Piecing together the past: collage techniques in contemporary textual engagements with lost histories from the 1930s and 40s
My project looks at the use of collage techniques in contemporary literature about traumatic and buried episodes of history from the 1930s and 40s. It will form the first comparative study of four major female writers – Monika Maron, Ursula Krechel, Herta Müller and Elfriede Jelinek – who blend different types of text (documentation, autobiography, prose fiction, poetry and drama) as they create experimental works that explore the relationship between literary representation and historical reality. The authors’ works deal with events connected to the Holocaust and to the traumatic legacy of the Second World War that had previously received relatively little attention. These histories include the fates of Jewish refugees who fled Europe for Shanghai and Cuba, the 1945 massacre of Jewish forced labourers in Rechnitz, Austria, and the experience of the Romanian-German community that was deported to Soviet work camps in the immediate aftermath of the war. My project will investigate how and why these authors employ collage and montage techniques as they engage with this subject matter, and how their textual experiments shape the reader’s relationship with the past.