books also take part in the nowadays fashionable talk about narrative’s all-encompassing powers. In The Swerve, he argues that there exists a solid link between our need to survive in the natural world and our ways of making sense of it in stories. The Adam and Eve book also represents contemporary Neo-Darwinism and its purely materialist explanation of the universe and argues that despite their moral consciousness, human beings are basically storytelling animals. In my presentation, I will discuss whether Greenblatt’s popular new materialist narratives about the evolution of the humankind are somehow watered-down versions of his earlier new historicist studies which employed close readings of literary and non-literary texts and anthropological “thick descriptions” of the social energy of the Renaissance. I will also ask whether Greenblatt’s recent practice is a sign of the narrative turn in literary theory more generally or only a symptomatic instance in a literary theorist’s career and its progression from “theory” to “narrative.”
Sigurd Tenningen: Recollecting the Past: Literary Narratives and the Archaeological Imagination
In his book The Archaeological Imagination(2012) British archaeologist Michael Shanks sees archaeology as a “memory practice” based on material remains. As evident as this may be, there has been little contact between the field of memory studies and theoretical archaeology. In recent years, though, there has been a major increase in studies devoted to the concept of archaeological imagination. With contributions coming from literary studies and art history as well as archaeology itself, these studies offer a wide range of aesthetical and epistemological approaches to the recollection of the past. In all of these fields the archaeological imagination is considered a way of re-membering the past through scattered material remains. Following the material fragmentation there can be no identity of the past and as a result the archaeological imagination is constantly engaged in collecting, gathering and assembling. This presentation explores the concept of the archaeological imagination through literary accounts—both fictional and non-fictional—of the excavated Roman city of Pompeii. Starting out from the digging sites and the antiquity markets, writers like Goethe, Stendhal, Wilhelm Jensen and Susan Sontag all imagined everyday life in Pompeii prior to the eruption of Mount Vesuvius 79 AD. Archaeological rather than historical in scope, novels like Jensen’s Gradiva and Sontag’s The Volcano Loverare deeply marked with an impure time where past and present enter into a complex constellation of what Walter Benjamin called now-ness (Jetztzeit). According to Benjamin the past can only be grasped in our present recollection of it, giving way to a “Copernican change” where thenand now are “blasted out of the continuum of history.” This now-Nesslies at the heart of narratives guided by the archaeological imagination of material remains.
Kaisa Ilmonen: Uses of Storytelling in Theorizing Identities: Case Intersectionality
Storytelling is a focal part of any critical work. In this paper, I will analyze storytelling and narrative patterns that have become recurrent within debates on intersectionality. I will examine what we can know about certain method in the light of this storytelling: How do the narrative habits of feminist storytelling affect intersectionality? Intersectional studies comprise almost as much metaspeech about intersectionality as a concept, paradigm, method, heuristic device, or buzzword as research applying it. In 2005 Gudrun-Axeli Knapp even wrote that mentioning intersectionality signaled, during its heyday, that the scholar was well informed, politically correct, and following the latest trends. However, this fast-traveling theory needed to be examined and defined more closely in academic discussions, turning intersectionality into a target of particularly critical debates. In this paper, I would like to concentrate on enthusiasm about intersectionality and ask: Do we risk losing ethical enthusiasm and compassion for differences in the suspicious, fault-finding theoretical storytelling?
I will first consider feminist storytelling along the lines provided by Rita Felski in The Limits of Critique(2015), Robyn Wiegman in Object Lessons (2014), and Clare Hemmings in Why Stories Matter (2011). Hemmings has insightfully analyzed how feminists tell stories and why feminist storytelling should be explored claiming that scholars need to pay attention to the very amenability of our own epistemic habits from in order to disentangle ourselves from them “if history is not simply to repeat itself” (Hemmings 2011, 2). Each particular scholarly discussion, such as intersectionality, also begins to create its own kinds of plot patterns which start to organize what can be argued or should not be argued, what blind spots need to be illuminated, or which weaknesses must be revised. These uses of storytelling construct an epistemological archive for intersectionality, a memory of a method.
VI Narrative, Memory and Space
Mikko Mäntyniemi: “She is a Child of the Dune sea!” Narrative Identity and Phantasmagorical Landscape in Claire Vaye Watkins’ Gold Fame Citrus
Claire Vaye Watkins’ novel Gold Fame Citrus (2015) is narrative about building an identity, not just to a human character, but for a totally new landscape and era. In the novel, the desertification of the United States has escalated, compressing planetary timescales to a scale of human life. The novel, in this way, comments directly to the discussion about the Anthropocene, the new geological time and human impact on nature through climate change. The novel also explicitly addresses the issue of identity formation of space and who can build the identity of a region, how landscapes need to be described and identified by and through human agency.
This presentation focuses on how time, space, and identity are all intertwined in narratives. Special interest is paid on how different spatial-temporal configurations are connected and folded on top of each other (Ameel Forthcoming). In Gold Fame Citrus, the narrative journey is not only a journey from dystopic, near-future Los Angeles to utopian, phantasmagorical Amargosa dune sea, but also a reversed journey to American frontier–both in time and space. This presentation, therefor, seeks to include narrative’s poetics of movement and spatial description to questions of identity formation. How the past is written into different landscapes through memories and stories, and how the anticipation of the future (Currie 2007) forms the basis for the present action.
Siri Hempel Lindøe: Jonas Dahlberg’s “Memory Wound” as Iconoclasm: An Attempt to Understand the Potential and the Problems with Breakage and Engraving of the Landscape as a Way to Remember the Victims of 22 July
27 February 2014 the Swedish artist Jonas Dahlberg won the government competition for a memorial to the 77 people murdered during the terrorist attack at Utøya and in Oslo the 22 July 2011. The project was called “Memory Wound.” The idea was to cut a 3.5 meter wide channel across the Sørbråten peninsula, a place close to the island Utøya. The names of the victims should be engraved on one side of the gap. On the other side, a tunnel would lead visitors to a place from where they would be able to see the names across the channel. The material excavated from the site should, according to Dahlberg’s plan, be used to build a memorial at the government quarter in Oslo. But “Memory Wound” met strong opposition. Among the arguments was that it would leave the local residents with no possiblility but to face the trauma every day for the rest of their lives. The summer of 2017 the Norwegian government abandoned the plans and ended the project.
I want look into the arguments for and against the project through the lens of iconoclasm and trauma narratives. Iconoclasm can be recognised by destructive and intentional acts, where the object affected has a recognised ‘value’. Chapman and Gearey (in Boldrick, Brubaker and Clay [eds.] 2013) show how the concept of iconoclasm might be extended beyond considerations of images or objects to incorporate the ‘breakage’ of nature, particularly in landscape terms. My aim is therefore to explore the applicability and usefulness of the notion of iconoclasm related to the ideas and the debate around “Memory Wound.”
Pekka Kilpeläinen: Narratives of Traumatic Cultural Memory: Haunting, Posthumanism and Animism in Daniel Black’s The Sacred Placeand Bernice L. McFadden’s Gathering of Waters
Narratives play a central role in our processes of collective remembering, as they transmit cultural memories across generations and, simultaneously, function as a means of negotiation. In African American literature, an exceptionally persistent instance of traumatic cultural memory is the case of Emmett Till, a 14-year-old African American boy, who was brutally murdered in 1955 in Money, Mississippi, for allegedly whistling at a white woman. In this paper, I will look into two recent African American novels, The Sacred Place(2007) by Daniel Black and Gathering of Waters(2012) by Bernice L. McFadden, and the ways in which they negotiate the collective trauma by narrativizing Emmett Till’s story. The Sacred Placeadopts a posthumanist approach by constructing a supernatural space, where humans, nonhuman animals, plants, and ancestral spirits coexist and communicate across conventional boundaries of reality as defined by Western modernity. In the novel, the murder triggers an act of collective resistance as the black population of the town, accompanied by angels and spirits of past generations, marches to the white part of the town in order to confront the murderers and to challenge the ideology of white supremacy. Gathering of Watersemploys a nonhuman narrator, the town of Money, Mississippi, and highlights an animistic stance, where spirits travel from one host to another. The point of view in this novel is more personal, as Emmett returns as a supernatural, haunting, but consoling presence to the life of his girlfriend, Tass, implying a transcendent connection between them, thereby defying the rationalizing doctrine of Western modernity. These novels reconfigure Emmett Till’s memory as not merely traumatic, but also as an empowering presence and mobilizing impulse on multiple levels. By employing posthumanism and animism, they function as counternarratives to the tenets of rationality and demystification of Western modernity and its racist tendencies.
