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Metafiction and aesthetics in Christa Wolf's Nachdenkken über Christa T., Kindheitsmuster and Sommerstück

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posted on 15.12.2014, 10:45 by Ursula. Kuzi
This dissertation presents research into the aesthetics of Christa Wolf's prose. As a post-World War II writer, Wolf sets out to practise in her prose a new aesthetic which rids itself of the modernist detachment from the object of discourse. Searching to involve herself as a writer in her art she initiates a humane aesthetic which ignores the ontological barrier between fictitious and real-life discourse. The relationship between the two discourses is explored by Jurgen Peterson in Erzahlsysteme: eine Poetik epischer Texte (1993) and Fiktionalitat und Asthetik: eine Philosophie det Dichtung (1996). Taking as my starting-point some of the theoretical considerations set out by Peterson, I analyse the narrators' frequent interventions from the time in which the text is being written in the context of Wolf's aesthetics. The risk inherent in disrupting a coherent fictional discourse with metafiction is, according to Petersen, that the reader will switch to the perception mode used for matters of fact. The three texts chosen for this study, Nachdenken uber Christa T. (1968), Sommerstuck (1989) and especially Kindheitmuster (1976), have sections which deliberately gravitate towards the genre of essayistic literature. The argument of the dissertation is that, although the narrative is subverted by these metafictional interventions, particularly by the profound moral concerns they embody, the construction of the texts proves sufficiently sophisticated to absorb the real-life content back into fiction. My dissertation focuses therefore on the narrative structure of Wolf's texts, attempting to trace back the overall aesthetic to the narrative techniques employed in the text. The desire to respond to the post-war loss of faith in humanity with an aesthetic which safeguards and enhances sensitivity towards the humane in readers is in itself admirable, even though it challenges the concept of fiction. The originality of Wolf's ambitious aesthetics is particularly striking when viewed in comparison to the aesthetics of Virginia Woolf and Jurek Becker, which incorporate traumatic experience in a rather different way. The method of comparative study is also employed to shed light on the question of where is Wolf is to be situated in the spectrum of contemporary writing styles.


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University of Leicester

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