Annegret Marten (KCL) - 2015-16 Students

Experiments with monsters: transformations of language and subjects in 21st century German-language writing

Monsters embody that which breaks the dominant order in more than one way, and, as such, there has been an increased interest in them as a topic of interrogation within the humanities over the last 30 years. Derrida, pointing to the Latin origin ‘monstrare’, claims that the monster ‘shows itself in something that is not yet shown’. In this light, my approach seeks to challenge critical engagements with representations of monsters that limit their poetic function to mere signification. For that purpose, I turn to contemporary, experimental German-language writing which features linguistic, narrative and conceptual innovation. I propose a reconfiguration of the critical understanding of monstrosity by offering readings across a range of textual forms, some of which draw on performance and visual media, and I probe how the presence of monstrous creatures in cultural objects by Georg Klein (2007), Nora Gomringer (2013), Dietmar Dath and Oliver Scheibler (2014) and Tawada Yōko (2017) can be made productive beyond their allegorical potential. I read the formal play with monster, what I call ‘monstrous figurations’, in these works as attempts by their authors to transform established notions of the human subject and current knowledge formations that are associated with crisis. The examined texts draw from rich cultural influences including ancient East-Asian and Greek myths, the German Romantic period, European and Asian psychoanalytic thought, classic political economy, and popular culture genres of horror and science fiction. I argue that in addition to this intertextuality as a critical reflection on European cultural heritage, these texts also always perform a critique of representational modes of the human body and subject.

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