VII Mediating and Translating Narrative and Memory
Caroline Williamson Sinalo: Memory, Translation and Media Narratives of Conflict Exploring the Case of Burundi
The media are thought to have an ‘enormous influence’ on shaping public memory (Huyssen, 2000: 29). Neta Kligler-Vilenchik, Yariv Tsfati and Oren Meyers (2014: 488) argue that the media can shape collective recollections in two interrelated ways: ‘first, by highlighting or marginalizing what is remembered, and, second, by shaping the nature of these memories’. Media narratives change, however, as they travel from one context to another. As Bielsa and Basnett (2009: 2) observe, ‘Information that passes between cultures through news agencies is not only “translated” in the interlingual sense, it is reshaped, edited, synthesized and transformed for the consumption of a new set of readers’. Such intervention may be particularly acute in news coverage about African conflicts where multiple languages are in use and where press freedom is limited. Such situations are likely to result in different narratives of the conflict in different contexts. To investigate the ways in which processes of translation and context affect such stories, this paper examines news coverage of the events leading up to the 2015 Burundian election, including street protests, an increase in state violence, an attempted coup d’état and a mass exodus of refugees to neighbouring countries. Drawing on narrative theory (Baker, 2010), the paper will present a qualitative analysis of the story over a six-week period from mid-April to the end of May 2015 in 4 online newspapers: The Guardian(English, UK), Le Monde(French, France), The Daily Nation(English, Kenya) and Le Renouveau (French, Burundi). The analysis will reveal how the story was framed by each news source, contributing to variations in the narrative and ultimately the memory of this episode in different contexts. The findings will be considered within broader discourses about African culture and identity within both Europe and Africa.
Marion Letellier: From Translating Storytelling to Reshaping the Translator: the example of The World and Other Placesby Jeanette Winterson (1998)
In this presentation I will explore the connection between the collection of short stories The World and Other Places, published by Jeanette Winterson in 1998, and the redeeming nature of storytelling in her work. Several short stories from the collection show how the characters need a new narrative in order to find a sense of self they have lost. The Wintersonian protagonist generally feels lost in the contemporary world: exploration of memory is essential to a reconnection with their identity and meaning. We can soon realize a new representation of the past is necessary for the characters to reposition themselves as subjects in the present. The use of metalanguage by Winterson shows how the shaping of the narrative and the choice of words are crucial in the definition of the self. But what is the impact of translating a text that is itself about storytelling, identity and translation? The text is not only about storytelling but about translation itself. Its deep emotional dimension seems to imply an emotional engagement on the translator’s behalf and to reconsider the nature of the act of translation. The Wintersonian protagonists’ quests and the translator’s may not be very different. If the corpus invites us to redefine the notion of translation, it takes us even further, to the point where it could share similarities with the therapeutic dimension of storytelling. The psychological and philosophical dimensions of translation make this activity fascinating from narrative psychology’s perspective: it involves a confrontation and ethical integration of alterity, acceptance of loss and the necessity of making choices. If translation can be used as a powerful means to understand a text, it is also an act that gives new agency to the translator and we could think of translation as a way to develop empathy, improve one’s ability to communicate.
Taylor Annabell: The Memory Work of Young Women on Social Media Involving Birthdays and Celebrations
According to digital memory studies, the connections between people and digital media may transform our relationship with the past, the mobility of memories and allow digital traces to resurface in unexpected ways. Social media platforms are a key part of understanding and illustrating such transformations, and inevitability the discussion also comments on the constructions of narratives of the self. I seek to contribute to understanding the entanglements of memory work and narratives constructed and reconstructed on timelines and profiles, by examining the memory work of young women on Facebook and Instagram, specifically in relation to celebrations and birthdays. I mobilise the concept of the mnemonic imagination developed by Keightley and Pickering (2012) to bring the imaginative and creative dimension of remembering to the ongoing process of assembling, selecting and reconstructing pieces of the past based on the present self. Furthermore, the field of memory studies seems to have neglected celebrations in favour of commemorations of the traumatic and violent. Yet, memories of celebrations are part of the everyday remembering by the individual and populate social media spaces. This paper draws on pilot research using the scroll back method of looking back on digital traces and interactions of birthdays and celebrations on Facebook and Instagram with young women. It begins to explore the relationship between memory work and the self narrated on social media, and the mutual shaping of memory and social media platforms.
VIII Narrative Medicine and Illness Narratives
Sjoerd-Jeroen Moenandar & Emma Frances O’Connor: Beating Illness Into Shape: An Exercise in Applied Narratology
The currently dominant type of illness narrative is modelled on the quest narrative. In this type of narrative, past experiences are remembered as leading to fulfillment or enrichment later on. Thus, illness is ultimately ‘framed’ as an asset – it is made meaningful through a narrative design that creates a rounded narrative whole with an endpoint of achievement. As the plot unfolds, illness becomes an ‘investment’, which ultimately proves profitable for the patient. The implied notion of narrative identity here is one of perpetual growth, reified by how the narrative shapes memories of illness.
In this paper, we will take up Galen Strawson’s critique of narrative as the supposedly ideal means of making life meaningful and morally sound. Strawson’s critique is valid for the ‘Aristotelean narrative tradition’, in which coherence and closure are foregrounded as necessary elements of an ethically sound narrative. There is, however, an ‘other’ narrative tradition (Paul Ricoeur) which is equally valuable, but has been neglected in most conceptions of narrative identity.
In this paper, we will discuss both traditions, as explored by literature and other arts, and their potentials and dangers when applied to illness narratives. Then one of the authors, whose research is informed by her experience as a carrier of a genetic mutation for Hereditary Diffuse Gastric Cancer, will interrogate the structure of the quest narrative through an auto-ethnographic account.
Shifting from the seemingly objective academic ‘we’ in a theoretical introduction, to the first person singular in the auto-ethnographic account, this paper both analyses and explores the morals of specific ways of storying lives. The paper closes with a dialogue between the authors about the theoretical, methodological, and ethical insights gained by such an exercise in what we call ‘applied narratology’: the transfer of narratological methods and findings to actual practices of narrative.
Anna Ovaska: (The Uses and Abuses of) Engaging with Narratives of Pain
Pain is a solitary experience, no one else can feel the pain of another, yet pain is also social: it shapes our relations to others and our worlds (Ahmed 2004, 29). We read narratives about pain (about physical pain, or pain caused by individual or cultural trauma) because we want to know (and it is important to know) what those who suffer are going through: by reading stories of others, we can sympathize with others – or sometimes we find comfort for our own pain.
In my presentation, I will draw from embodied cognition and phenomenology of the body (Varela et al. 1991; Colombetti & Krueger 2015) and argue for an understanding of reading as an embodied practice in which we are engaging with a text and the world it creates, yet at the same time aware of our own bodies and the world in which we are embedded (cf. also Kuzmicová 2016). Narratives solicit our “experiential background” (Caracciolo 2014) and convey experiences. However, it is important to be careful about the exact meaning of this conveyance and acknowledge the problems and power relations inherent in engaging with the stories of others: the dangers of appropriating others’ experiences, of using them for our own purposes. As Ahmed puts it, pain cannot be shared, but we need to learn to hear the pain of others (Ahmed 2004, 35).
By bringing together the recent conceptualization of close reading developed in narrative medicine (Charon 2016) and new formalist perspectives (Olson & Coplan 2015; Levine 2015), I propose a practice of close reading (or “hearing” the pain of others) that is at the same time embodied and political, aware of the structures that shape our experiences and the difference between the self and the other: attuning to stories told by others as well as to the political forms carried out in narratives.
Megan Milota: Cultural Negotiation in Narratives of Manic Depression: Karkas, Storybank, and PsychoseNet
Ansgar Nünning has observed that “in the age of interdisciplinary narrative research, narratology would stand to gain a lot by taking various contexts into account, and that cultural analyses and context-sensitive interpretations of narratives would stand equally to gain by actually applying and refining the categories provided by narratology” (2009, p.50). This paper offers one such approach for conducting a ‘context-sensitive’ analysis of contemporary cultural narratives. Combining theoretical insights from the fields of postclassical narrative theory and Mad studies, this essay will focus on how genre conventions impact the representation and reception of manic depression narratives in three Dutch cases: Femke Schavemaker’s novel Karkas(2017), which is loosely based on the author’s own experiences with manic depression; the Psychiatric Storybank (Verhalenbank Psychiatrie), a growing collection of illness narratives compiled by researchers at the University of Utrecht; and Psychosenet, an online support platform with chat rooms and blogs for specific mental health issues, including manic depression. The ultimate goal of this exercise is to gain a deeper insight into the ways in which contemporary Dutch readers’ understanding of mental illness is informed, shaped, and even limited by the ways in which these narratives are presented. Finally, this essay will consider whether or not the three cases serve as examples of epistemic (in)justice as defined by Fricker (2007) and appropriated by LeBlanc and Kinsella (2016).
