Belonging in French- and German-speaking Literatures. A Transnational Approach (ACLA 2022, Taipeh)
Belonging in French- and German-speaking Literatures. A Transnational Approach
Michel Mallet (Moncton, NB), Timo Obergöker (Chester, UK)
Questions related to the sentiment of belonging have been at the forefront of literary productions in numerous countries for many years now. In Germany, Nora Krug endeavours to reconstruct a problematic identity in exile in her graphic novel Heimat. To this existential question, the author ponders: How can you understand who you are if you don’t understand where you come from? Similarly, Saša Stanišić, who as a war refugee retraces his origins in his native Bosnia by juxtaposing his own memories and life experiences to those of his family, challenges conventional conceptions of an ethnically defined Germanness by telling a tale of his and his family’s Herkunft, thus stressing that there are multiple ways of “Being/becoming German” in the 21st century.
Likewise, Literatures in French have been questioning processes and resistance to integration and assimilation: Zebda’s lead singer Magyd Cherfi relates his complicated “coming to Frenchness” in his autobiographic novel Ma part de Gaulois. In Marx et la poupée, Maryam Madjidi bears witness to a complicated process of integration into the French society, after having fled from her native Iran. Franco-Lebanese graphic novelist Zeina Abirached in Le Piano oriental looks for ways of combining Arabic and French in order to create a new language, encapsulating multiplicity rather than hegemony. From a Québécois perspective, the works by Kim Thuy question the reconstruction of the individual in exile after a traumatic experience. Thus, Francophone literatures refer to what one might call les patries imaginaires- which can be a place, a house or a nation lacking defined boundaries, as L’Acadie, held dear by Acadian authors such as Antonine Maillet.
The panel seeks to look at the concept of belonging by comparing French and German-speaking literatures in a transnational perspective. The theoretical framework we intend to focus upon is the one of palimpsestic memories (Silverman) and the layering of different memorial strata. We are also interested in how literature challenges monolithic discourses of “lieux de mémoire” and Erinnerungsorte, and would like to explore how texts that expose multidirectional memory and identity discourses allow for “noeuds de mémoire” (Rothberg) to be established.
We particularly welcome comparative approaches to questions such as, but not limited to:
- Narrative strategies, genres, literary devices;
- The role of the senses: How do otherness and memory feel, smell, taste?
- Challenging conventional understandings of nationhood;
- Sentiments of shame and guilt in relation to the homeland / Heimat?
- The act of archiving/ recollecting / assembling / juxtaposing memories.