The Poetics of Precarity
The financial and economic collapse in 2007/2008 has increased the interest for the literary reflection on economic crises and their social consequences. This project takes this contemporary sensibility and the ways in which it is reflected in contemporary political theory as a vantage point to look back at the German social novels written in the last decades of the 19th century. By focusing on the literary representation of the worker in his/her living and working conditions, this project describes and analyses the poetics of precarity representations. In order to shed new light on the workers’ representation in naturalism, an exemplary sampling of social novels written by naturalist writers, social-democrats, priests and workers is studied as a set of interventions within a broader intertextual and contextual dialogue. Focusing specifically on the ways in which social norms and models of world-changing action are rendered through heroic worker figures, this project illuminates how the social novels not only interacted with socio-economic reality, but also rewrote established narrative patterns, constructs and stereotypes of the precarious worker.