IX Holocaust and Literature
Avril Tynan: The Narrative Orphan: Rewriting the Self; Rewriting the Past
Iconic in works of Charles Dickens such as Oliver Twist, Great Expectations, andDavid Copperfield, in Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, and more recently popularized through J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potterseries, the orphan has become a familiar figure of youthful resilience in the face of adversity. The orphan must often overcome challenges, not least the loss of his or her parents, and the orphan must find themselves in both a sentimental and a literal sense. The orphan-protagonist is a blank slate, without ties to family, heritage or a past, without any sense of predetermined guidance, so that the author has full freedom to develop a hero or heroine through a unique journey of self-discovery that (re)invents individual identity with a powerful effect upon collective history.
In works of post-war literature, the figure of the orphan is critical in enabling the narrator to whitewash the past, to obliterate and rebuilt events, identities and actions in ways that alter present perceptions and interpretations. Without ties to the past, the orphan’s self-creation in narrative (re)builds an individual identity that is intricately linked to the collective memories that define and are defined by the individual’s growing story. In demonstrating the power of the orphan’s self-invention to alter our perceptions of the past, we encounter the fierce interrelations between individual and collective memory and identity.
In this paper, I consider Jorge Semprun’s L’Algarabie(1981) as a seminal story of the picaresque orphan whose itinerant journey of self-discovery and self-storying is bound up with the dystopian portrayal of twentieth-century France. Questioning the ethical challenges posed by this ongoing work of revision and reinterpretation, this paper asks how the stories we tell ourselves impact the world around us, and how the stories around us impact our sense of self.
Unni Langås: The Uses of Hitler’s Mein Kampfin Karl Ove Knausgård’s Novel My Struggle 6
A substantial part of the Norwegian author Karl Ove Knausgård’s volume six of Min kamp(My Struggle1-6, 2009-2011) is a discussion of Hitler’s autobiography and political manifesto, Mein Kampf. The discussion is included in an essay placed between chapters which deal with the narrator’s family and daily life. The responses to the work have been massive and partly hostile because of the detailed descriptions of living persons who felt exposed in a project that was intentionally conceived as a true story of the author’s life. It also features a dead man, the father, whom the narrating son has a troublesome relationship to, and whose death under humiliating conditions makes up a main theme. Knausgård’s reading of Mein Kampfcomes as a compulsory task motivated by the title of his work, but ends up producing connections, both to the narrator’s own perception of being victim of psychic violence, and to the terror attacks of July 22, 2011. Knausgård’s novel has triggered a lot of discussion and criticism, in Norway and abroad. (The series have been translated into 30 languages.) But while the substantial part of this criticism deals with the fact-fiction problematic and the ethics of referring to real persons, the uses of Hitler has received less attention. In my paper, I will discuss some of the responses that this aspect of the novel has received and compare it to other WWII narratives in contemporary literature.
Elina Arminen: Finnish SS-volunteer in the Finnish Literature: the Cultural Memory and Abeyance
In my presentation, I analyze the novels, memoirs and series dealing with the Finnish volunteer soldiers in the German Waffen-SS division Viking during World War II (1941 – 1943). My study bases on the cultural memory studies. I will consider, how these texts have participated in the discussion about war crimes and the relation between Finland and Nazi-Germany during World War II. I analyze the narrative and rhetoric strategies as tools to construct cultural memory, or change it or even to construct cultural abeyance. I also consider the dialogue between these texts and history research. The Finnish solders part in the holocaust and other war crimes has been problematic theme in Finnish history research (in this debat: Jokipii 1968: Sweanström 2018), and in the public discussion. Also the literary texts tells two totally different stories.
My primary research material includes novels, memoirs and series dealing with the Finnish Waffen-SS battalion, including Sakari Lappi-Seppälä 1945: Haudat Dneprin varrella, Niilo Lauttamus 1957: Vieraan kypärän alla, Tiina Korhonen 1990: Rautasaappaiden kaiku, Jenni Linturi 2011: Isänmaan tähdenand Marko Tiainen: 2012 Hyökkäys kukkulalle 701. The secondary material includes history research, for example Mauno Jokipii 1968: Panttipataljoonaand André Swanström 2018: Hakaristin ritarit.
X War, Memory, Identity
Dina Abazovic: Narrative Gaps in Sarah Kane’s Blasted and Adrian Oktenberg’s The Bosnia Elegies
This paper explores two narratives about the Bosnian war with focus on the issues of identity and rape as a weapon of warfare. It argues that Sarah Kane’s first drama Blasted (1995) and Adrian Oktenberg’s poetry volume The Bosnia Elegies (1997) are narratives created as responses to the international media coverage of the Yugoslav crisis. How do these texts bear literary witness to the Bosnian war? Although both authors weave the war reports and images from the atrocities into the fibre of their texts, a link with the conflict is established in two opposing ways. In the first drafts of Kane’s play the important character of the soldier is designated as Serb and called Vladek, but the play’s final version features only a nameless character – Soldier. He commits multiple acts of sexual violence during an unidentified war, and tells about them in detail to a journalist who fails to report about the war atrocities. Soldier then rapes the journalist and sucks out his eyes. On the other hand, in one of Oktenberg’s narrative poems, where the story is constantly broken off by caesura, the Serb perpetrator films the rape of a Muslim victim, and then exploits the woman again for propaganda purposes: the identities of victim and perpetrator are swapped when the footage is shown on Serb national television. While Oktenberg explicitly uses national denominations of belligerents in the conflict, Kane removes all identity markers from the final text of the play and arguably pushes the play’s political aspects further into the margin. In a comparative analysis the paper discusses the consequences of use and removal of perpetrator’s identity, and concludes that bearing witness occurs through inscribing absence into the form of the text.
Charles Armstrong: DRESDEN CHINA: Fractured Memory Narratives in Ciaran Carson’s poetry
The bombing of Dresden in February 1945 is among the more controversial episodes of the Allies’ campaign in World War 2. Almost 4,000 tons of explosives took over 20,000 lives, and demolished large parts of the city. Since the war, there has been disagreement about how well-motivated the bombings were, and whether the loss of human lives and the destruction of the city were justified. In an extended essay in the posthumously published On the Natural History of Destruction, W. G. Sebald addresses how this bombing (and others like it) has been largely ignored by later historians. This paper will question how the memory of this historical event Is addressed by the poet and novelist Ciaran Carson, and how Carson’s dealing with the bombing of Dresden leads to a particularly complex nexus between memory and literary form. When Carson first develops his characteristically long-lined narrative poetry in The Irish For No (1987), the poem “Dresden” is the opening text. There contemporary references to the Northern Irish Troubles are interwoven with the character Horse Boyle’s anguished memory of bombing Dresden as part of the RAF: “long afterwards, he could hear, or almost hear, / Between the rapid desultory thunderclaps, a thousand tinkling echoes – / All across the map of Dresden, storerooms full of china shivered, teetered / And collapsed, an avalanche of porcelain.” There is also richly allusive use of Dresden in Carson’s For All We Know (2008) and From Elsewhere(2014). This paper will address how Carson presents the Dresden bombings as a traumatic event that resists totalization both in terms of collective and individual memory narratives. It will address how this resistance is linked to his blurring the borders between the lyrical and the narrative, as well as his complex use of intertextual allusion and multidirectional memory.
Anne Kirstine Munk Christiansen: The Impossibility of Homecoming in George Saunders’ “Home”
In this paper, I will discuss how George Saunders uses threshold metaphors in his short story “Home” (2011) about a soldier returning from the Iraq war. These metaphors are employed as a means of engaging with the standard narrative about soldiers returning from war that has been developed after the Vietnam War. How does Saunders draw on, and how does he challenge and question established collective ideas about veterans’ reentrance into civil society?
While the US might officially celebrate returned soldiers, Saunders’ story suggests a lack of appropriate rites for reintegrating soldiers into society or adequately containing their perpetrator trauma after they have been to war, both on a personal and societal level. In the story, multiple doorway encounters between the returned soldier Mike and members of his family and the local society single out the doorstep or the threshold as a central liminoid topos. In these central negotiations, as well as in the portrait of Mike’s perception of his home town surroundings – they are imbued with war-like qualities, and Mike uses military analysis to navigate them – Saunders asks whether it is at all possible to return from war.
As the story of the soldier plays an important role in our perception of the nation state, war narratives are often subject to political interest and influence. While a lot of the American fiction dealing with the Iraq and Afghanistan wars seem to employ more programmatic narratives, which often serve political or even patriotic purposes, I argue that Saunders’s narrative resists this kind of instrumentalization.
XI Migration and Testimonies
Anna Vuorinne: White Pictures of Black People? Comics on Migration Reflecting Narrative Imagination, Visual Representation, and Agency
Migration is one the key topics of contemporary comics German comics being no exception. The booming of migration-themed comics in 2010s is tightly linked to the contemporary political moment on the one hand and to the evolution of the German comic art on the other hand. During the last decade, and especially since the so-called refugee crisis in 2015, debates on immigration have dominated the political arenas not only in Germany but also in the whole Europe. In the same time German comic art has gravitated towards more serious topics and political themes and explored new, especially documentary, modes of storytelling. The comics on migration are a heterogeneous collection of various formats (web comic, magazine, album), diverse stories, and multiple perspectives but despite their differences they share the same goal. Through graphic storytelling these works aim to diffuse knowledge about migration as a pressing global phenomenon and to bring the experiences of displacement to reader’s attention.
