Endless Narration? On German Literature and Literary Studies After 1945

Thematic and structural reflections on endings and the end seem to appear with inordinate frequency in German literature after 1945. In Thomas Bernhard’s narrative texts, for example, the end is always immanent, but precisely because of this immanence they never arrive at any final ending. Yet, blanket statements concerning the problem of finality in texts are not sufficient to understand the complexity of how literary works relate to endings and the end. Indeed, the discourse on finality itself is part of an entire historical tradition of relating to the end.

The all-pervasiveness of endings and the end in literary texts after 1945 provides the point of departure for a systematic and historical analysis of this theme. The body of textual evidence consists of narrative works that participate in the discourse on endings on a variety of levels. The project’s first step is to examine the significance and function of the end/ing in narrative texts in order to then trace a historical development within the literary thematization of the end. The second step involves a systematic investigation into how the field of literary studies has problematized endings with special attention to the historical context that leads to focusing on the end. The project ultimately offers a multidimensional critique of how the problem of finality has been understood within recent literary works and opens up a new approach to this so-called ›contemporary literature‹.

Head researcher(s): Natalie Moser