Elfriede Jelinek and Herta Müller: Voices of Comparison and Canons of Resistance (Part 1) (Panel)


Birgit Tautz (Bowdoin College)

While Nobel prize winners Elfriede Jelinek and Herta Müller are acclaimed for their characteristic writing styles and thematic worlds, there appear to be recognizable similarities between their work. These two widely recognized and acclaimed Austrian and Romanian-German authors are each known for their poignant depictions of oppression, power, and resistance in their respective oeuvre. In this panel, we seek to compare the themes, writing styles, and sociohistorical surroundings of these two writers with the aim of conceptualizing the similarities and differences of the two authors.

We will accomplish this aim by turning to some of the themes listed below (additional points of consideration are welcome):

· How Jelinek and/or Müller explore the interrelations of oppression and how this affects individuals and groups in society, as well as those critiques offered by Müller and/or Jelinek regarding abuses of power

· The interplay between trauma and memory as these particularly relate to personal experiences situated within larger historical events or movements

· Literary creations of a multilayered and nuanced understanding regarding the continuum of historical events and the present

· Stylistic experimentation with how silence and language can be used for political subversion and resistance. With this in mind, one may consider, for example, the disruption of traditional narrative forms and the dismantling of conventional modes of communication

· The portrayal of marginalized voices and individuals existing on the periphery of a recognized existence

· Debates about and controversies around the writers: Both have been called “Nestbeschmutzerin”. What is it about their work that elicits this reaction, and what are the ideological underpinnings of this condemnation?

Panelists and attendees will explore how Jelinek and Müller (en-)counter a complex series of societal issues to challenge existing power structures, thus giving voice to minoritized and marginalized experiences. We will examine complex issues such as political critique, memory, and trauma as they run adjacent to oppressive power structures and regimes. Furthermore, the panel encourages an exploration of those sociopolitical contexts in which these two authors penned their literary works, including post-war Romania under communism and Austria.

This panel employs a comparative and transnational approach to more carefully examine and compare the writings of and controversies around two highly acclaimed contemporary authors, Elfriede Jelinek and Herta Müller.