Selbst-Bewusste Erzählungen

A Dresden-Leipzig Research Initiative

The research initiative "Selbst-Bewusste Erzählungen" explores a significant phenomenon in contemporary American literature and culture that we identify as an overlapping of textual and social self-confidence and self-consciousness (‘Selbst-Bewusstsein’). 

In the past few decades, a notable number of fictional and non-fictional narratives across a broad spectrum of media, genres, themes and cultural registers have reflected on their own narrative textuality and its socio-cultural effects and meanings. This self-reflection, we contend, is marked by an interplay between self-confidence and self-consciousness, which simultaneously target the texts’ narrative mechanics and their socio-cultural referentiality and relevance. In contrast to ‘classical’ postmodernism, then, this new self-confidence/-consciousness does not playfully disavow extra-textual referentiality, it rather explores ways in which texts after the postmodern turn can still negotiate social realities, experiences, and values. And while postmodern self-reflexivity has been theorized as characterizing a small body of experimental literature, this new self-confidence/-consciousness is a much broader cultural phenomenon.

Seeking to appreciate this breadth and diversity, our research initiative interrogates this phenomenon in currently four case studies. They revolve around two thematic fields in which, we feel, this new self-confidence/-consciousness manifests itself with particular prominence: one, discussions of traumatic experience, its representation and social relevance, in soldier blogs and in trauma narratives; and, two, discussions of politics and law as institutions that create social realities.

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