Typical of these comics is a self-reflective engagement with their own aims and aesthetic strategies. They reflect, for example, the possibilities of imagination, storytelling, and comics form in understanding migration as a societal phenomenon and as a subjective experience. If these reflections are rather optimistic celebrating the ethical potential of artistic forms, there are also more critical ruminations. Some comics reflect, for example, the questions of agency and the limits of storytelling when engaging with other people’s experiences. In this presentation my aim is to map out these ethical reflections and to examine them against the backdrop of recent discussions on uses and abuses of storytelling. In addition, I will analyse some examples from the comics in question in order to demonstrate if and how these reflections guide their strategies of storytelling and representation.
Aura Lounasmaa, Cigdem Esin & Crispin Hughes: Anonymity and Representation in Visual Life Stories from the Jungle
In 2016 UEL taught university courses and ran visual story-telling workshops in the Calais Jungle. The aim of the workshops was to facilitate the residents of the camp to tell their own stories, in contrast to the misrepresentation in the media. The edited images and stories were exhibited in physical and online spaces, and many were collated in a book, co-authored by the residents, ‘Voices from the Jungle’ (Africa et al., 2017).
Although the team had worked in various participatory visual projects prior to the Jungle, the political and ethical boundaries here posed a series of new challenges.
1) The Dublin accord requires refugees to seek asylum in the first safe country they arrive in. The fear of being returned to France if they managed to reach the UK, meant participants could not be safely identified as residents in the Jungle. This meant that recognisable self-portraits and authorship of the images and stories had to be erased.
2) Even as participants had fled war, persecution, torture and imprisonment, the Jungle had gained such infamous reputation that many participants felt compelled to hide the fact they had ended up in this dire situation from their families: instead of using their photos to tell stories of the Jungle, they used them to represent an aspired new life in France.
3) Ownership of photos, stories and cameras remained with the participants throughout, but as each moved on and the Jungle was dismantled, staying in touch with some became impossible. Hence not all voices could be heard/represented.
4) With all efforts to make the project participatory and decolonise the educational practices, issues of language competency, translation and expert knowledge were present in the workshops. While the aim was to move away from the negative media representations, life stories were still shaped by those who elicited them.
Harriet Hulme: Between Fiction and Testimony: Exploring an Ethics of Re-Narration in Refugee Tales (2016) and Shatila Stories (2018)
This paper explores the relationship between fiction and testimony as it emerges in two narratives about the refugee experience: Refugee Tales (2016) and Shatila Stories (2018). Refugee Tales insists on the testimonial quality of the tales told in its pages: ‘These are not fictions’, the blurb on the back cover insists. In contrast, Shatila Stories foregrounds its fictionality, claiming that it is ‘a piece of collaborative fiction unlike any other’. And yet these descriptions fail to fully define the nature of either text. For while the tales told in Refugee Tales are true, they have also been rewritten, the original oral stories told by anonymous asylum seekers in the UK turned into written narratives by established authors who made significant formal alterations. Shatila Stories is a collaborative novel created from short stories written by 9 refugees at the Shatila Camp in Beirut. But it too has been rewritten, these independent stories altered in the process of editing and translation from Arabic into English in order to create a single connected narrative.
In this process of rewriting, both texts thus re-member – recall and reassemble – the marginalised voices of the refugees whose tales are told. But what responsibility do we have to marginalised voices when we reconstitute or recuperate them through re-narration, editing and translation? Does this responsibility alter depending on whether the story in question is conceived as a testimony or a fiction? In Demeure, Derrida suggests that, by collapsing the distinction between character, narrator and author, a text can cause the distinction between fiction and testimony to tremble. Drawing on Derrida’s work, I will explore the ways in which both Refugee Tales and Shatila Stories trouble the separation of fiction and testimony and, in so doing, create a collaborative, collective and compassionate re-membrance of these lost voices.
XII Reading and Wellbeing
Cristina V. Bruns: Self-centered Reading: Strengthening Selfhood and Agency through Fiction
Fiction reading’s potential for increasing empathy has been put forward as a primary benefit of literary reading by theorists, like Martha Nussbaum, and empirical researchers, like Keith Oatley. However, this and other arguments for the ethical good of literature focus on how readers view and treat others, and so may overlook a more fundamental function of narrative fiction for readers. Attending to what some highly engaged readers say about their encounters with fiction reveals that time spent in fictional worlds can be a means first to imagine and then ultimately enact a more robust self and the agency that comes with it. In this paper I bring together varied sources of evidence for readers’ self-formation through engagement with fiction. First, I examine contrasting responses of young readers to three popular young adult book series that offer strikingly different portrayals of the shifting agency of its protagonists—Katniss in The Hunger Games, Bella in Twilight, and Harry Potter—characters with whom young readers exhibit strong identification. Some comments from these readers, however, make evident the difficulty some encounter in attempting to move from imagining a self capable of action to enacting such a self in the shared, social world. I, then, consider online fanfiction communities—where fans of fictions of all kinds create, share, and discuss their own stories using the existing fictional characters and worlds they love. These are sites that nurture this capacity to transition from imagining to enacting in its virtual social world. Published comments from fanfiction writers/readers attest to how influential and important these sites are for some readers, and make visible the invaluable self-centered function they serve. Engaging with fiction may improve our ability to imagine others’ lives, but we may first need fiction in order to imagine our own lives differently and to begin to live accordingly.
Päivi Kosonen & Eevastiina Kinnunen:Narrative, Reading and Wellbeing – The Potential of Reading Metanarrative Fiction
In this session, we present our project “Narrative, Reading and Wellbeing”, which is part of Identity Work: Narrative Agency, Metanarrativity and Bibliotherapy(PI Hanna Meretoja), the Turku-based project of theresearch consortium “Instrumental Narratives: The Limits of Storytelling and New Story-Critical Narrative Theory” (Academy of Finland, 2018–2022). Our project aims to study the potential of literary narratives and metanarrativity in various reading group settings.
In the last few years there has been an increasing amount of research on the benefits of reading. While the humanist and phenomenological approach has focused on literary art as a source of wisdom, as a vehicle of personal development and compassion (Gregory 2009; Pettersson T., 2009), a strand of recent research has focused on collective reading practices (Brewster, 2010, 2016). In Britain, for instance, Josie Billington (2010, 2017) and her colleagues have developed a literature-based method of “Shared Reading”, which has reportedly had positive effects on people who suffer from depression and chronic pain. Our project aims to map different collective reading practices, and hopes to add some new methods and models to this area of research. In the first stage of the project we aim to train literature students to facilitate different kinds of reading groups. At the centre of our project are creative reading groups, in which people read and write, and shared reading groups, where people meet to read books together and share experiences. We will also develop metanarrative versions of these groups where discussion is facilitated towards themes around narrativity and identity. We are interested in the participants’ experiences and wellbeing and will use a combination of qualitative and quantitative methods (including interviews, questionnaires, self-reflective texts written by both facilitators and participants). Central to our approach are issues of narrative agency, future-oriented hope, and a “sense of the possible” (Meretoja 2018).
The session includes a demonstration of one kind of reading group session, based on the new metanarrative method that we are developing in the project. During the workshop the participants will read a metanarrative short story, write and discuss in the facilitated session. This demonstrations provides a great opportunity for us to test our method and get feedback from the participants of the conference.
16 FEBRUARY, SATURDAY
XIII Theorizing Memory
Brian Schiff: Conceptual Shell Games
Concepts matter–they frame and, thereby, give shape and definition to what are inherently ambiguous phenomena and direct further research. In this paper, I investigate the affordances and strictures of the metaphors that we use for describing and understanding who weare, where wecome from, and what is significant for us. Collective or social memory, of course, is our state of the art metaphor for describing representations of the past and weaving a sense of shared meaning and group identity. But, memory is far from the only contender for framing these phenomena. We might employ the terminology of myth, ritual, and ideology (Gedi & Elam, 1996), social representations or consciousness (Moscovici, 2000), or the social stock of knowledge (Schutz & Luckmann, 1973).
Although striking and evocative, I argue that social memory is a problematic metaphor for describing the presence and use of the past by social groups. In my estimation, memory’s central obfuscation is a “levels of analysis” problem, which entails several theoretical and descriptive consequences. Once the metaphor moves from the psychological level, a person’s experience, mind, or life, to the social level of symbol, ritual, and social interaction, memory becomes a substantially different phenomenon deserving it’s own tools of inquiry. Such conceptual slippage between levels of analysis would be entirely justifiable if it could, pragmatically, encourage innovative and useful ways of portraying phenomena across levels. However, the shift from personal to social memory, denoting social memory as, in some ways, likepersonal memory, confounds clear description and theoretical understanding.
