This proposed thematic issue of Oxford German Studies (https://www.tandfonline.com/toc/yogs20/current) deals with the relationship between space and identity in German-language minority literature outside of Germany, Austria and Switzerland from multilingual areas in Europe such as South Tyrol, Luxembourg, East Belgium, Northern Schleswig; Transylvania, Bukovina, Alsace, Silesia written after 1990. The discourses of national belonging, of cultural self-definition and self-understanding which come to the fore in these literary texts, will be the object of the issue. In the post-national constellation of Europe, a vigorous resurgence of German minority culture can be observed. The changing minority-majority relationship after the disappearance of the Iron Curtain and the related processes of Europeanization of opportunity structures for the political and cultural mobilization of language minorities has given a strong impetus to the visibility of minority literature. The border regions and enclaves the German-language authors write from play an important role in their conception of Europe as a multi-centered space of democratic values. In their heterotopical writing, they reflect a variety of possible relationships to German culture as well as of the cultural, literary, and historical contexts of the countries of which they are citizens. Their literary significance cannot be grasped solely in relationship of one regional or national space of belonging. The protagonists in the novels or lyrical personae in the poems of these authors often collect experiences of space, piece them together into a patchwork, and endow them with value by drawing connections over time and space. From their personal transcultural locations formed out of multiple connections and allegiances, each protagonist reinvents the space he inhabits, endowing it with deeply personal meaning coloured by the diverse cultural strands deriving from his experience. Paradigmatically, the German-Hungarian poet Valeria Koch, calls this transcultural and translingual space the “Land von Nirgendwo und Irgendwo” (1994). Yet, the transitive European dimensions of these texts – e.g. East Belgian author Freddy Derwahl’s magnificent Bosch in Belgien (2006) – has been largely neglected by German Studies, often depicting them as nostalgic, self-reflexive provincial literature.
This thematic issue has one primary and two secondary aims. The primary aim: Through a close reading of selected literary texts (prose and poetry), contributions will discuss the status of the literary representation of minority culture as a space (be it geographic, cultural, linguistic, political, social, ethnic, institutional, ideological, or aesthetic) in which global and local forces interact. Through issues such as dwelling and displacement, dialect and multilingualism, country side and city, periphery and centre, regionalism and national identity, they will investigate how aesthetic forms and cultural expressions engage with and shape the ongoing redefinition of collective identity represented in minority literature. Thus, the special issue aims at reworking the topics of locality and place while recalling the historical events of their dislocation as key moments of collective memory and identity. The link between space and identity can hardly be overlooked: The field of contemporary German-language minority literature in Europe – and specifically in Eastern Europe – is littered with memories of German guilt as well as of spatial images of flight, expulsion, and exile on the one hand and of marginalization and isolation as ‘Hitler’s fifth column’ (M. Zeman) on the other hand.
The special issue wants to deconstruct the idea of an homogeneous ‘ethno-linguistically’ defined ‘auslandsdeutsche Literatur’. Therefore, we welcome contributions on literatures which may not be easily labelled ‘German literature’, such as Luxemburgish literature (even if written in German), as they are fundamentally multilingual, transcultural in their textual foundation, and anchored in non-germanophone societies. What links nearly all of the narratives envisaged in this issue is the interdependence between concepts of familiarity and foreignness, home and estrangement, national language(s) and literary language. Informed by transareal literary theory (cf. Ottmar Ette in Literatur in Bewegung, 2001; ZwischenWeltenSchreiben. Literaturen ohne festen Wohnsitz, 2005; Homi K. Bhabha in The Location of Culture, 1997), this proposed issue takes the reconfiguration of European boundaries – together with the renegotiation of senses of place – as a point of departure for exploring literary representations of regional, national, and European space.
In this way, as a first complementary aim, the issue wants to make a meaningful theoretical contribution to the concept of transcultural majority-minority interaction in literary texts and fill the lacunae in the field of the transfer of cultural codes and the area of imagology, the study of the formation of images, national awareness and stereotypes (cf. Joep Leerssen). The idea of transculturation implies, on the one hand, a substantial difference in terms of power between the two (or more) groups in contact, and, on the other, an ingenious creativity which allows the marginal group to transform the acquired material in order to produce a qualitatively new culture. The issue wants to offer a corrective to the idea of unidirectionality in cultural exchange and will propose a model of reciprocal interaction in German minority literature. The second complementary aim of this issue consists of the comparative interest in bringing out the specificity of German minority literature in comparison with national majority literatures and to provide a tentative answer to the complex question of a European literature in transnational terms.
The deadline for contributions is 1 November, 2018. Contributions may be written in German or English and count max. 10.000 words (footnotes included). Style guidelines can be found at: https://www.tandfonline.com/action/authorSubmission?journalCode=yogs20&page=instructions
Please send all inquiries to:
Prof. Arvi Sepp
University of Antwerp/Free University of Brussels (VUB) – German Department