''It is part of morality not to be at home in one's home''
Theodor W. Adorno
The 20th century was the age of the refugee, the displaced person, and of mass immigration. To this day vast scale human migration in the wake of neo-imperialism, wars, economic and political revolutions and ethnic cleansing continue to re-shape the global condition. While, for many, these experiences have been and still are experiences of mutilation and loss, they have been transformed by some into a potent motive of modern culture. In Theodor W. Adorno’s ethics of exile just like in the works of numerous 20th century émigré intellectuals before and after him (i.e. Georg Lukács or Edward W. Said) we find a particular exilic mode of thinking and narrating that aims at turning the traumatic experience of dispossession, forced migration, unhappy dislocation or lonely suffering in isolation into a poetic and critical motive. These works demonstrate that the experience of exile and transnational migration contains ample bases for new modes of literary writing and resistant criticism across the learned boundaries of national emplotments and ethnic belonging.
Without overstating a metaphoric understanding of exile that ignores the socio-historical dimensions of the exilic condition, this seminar focuses on migration and exile as key impulses for contemporary cultural production. It starts from the premise that exilic works, by cultivating an oppositional stance toward nationalist or racist identifications, can open the possibility for both, a new politics of literary interpretation and a worldly commitment for transnational solidarity. Selectively exploring literature and criticism written by and about exiles the course aims at demonstrating that although 20th and 21st centuries global migrations were seldom the matter of free choice and can rarely be seen as a privilege, exilic thinking and migratory representations provide important correctives to the dominant mass culture of national(list) belonging. In class we will read literary representations of exile and/or fictional woks triggered by the experience of migration and discuss various theoretical approaches in which the exilic and nomadic functions as a model for literary and cultural criticism. Tracing the predicaments and effects of modern migrations on the individual and the collective level the course approaches exilic, migratory and diasporic imaginaries as equally aesthetic and theoretical subject matters. Drawing on selected literary representations ranging from Joseph Conrad’s novella Amy Foster (1901) to Rabih Alameddine’s novel The Hakawati (2008), it introduces into key concepts and interpretive tools for studying outlandish or nomadic cultural articulations from a decisively transnational and postcolonial perspective. The seminar thus takes up the dominant understanding of home in terms of its very opposite, homelessness to introduce radically decentered models of cultural critique. It is particularly designed to encourage students to develop a critical relationship with their own subject position as readers of Anglophone literatures and cultures in the age of post-colonial migrations. How can we trace a particular poetics of non-arrival in 20th and 21st century writings? Can such poetics serve a respective ethics of not being at home? How (not) to place the texts we are reading into the established taxonomies of national literatures and geographic location? Is it legitimate to speak of the pleasures or even the sublime beauty of exile? Does the literary embracement of such pleasures seriously grasp the being in the world of today’s refugees, their alienated suffering and anonymous border deaths? Can we make use of the nomadic criticism of the past for a critique of current immigration policies? Can a nomadic identity politics help strengthening refugee agency or even to lead exiled people out of exile?
Students are expected to give an oral presentation, to contribute regularly to discussions in class and/or (depending on the program that they are in) to hand in a term-paper (3.500/5.500 words, MLA style).
First class meeting: 20.04.2016