Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Estranging poetic: On the poetic of the foreign in select works by Herta Mueller and Yoko Tawada
by Grewe, Maria S., Ph.D., Columbia University, 2009, 213; 3348431
Abstract (Summary)

This dissertation examines the foreign or “das Fremde” as a poetic of estrangement in the works of Romanian-born Herta Müller and Japanese-born Yoko Tawada. It argues that their work is exemplary of a change of the foreign from a biographically informed category to a mode of writing that draws on linguistic and aesthetic principles of estrangement. My study shows that while in Müller's work the foreign functions as an organizing principle that transposes ways of seeing into language and writing, the foreign in Tawada's work is codified in the corporeal and phonic relationship to language and culture. By recasting issues central to Müller's and Tawada's oeuvre, such as the status of and relationship between perception, the act of writing, and the literary imagination, in terms of medial and formal aspects of language, my readings demonstrate that the literariness of the authors' work, their representation of the foreign, and their engagement with issues of cultural difference, national identity, and political opposition, are not reducible to biographical experience. In fact, when the aesthetic and linguistic dimensions of their work are treated together, the foreign emerges as a particular poetic of estrangement that informs the authors' modes of writing, poetological reflection, and practices of aesthetic representation.

Drawing on linguistic principles and Russian Formalists' writings on poetic function and estrangement in art in the first chapter, chapters two and three theorize Müller's poetic of the foreign as constituted primarily by the “Blick” or the gaze, and argue that this foreign gaze can be conceptualized in terms of structural relations and operations in poetic language. Tawada's essays can also be read with an eye toward operative principles in writing practices. But unlike Müller, Tawada's fiction playfully turns surface appearance of foreignness into philosophical reflections on language, signification across different writing systems, and the corporeal and phonic dimensions of language. Though fundamentally different with respect to the gaze, Tawada and Müller are invested in an approach to language and writing that mobilizes defamiliarization and, in a dialectical fashion, heightens the awareness of the shaping of consciousness of reality.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Huyssen, Andreas, Muecke, Dorothea von
School: Columbia University
School Location: United States -- New York
Source: DAI-A 70/02, Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Comparative literature, Germanic literature
Keywords: Comparative literature, Foreign, Fremde, German literature, German minority literature, Germany, Mueller, Herta, Poetic, Tawada, Yoko
Publication Number: 3348431
ISBN: 9781109041262
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