Using the language of narrative, my project is to reframe, and rewrite, the process and dynamic of “social memory” through a language that is more faithful to the actions and experiences of persons and the spaces and tools that they employ in making the past present.
Thomas Van de Putte: The Contemporary Inhabitants of Oswiecim (Auschwitz): An Interactional Approach to Collective Memory
Memory studies, Kansteiner argued in 2002 and 2010, does not pay sufficient attention to individual people (‘Menschen’) and methodology. Instead, its focal point of interest are memory products (narratives, discourses and performances) and their circulation through time and space.
In recent years, however, one can observe a growing tendency within the field which changes the focus back to ‘Menschen’. Multiple scholars have stresses the need to see collective memories as results of intersubjective interactions (Gensburger 2016, Lebow 2006, Confino 2008). This paper feeds into these new trends and reflects on the possibilities of an epistemology of a pluralized self that informs collective memory research and could allow us to go beyond monolithic ideas of memory.
I explore the potential of such an epistemology in examples resulting from ethnographic fieldwork in the contemporary town of Oswiecim (Auschwitz). The town and its inhabitants are constantly confronted with the reminders of the murder of European Jews by the Nazi occupiers ‘just around the corner’ from their houses. About 2 million people from around the world visit the museal sites in the town each year, bringing with them a diverse range of narratives of the Holocaust. Because of their exposure to all these different narratives the inhabitants of the town provide us with an ideal case to study how people navigate between memory narratives in different interactional contexts.
During a period of 2,5 years, I observed a group of inhabitants of the town in both online contexts and face-to-face interactions. The research shows that it is difficult to understand the extent to which someone knows and believes in certain aggregated or collective forms of memory. People are aware of different narratives of the same past event and are able to alternate between those narratives when it is deemed necessary, even if those narratives are contradictory.
Per Roar: Stumbling Blocks: Stories Too Big for the Everyday
In the proposal “Stumbling blocks: stories too big for the everyday”,I am questioning what the act of remembering might perform (Davis 2010) by departing from the many “stumbling blocks” or “stolpersteine” (cf. Demnig 2003) that are located in my local neighbourhood. In my everyday life I am literally stumbling into testimonies of the worst human atrocity committed in modern time. I am questioning what is performed in this encounter: the void between my everyday life and the atrocities committed and the individuals that would have remained unknown and forgotten if not for being named on the stolpersteine. By the gesture of stumbling, structures too big to be contained by the realm of the everyday are revealed and fracture the simplicity of the everyday.
In this encounter with the past, through negotiating both collective and personal identities, the understanding of history in the present, as cultural memory, is shaped and projected into the future. In the proposal, I want to probe into the performative potential and challenges of this act of remembrance.
XIV Master and Counter Narratives: Refugee Narratives
Marta Laura Cenedese: “Writing the Memory of the Colonial Archive”: Italian Identity, Cultural Narratives, and Postcolonial Society
Italian postcolonial literature is one of the most interesting and vibrant phenomena to have emerged in the recent Italian cultural scene; it has played (and still plays) a crucial role in reigniting discussions on the forgotten/absent memory of Italy’s colonial past. For the most part, it has been a creative project led primarily by women, who have been using different forms and genres, though preferably autobiographical writing, to appropriate colonial memory in order to redefine Italy’s identity as a postcolonial society. This growing production is emblematic of the role that narratives can play in the re-writing of Italy’s colonial history, in the re-elaboration of Italy’s collective memory and identity, and in urging a different apprehension of present-day politics.
My presentation will focus on two novels: Gabriella Ghermandi’s Regina di fiori e di perle (2007) and Igiaba Scego’s Adua (2015). I will look at how the two authors engage with the cultural master narrative of “italiani brava gente” and deflect it to propose a counter-history of colonialism, seen from the point of view of individual, gendered, and intergenerational subjectivities. Reflecting on the authors’ conscious play with the idea of storytelling and its form, I will explore whether the novels provide agency – and if so, what kind of agency and to whom (whose agency)? Finally, how does the reconstruction of the colonial past engage with present forms of coloniality, the refugee crisis, and the possibility of alternative futures?
Nicoleta Alexoae-Zagni: “A Nation that Does Not Remember”: Alternative Temporalities and Spatialities in Yan Geling’s Storytelling
In an interview with Amy Tan for an event organized by the PEN American Center in New York City in 2004, Yan Geling, whose author website describes her as “one of the most acclaimed contemporary novelists and screenwriters writing in the Chinese language today and a well-established writer in English,” insisted on the role of the writer as a collector of stories. Going as far as to view herself as “the only one who remembers things”—as the Chinese are, in her vision, “a very forgetful people”— Yan expressed her disappointment with both Chinese and American national spaces and communities and pointed out writerly negotiations of complex social, political and cultural belongings and affiliations (Tan).
Based on these liminary reflections, my presentation aims at investigating Yan’s novel Fusang(1996) as performing, at a (meta)discursive level, various acts of resistance, memory, and survival, claiming participation in the discursive time of (the) nation(s). In so doing, my analyses will explore the ways in which, by taking up the subject of female immigration and sojourning and defying conventions of both North-American- and Chinese-centered epistemic practices, Fusangprovides a thought-provoking induction into the problematics of contemporary Asian/(Asian) American configurations and crossings. It will be thus evinced how “fifth-generation immigrant” authorship (in Geling’s own formulation) comes as an interrogation of processes of representation, narration and inscription, in a permanent intersection of familial, communal, national, textual and intertextual memories and realities.
Helle Marie Andresen: Refugee Narratives and Identity: An Analysis of Breachby Popoola and Holmes
Relating refugee narratives from a wide variety of national backgrounds, the short story collection Breach by Olumide Popoola and Annie Holmes challenges our understanding of the refugee experience. Based on stories gathered in the Calais refugee camp, Breach explores the ways in which refugees, who are living under extreme conditions, attempt to preserve a sense of personal identity. This identity is, in many senses, vulnerable, and drawing on Judith Butler’s concept of vulnerability, I will examine the ways in which this vulnerability can be read as a strength. Written in present tense, Breach highlights a sense of immediacy; as the people smuggler Ghostboy phrases it, “For you and me, there is only now”. This urgency in the narrative poses questions about how and when identity is formed, which I will address in my presentation. Breach also addresses the fears of those who wishes to close the borders into Europe, who are eager to preserve a collective identity that does not include refugees. Put into the context of the current political debate on the migration crisis, Breach invites an understanding of refugee experience both as an individual experience and as a collective one. My presentation, then, will address how the stories in Breach challenge our perception of the refugee identity, and in what ways the collection of stories can be read as an invitation to incorporate such identities into the collective identity of an increasingly polarised Europe.
XV Dangers of Narratives
Ada Schwanck: Selling Love Stories at the Human Rights Market: A Critical Approach to the Uses of the Documentary Out of Iraqin LGBT Refugee Advocacy
In today’s human rights advocacy, storytelling is increasingly common; personal stories bring unfamiliar issues closer to home than any statistics can. However, I argue that uncritical uses of storytelling in human rights advocacy can be misleading in terms of interpretation and representation. In this paper, I discuss the documentary Out of Iraq: A Love Story(Chris McKim & Eva Orner 2016) and its utilization for LGBT refugee advocacy work in the U.S. Out of Iraqdepicts a love story of an Iraqi soldier and an Iraqi translator for the U.S. army, and their long and difficult asylum process with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. Launched as part of the American LGBT entertainment brand Logo TV’s Global Ally Campaign—a solidarity campaign for international LGBT activists in collaboration with human rights NGOs—the documentary has been utilized to personalize LGBT refugee concerns, and was screened in 2016 at United Nations’ panel on LGBT refugee issues in the Middle East.
Drawing from narrative theory, postcolonial studies and queer theory, this paper traces the power structures behind the documentary’s narrative and its interpretations in terms of personal and collective identity work in negotiating belonging and nation building. The documentary interestingly intertwines two narratives—a queer love story narrative and a human rights narrative. On one hand, the conventional colonial narrative of the suffering and silent victim of human rights violations is challenged in the queer love story but on the other hand, the human rights narrative circulates colonial imagery and narration. In my paper, I claim that in the interpretations of human rights agents, this intertwining translates into a homonationalist narrative of U.S. exceptionalism and a homonormative representation of LGBT refugees.
