Jutta Zimmermann: Setting Boundaries: Narrative Juxtaposition and the Negotiation of Identity in Contemporary Global Novels (online)

December 2, noon, on MS Teams: https://bit.ly/LIT_BBR_1

Many contemporary novels (and films, graphic narratives, TV series) consist of more than one story. In such novels, various settings, characters, and time periods are set against each each other by an act of juxtaposition. The boundary between the local narratives is usually marked by gaps, asterisks or other paratextual markers, and its existence sets in motion a process by which readers need to make sense of the disruption performed in order to assess the meaning of the overall global narrative. The marked boundary initiates a process in which the distinct narrative units which are related to each other, a process in which parallels and contrasts come to fore. While this process to a certain degree works towards integration, it also foregrounds the fragmentation and heterogeneity of the overall text. In my talk, I will explore the affinity of such multi-narrative texts to a particular thematic preoccupation, namely that of representing identities constituted by the straddling of cultural borders in post-colonial contexts. By looking at individual test cases – such as Dionne Brand’s What We All Long For – I will discuss whether multi-narrative structures can be viewed as the ‘discursive articulation’ of a ‘universal humanism’ or to what extent they are used for the ‘opposite effect’, namely ‘fragmentation and division rather than unity” (Tiago de Luca).

The talk is part of a lecture series on Borders/Boundaries/Regions: Literary and Cultural  Perspectives on Space at the University of Szczecin (Programme below):

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