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 omnipresence of endings and the end in literary texts after 1945 was the point of departure for a systematic and historical analysis of this theme. The body of textual evidence consisted of narrative works that dealt with endings on a variety of levels. First, the project examined the significance and function of the end(ing) in narrative texts in order to then reconstruct a historical development within the literary theme of the end. The second step involved a systematic investigation into the way literary studies have addressed the problem of endings and how the historical context promoted the use of the theme. 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 ‘contemporary literature.’
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