Abdelbaqi Ghorab: Against Memorization: The Historiographic Metafiction and the Interrogation of National Memory in J. M. Coetzee’s Foeand Kamel Daoud’s Meursault, Contre-Enquête
Paul Ricoeur regards memory as an exercise, an act, a doing of something, characterized by two overlapping approaches: one is cognitive while the other is practical. The cognitive side is recognition the crowning of “a successful search” by reaching an “image.” This image can be either of a “fantastic” nature –deceitful –or of an “iconic” nature –truthful. The practical side is the effort and the work put towards reaching the recognition (Paul Ricoeur. Memory, History, Forgetting.University of Chicago Press, 2004. p.56). The act of remembering, the exercise of memory, results into an overlapping of the cognitive and the practical. This overlap is performed with the aim of acquiring a representation of the past in a form of an image. Ricoeur differentiates between remembering and memorization by pointing out that the latter embeds an economy of effort that calls for an instant feeling of ease when activated. It is through a strive for mastering memorization that the chances of abusing memory arise. Memory on a national scale, in most instances, does not consist solely of memories whose exercise is dependent on a mere attempt of recalling a specific image. Being part of a collectivity of this nature, entails a sense of connection, where the individual, through an exercise of “memorization,” whose conditions are dictated by an “exterior” factor, “remembers” what is primarily belonging to the collective. By reading Foeand Meursault Contre-Enquêteas historiographic metafiction challenging Robinson Crusoeand L’Étranger as “fantastic images”, this paper will argue for the notion that memorization is capable of erasing specific events from existence, or to a lesser degree altering them. In result, it inevitably threatens the validity of the process out of which the image of totality, on a national scale, is generated.
Key Words: Memory; Nationess; National Identity; Historiographic Metafiction; Albert Camus; Daniel Defoe; J. M. Coetzee; Kamel Daoud; Paul Ricoeur; South African Post-colonial literature; Algerian Post-colonial Memory.
Sarah Holdren: Preterm Motherhood: An Analysis of the Role of Infant Feeding in Non-Normative Birth Stories
Birth stories have traditionally been an important source of knowledge regarding childbirth, and they are often thought of as cultural mechanisms for communicating the transition into “traditional” motherhood. While this is the case, some recent research suggests that these stories can be problematic due to the sometimes false expectations about childbirth and early motherhood they perpetuate (Kay, Downe, Thomson, & Finlayson, 2017; Gabel & Kotel, 2018). In this presentation, I plan to discuss the ways “normative motherhood,” as communicated by term birth stories, serves as a toxic comparison for mothers of preterm infants. Using literature that argues that mothers of preterm infants experience “motherhood interrupted,” (Shattanawi, 2015; Hurst, Engebretson, & Mahoney, 2013), as well as Labov’s (1967) theory of untellability, I ground the findings of my own narrative-based study of NICU infant feeding narratives to understand how expectations about infant feeding play a critical role in these mothers’ narrative trajectories. I outline the lasting trauma evidenced by these women’s stories, and recommend methods for reframing traditional birth stories to better represent the diversity of experiences around childbirth and motherhood today.
XVI Storying Lives: Pedagogical and Literary perspectives
Mirva Heikkilä: Voices of Finnish Pre-Service Teachers’ Professional Agency in Terms of Research Skills
The aim of this study is to explore what kind of professional agency is manifested in teacher education when the teaching practice and the research skills studies are mixed with each other.The paper responds to a discussion on integrating theory and practice in teacher education as well as on examining pre-service teachers’ professional agency in different learning environments. Professional agency is defined as actively taking possession of the received instruction to develop one’s expertise as a becoming teacher.
Written texts (N=79) of the first-year pre-service teachers were retrieved from their reflexive teaching practice reports in one Finnish university. In teaching practice, which takes place in university training schools, the students are assumed to show emerging professional agency and apply theoretical knowledge to practice.
Narrative methods were used to understand how the pre-service teachers construct professional agency. More precisely, the metaphor ofvoiceby Bakhtin (2002) was used to discover wider speech genres that imply different qualities of professional agency. Four distinct voices were identified. To examine the voices closely, expectation analysis was utilized to bring a deeper understanding of personal and cultural expectations (Hyvärinen, 2008; Tannen, 1993).
In some voices, research skills had been integrated into the student’s expertise and professional agency was shown. However, in another voices, the students seemed to be confused about the idea of using research skills in one’s daily work as a teacher and, consequently, professional agency was limited. The findings indicate that this kind of mixed learning environment can facilitate pre-service teachers’ professional agency. However, this facilitation must be enhanced by giving support to the students in order to avoid the unclarity. Methodologically, paying attention to the narration the students use in their reports brings new insights to program development in teacher education.
Laura Karttunen: Fictional Designs for Lives: Riikka Pulkkinen’s Iiris Lempivaaran levoton ja painava sydän
When living and narrating our lives, we make use of a number of pre-existing forms. We need words, genres and cultural discourses to interact with others and to give shape to our experiences and emotions. In this talk I investigate how fiction is used to that end. Some of the most memorable oral autobiographical narratives discussed by sociolinguists in recent years feature a prominent allusion to fiction or pop culture (Mean Girlsin DeFina 2015, Shaggy in Bamberg & Georgakopoulou 2008). I wish to show that when it comes to self-making and life trajectories fiction may be construed as a kind of knowledge. In Democracy and Education(1918) John Dewey characterized knowledge as awareness of several alternative pathways for proceeding. When faced with an obstacle, a person in possession of knowledge of the connections among phenomena will soon find a way around it. She will be capable of intelligent action. Building on Dewey’s idea, I will suggest that we do not need to retain a strict distinction between fictional and factual texts if they are seen as so many pathways crisscrossing the same terrain. That is, while a single literary text clearly falls short of the kind of knowledge produced by scholars, when we look at the issue from the perspective of an individual trying to navigate and narrate her personal life, a multitude of paths is probably preferable to a single authorized one. I will illustrate these ideas with Riikka Pulkkinen’s chick lit novella Iiris Lempivaaran levoton ja painava sydän(2014, “The Restless and Heavy Heart of Iiris Lempivaara”) in which the 28-year-old protagonist joins her elderly neighbor to watch and seek guidance from taped episodes of the soap opera The Bold and the Beautiful.
Helena Duffy: The Silence of the Mothers: Art Spiegelman’s Maus (1991) and Philippe Claudel’s Brodeck (2007)
Spiegelman’s Mausand Claudel’s Brodeckboth retell the Holocaust using potentially controversial postmodern narrative strategies. Namely, while simultaneously inscribing and subverting the conventions of a beast fable and survivor’s testimony, they offer a metafictional meditation on the representational difficulties posed by their subject. While keeping their postmodern character in mind, here I will, however, focus on the two novels’ efforts to foreground the Jewish mother’s predicament, which until very recently was glossed over by Holocaust historians. Behind this marginalisation was the assumption that both men and women suffered in essentially the same way, and the correlated fear of displacing attention from racism to misogyny, or of tarnishing the victims’ memory with discussions of rape, abortion, amenorrhea, or infanticide. Much attention has already been given to the double silencing of the story of Anja Spiegelman (Marianne Hirsch 1997; Michael Rothberg, 1994; Charles Hatfield, 2005), whose diaries are first lost in wartime Poland and then, after her suicide in postwar America, destroyed by her husband, Vladek. Anja’s loss of her first child, Richieu, is therefore necessarily mediated by her husband and then by her writer-son. The criticism of Mauswill provide the starting point for my analysis of Brodeckwhere Émelia’s rape is narrated by her husband, a concentration camp survivor. In Claudel’s novel the woman’s voicelessness is actualised through the aphasia Émelia succumbs to as a result of the sexual violence she suffers. Unable to verbalise her ordeal, she narrates it with her body when she gives birth to a child conceived during the rape and when, some time later, Brodeck hides his narrative of wartime violence by wrapping his manuscript around his wife’s belly. Hence, although the novel seemingly perpetuates the dominance of the male perspective, it gives the woman a voice by making her the co-author of Brodeck’s indictment of his executioners. The novel further integrates Émelia’s experience into the history of the Holocaust by softening the border between the gender-related categories of writing and weaving, Émelia’s profession as embroiderer being reflected in Brodeck’s name (‘broder’ in French means ‘to embroider’). While framing my analysis with Hélène Cixous’s and Luce Irigaray’s theory on the corporeality of l’écriture feminine, and with Nancy K. Miller’s ‘arachnologies’, I will decipher the double-voicedness of Claudel’s novel as a typically postmodern inscription and critique of the male survivor’s testimony that typically sidelines the female experience of the Nazi persecution.
XVII Political Narratives
Molly Andrews: “The Wall Inside the Heart”: Narrating East German Identity
This paper will examine the narratives of a small group of former East Germans dissidents, comparing stories which they told shortly after the Berlin Wall came down with more current reflections on what it means to them to be East German. Building on a framework of political narratives, the paper will look at which stories individuals tell, how they are temporally constructed, and how they function, as well as consider what counter-stories help to frame the backdrop of meaning. The paper will also explore the different levels of the presentation of self, as respondents reflect on the person who they had thought they might become with the person who they now see themselves as being, shedding light on how micro political narratives can help us to understand macro political change over time.
Josefin Graef: Memory Politics, Narrative Politics, or the Politics of Identity? A Theoretical and Empirical Exploration in the Context of Extremist Violence
In November 2011, the German right-wing terrorist group National Socialist Undergroundwas discovered, following a ten-year violent campaign of murders, bombings and robberies across Germany. The realisation that the nine murders of men with a (mostly Turkish) migration background and two bomb attacks in migrant neighbourhoods were the doing of white, ethnic Germans instead of organised criminals, foreign gangs or local Turkish clans, as had previously been assumed, sent shock waves through the country. The discovery set into motion a process amounting to narrative ‘acrobatics’: the collective attempt, in the media and elsewhere, at re-telling the stories of the crimes in a manner that would be able to keep up Germany’s firmly established self-image as a pluralist, diverse and responsible society that had learned from its dictatorial past. This talk identifies the different phases of narration that the NSU crimes have undergone since the year 2000. It shows that the process of telling their story across nearly two decades provides a unique case for exploring the performative interactions between (meta-) narratives, memories and collective identities in a political context. I argue that subordinating the narration of these past events to the maintenance of an institutionalised identity means that an important opportunity has been missed to reflect on who ‘the Germans’ want to be in the future – instead of just lingering over memories of who they were until the mid-20th century and what they have become since. The NSU affair, in spite of the stir it caused, is a political rupture that never was. But the patterns of narrating violence that made the conclusion of ‘white German perpetrators’ so unexpected continue to be effective, evident in how German society has been responding to violence and crime committed by or attributed to asylum seekers in the context of the European ‘migration crisis’.
Michael L. Zukosky: The Political Potential of Multigenerational Life Narratives: Exploring Productive Tensions between History and Memory
Historical education, such as in the teaching and exhibiting of official historical narratives, is one of the mechanisms by which modern states try to develop and foster shared national identities (Ahonen 2001, Apple 1979, Rolph-Trouillot 1995, Sexais 2006). In the process, these narratives objectify, de-particularize, and idealize the dynamic and multifaceted temporalities and subjectivities of their subjects (see Foucault 1977). Nevertheless, progressive political subjectivity depends to a degree upon how individuals and subgroups within states narrativize their own temporality to raise questions about, and even counter, official narratives. To explore this process, scholars, following and combining the work of memory studies (Halbwachs 1992, Paxon 1985), narratology (Ochs and Capps 1996, Labov 2004, 2006, 2013) and oral history (Thompson 2000, Vansina 1985, 2010), might contrast official historical narratives with the life narratives of several generations of a marginalized social group. Through grounded theorization, this paper explores the continuities and discontinuities across official historical narratives and the memories of several generations of a Chinese ethnic minority. Such a life history corpus contains complex forms of narrated temporality- local interpretations of numerous, qualitatively distinct past before and after life sequences embedded in concrete geographical localities (see Gell 1992 and Rifkin 2017). In the sense of how the sociologist Anthony Giddens’ defines structuration (Cohen 1989, Giddens 1979, 1984), the utilization of the codas of official historical narratives in explaining memories does co-create state identities, but just as often this dialectical process transforms those identities too, as intergenerational narrative coda shifts highlight particular and unique temporalities and subjectivities. In conclusion, these shifts are opportunities for critical reflection on official history and the development of critical political consciousness.
XVIII French Perspectives on Storytelling
Anaïs Fusaro: Me, Myself and Memory
One may argue that, in France, alongside the death of Serge Doubrovsky, autofiction has lost its flair, and that a new trend seems to regain interest: a genre which attempts to define the writer’s identity through his/her memory creating a unique and personal narrative, ego-history. How is that different from autofiction? In ego-history, the focus is set on the use of memory as the prime materials to tell the history of the self. When coining that word, Pierre Nora pictures ego-history, as ‘a new genre for a new age of historical consciousness’ (Nora, 1987, 5). He further defines it as ‘an experience […which] consists in shedding light on one’s own history as one would do with the history of someone else […]. To clarify, as an historian, the link between the history we create and the history which has created us.’ (1987)
My paper questions the work of Ivan Jablonka, a historian at Paris-XIII, as a contemporary way to narrate his identity through his memory: of the 1980s (En camping-car, 2018), of France under Sarkozy’s government (Jessica ou la fin des hommes, 2016), or of his experience of Jewishness (Histoire des grand-parents que je n’ai pas eus, 2012). Following Barthes’ Mythologies(1957), Jablonka wonderfully associates the social sciences (history and sociology in particular) and literature to create a unique space of narration where collective memory and identity shape our perspective of past, present and future time. How does Jablonka’s ego-history renew our understanding on thinking identity and agency today? And how does his work contribute to “a new age of historical consciousness”?
Tim Farrant: Storytelling, Forms and Ethics in France, Daudet to Houellebecq
For much of the French twentieth century and indeed the nineteenth, stories were seen as an irrelevance, a diversion, an intellectual toy. The tale was something not strong enough to be a novel; Matthews’s 1884 label ‘short story’ seemed to seal brief narrative’s fate as something inherently inferior. This paper will explore the story of discourses and practices of form from nineteenth- to twenty-first century France, beginning with the novel’s coming of age as the great living and passionate form la grande forme vivante, passionnée de l’enquête sociale et de l’étude vivante’ and its simultaneous ascension to the level of ethical question in Germinie Lacerteux. Through the lens of Jolles’s Formes simples, it will examine the ethical centrality of storytelling, and his engaged, socially-relevant and impactful conception of forms, via their (and his) backstory before exploring Daudet’s Lettres de mon moulin, Tartarin and Contes du lundi as significant nineteenth-century manifestations of a recursive yearning to shape the political present and the future by invocation of the linguistic, literary and territorial memories and identities of the past. The second part of the paper will relate these topoito contemporary twentieth- and twenty-first century narratives, social, political and literary in the campaigns and image-making of Mitterand, Sarkozy, and Macron, and the identitairetheses of Baetens, Renaud Camus and Houellebecq. Exploring their indebtedness to nineteenth-century predecessors, it will contend that what matters now is not facts but narrative. As we move into a radically post-rational age, the antics of Trump or Dieudonné gain agency simply because they are newsworthy, and Houellebecq’s provocations in Soumissionveer teasingly close both to the atavistic fears of a Huysmans and to the contentions of the contemporary identitarian right.
Marieke Mueller: Narrative, Memory and Identity in Contemporary French Autofiction: Didier Eribon and Edouard Louis
Didier Eribon and Edouard Louis have recently gained prominence through auto-fictional and auto-sociographical texts which are not only widely read, but have been further disseminated through dramatizations by Thomas Ostermeier and others. Both authors narrativize their rural or small-town working-class roots and their subsequent social ascendency through entering the Parisian intellectual milieu, and both are crucially concerned with the interaction of memory, violence and narrative.
Eribon’s Returning to Reims (2009) and Édouard Louis’s History of Violence (2016) problematize the creation of and reflection on identity in a context of structural and interpersonal violence. My paper will suggest that both texts use narrative techniques in order to weave together individual and cultural identity and memory on the one hand, and individual and cultural experience of violence on the other. Louis’s account of rape, for example, is varyingly told from the perspective of the first-person narrator or from that of his sister, thus creating a narrative in which post-traumatic identity depends on a temporary metaleptic fragmentation into multiple bearers of memory. Eribon’s childhood memories, on the other hand, are shot through with sociological analysis, thereby creating a narrative voice that hesitates between individual identity-creation and its social and cultural implications.
My paper will suggest that both authors are part of a noteworthy development in the contemporary period, namely the desire to understand traumatic memory and subsequent reflection on identity in a decidedly social and cultural context, frequently through the double lens of narrative experimentation and sociological framing. At the same time, the ways in which narrativization confronts the reader (or viewer in the theatre) with the experience of violence and trauma complicates their reflection on memory and identity further, as it opens up narratives of personal memory to their staging as collective experience and cultural product.
XIX Nordic Perspectives on Memory and Identity
Nanny Jolma: Constructing the Reflective Nostalgic Narrative and the Memory of the Past in Bo Carpelan´s Berg
In my presentation, I will explore how reflective nostalgia works as a tool for constructing one´s experience and memory of the past. I also consider the connection between reflective nostalgia and identity. I approach nostalgia as a textual aesthetics (Salmose 2018) but also consider the contextual view on nostalgia (Boym 2001; 2007). My method combines narratological and thematical textanalysis and I will provide case examples from Bo Carpelan´s novel Berg (2005).
In Berg, the relation to nostalgia is complicated. Mattias, the first-person narrator, is trying to recall his past and reflect on questions of ageing. The novel is mostly structured around a childhood trauma caused by the Second World War and by a shooting episode in the family. Death is also a central theme in the novel. However, the novel utilises many tropes that are typically considered nostalgic, such as the idealised childhood summer (Salmose 2012, p. 274). Themes such as remembrance also create the grounds for the nostalgic experience. The analeptic structure of the narration distinguishes late adulthood and childhood, building an essential dichotomy for nostalgia (ibid., pp. 287–88).
The novel raises questions of the definition and limits of nostalgic experience. Despite the non-nostalgic content – and even because of it – the nostalgic experience in Berg is intense, reflective, and ambivalent. My presentation contributes to the themes of the conference by addressing the reflectivity in the process of remembrance, which is produced by the interplay between the idealised and traumatic narratives.
Elise Nykänen: Writing from the Land of Melancholia: Nationalism, Ethnicity, and the Case of Arctic Hysteria
In his interview from the year 1968, the Finnish author Marko Tapio (1924–1973) describes the melancholic exaltation that occasionally takes hold of the people living in the Northern Finland: “We don’t know what it really is. It is melancholia that doesn’t know any limits when it is set free. – – Every so often, an extreme phenomenon appears in that region: that’s arctic hysteria. Its outbursts reach utmost extremes and no means of self-control can contain them.”
In this paper I approach the intersection of narrative, identity and cultural memory from the perspective of storying national and ethnical identities. “Artic hysteria” constitutes a set of cultural clichés that has been used globally to define the collective identities of the native people living in the arctic regions. The concept is often employed to exoticize or medicalize the effects of the extreme climatic conditions on Nordic people, driving them to excessive drinking and other “irrational”, or even psychopathological, behaviors.
My presentation examines Marko Tapio’s work in the context of the cultural representations of arctic hysteria. I analyze the narrative “techniques of nationalization” (Hogan 2009) in Timo Hännikäinen’s essayistic book The Land of Hysteria(2013), in which Tapio’s conception of arctic hysteria is discussed in relation to Finnish nation’s psychohistory. My paper asks how the narrative model of arctic hysteria works in Tapio’s fiction and what kinds of perspectives Hännikäinen’s contemporary interpretations of Tapio’s personality and his texts provide us.
Anna Kuutsa: Narrating the Gender in Maria Jotuni’s Arkielämää
The presentation examines how the embedded narratives shape and construct the normative expectations about gender in Maria Jotuni’s single-day novel Arkielämää(1909). The novel describes a rural community of people unable to read, and instead it is oral storytelling in its various forms that the characters use to gather and spread their knowledge about the surrounding world. The characters pass on rumours about others and experiences of their own in the stories which can, as textual structures, be seen as embedded narratives. My question is whether and how these repeated narratives, nearly always discussing the unfortunate fate or unapproved behaviour of women, can be read as normative knowledge about gender.
I will analyse these embedded narratives by using Maurice Halbwachs’ classic definition of collective memory and Jerome Bruner’s theory of Folk psychologyin order to examine the phenomena of normative or cultural knowledge. In addition, my focus will be on the literary means in which this phenomenon is represented in a text. My aim is to examine how the text thematizes the process of these repeated narratives turning into knowledge – and how these socially shared narratives influence on the female characters in the novel.
XX Collective identities
Dima Samaha: Storytelling and Memory in Lebanese Post Civil-War Fiction Novels
My presentation will focus on novels by Lebanese immigrant writers whose works of fiction all share a same concern with a re-appropriation of identity and memory through a multiplicity of discursive strategies. The authors all belong to the same generation (1959-1969), their novels were written and published after the Lebanese Civil War (1975-1990), outside of Lebanon, in both English and French.
The presentation sheds light on distinctive aspects of these novels all of which share the dual experience of war and emigration. This dual experience generates various discursive strategies analysed in Ruth Amossy and Dominique Maingueneau’s work on the analysis of discourse as well as Peter Brooks’s contribution to narrative construction in therapy framework. Memory is a mean through which narrative is articulated as it turns into the object of harsh attempts of re-appropriation. These writings nurture and explore different genres (detective novel, road novel) and compulsive mechanisms such as depression, collection, and an altered sense of reality. Trauma theory, as developed by Cathy Caruth, and its application to literary works, as discussed by Anne Whitehead, alongside the work of Maurice Halbwachs on collective and social memory, shed light on the mechanisms in which memory works in the studied novels.
The novels are also part of an attempt to write history and draw on mixed material to do so: They use archives, fictionalise real events, and develop multiple narrative voices. These techniques lead to a reflection on historiography, the production of memories, and the traditional functions of reading. Narrative strategies, memory mechanisms, and the writing of history (individual and collective) are part of a process illustrating a permanent concern about individual and collective identity. Yet, identity in these writings is intertwined with filiation, be it human, geographical, or linked to memory.
Anna Sivula: Heritage Lost? Collective Identity Work of Local Heritage Communities in Municipal Mergers
Cultural heritage is a process, consisting of the changing material memories, the historization and the other practices of cultural memory. In my presentation, I am dealing with the heritage communities and the dynamics of cultural heritage.
I am observing the heritage communities in action. I approach the dynamics of cultural heritage with the theory of collective identity work. I discuss the identity work strategies of local heritage communities, in the context of major organizational changes.
My case studies are about the adaptation of local heritage communities to a municipal merger. My questions are: What kinds of cultural heritage conflicts emerge when a local community is facing a major organizational change? Which heritages are worth of preserving? How does a local community protect the continuity of its historical identity in a major organizational change? What kinds of narrative, material and emotional tools does an identity-working local heritage community use for to maintain the cultural heritage in the municipal merger?
Sahdev Luhar: Cultural Memory and the Shaping of Identity
& Ajaysinh Chauhan: Cāraṇī Oral Narratives and the Reassessment of Historical Facts
Sahdev Luhar: Cultural Memory and the Shaping of Identity (10 minutes)
There are many nomadic groups that have lost their cultural identity during the processes of migrations. Such cultural groups often claim their identity through the cultural memory and the traditional aspects of their lives. Many scholars like Charlotte Damm, Erin Hanson, Elizabeth Tonkin and others have taken up the cultural memory or the oral narratives of such communities as a valid proof to understand the cultural identity of the community. But in all the cases the cultural memory may not reflect upon the cultural identity of a community. Focusing on the cultural memory of the Gadaliya Luhar community of India, the present paper seeks to understand how the cultural memory shapes the identity of a community in the time of cultural amnesia. The Gadaliya Luhar community, a historical nomadic group, claims its association with the king of the Mewar region of Rajasthan, Maharana Pratap. After the defeat by the Mughal Emperor, Akbar, the Mewar region came under the Muslim rule in the sixteenth century – later followed by the British rule in the nineteenth century. To save their religion from the attacks of the Muslim invaders, the members of this community left the Mewar and migrated to the different parts of the medieval India with a promise that they would come back to free their motherland. These double cultural amnesias, in the Mughal and later in the British Empire, demolished the identity of the Gadaliya Luhars. This paper also tries to assess the authenticity of the cultural memory in the light of some historical documents available on the history of the Gadaliya Luhar community. The paper also seeks to address the following query: can the cultural memory or oral narratives be taken as a valid proof for understanding the cultural identity of a community? If yes, to what extent?
Keywords: the Gadaliya Luhar community, cultural memory, identity, oral narratives
Ajaysinh Chauhan: Cāraṇī Oral Narratives and the Reassessment of Historical Facts (10 minutes)
There are different techniques of narrating a tale. In the literary tales, the authors may take liberty with the narrative techniques, but the folk narrative has certain pattern techniques. For example, there are the specific techniques used by the narrators while narrating the folk literature and the tribal literature. The folk narratives are intended for entertainment, whereas the tribal narratives have a religious function to serve. Rajasthan and Gujarat, the two states in the western part of India, had witnessed the rise of the Cāraṇī oral narratives in the ninth century. The Cāraṇī narratives are famous for their narrative styles, their use of memory, and their use of the historical elements. With the fall of the Gupta Empire in the seventh-eighth century, India witnessed the rise of the Rajput Princely States. These Rajput Princely States witnessed a need of forming the prideful history to showcase their bravery. They employed the Cāraṇ, the professional narrators or the bards, for this purpose. These Cāraṇ narrators and the successors used their memory and created the glorious history of the Rajput kings for many centuries. Narrative is an important element of the Cāraṇī oral tradition. This narrative is narrated in the special gathering known as the Ḍāyaro. The narratives for the Ḍāyaro are not to be written down, but they are to be memorised. Unlike other folk narratives, the Cāraṇī tales are narrated to earn the financial support from the kings or the rajputs. Since these tales are oriented towards earning wealth by praising the upper caste rajputs, the authenticity of the history of the Princely States which is formed using the memory of the Cāraṇ raises certain questions. These tales nourished the patriotism, but it is equally true that they have also nourished the ego of the rajput kings by praising them unnecessarily. Hence, the present paper intends to study the uses and the abuses of the Cāraṇī narratives by theorising the different intersections of memory and narrative.
Keywords: the Cāraṇī oral narratives, memory, Ḍāyaro, history