Contact and Conflict in English Studies

Assistant editors: Christian Grösslinger / Christopher Herzog

by Sabine Coelsch-Foisner (Volume editor) Herbert Schendl (Volume editor)
©2015 Edited Collection 216 Pages
Series: Austrian Studies in English, Volume 104


The book presents contributions to the 2012 conference of the Austrian Association of University Teachers of English in which scholars of various fields of English Studies discuss aspects of contact and conflict in Anglophone literatures, critical theory, cultural studies, interdisciplinary and comparative English studies and English linguistics. The papers reflect current research in these areas and show that disciplinary classifications are no longer as rigid as they used to be: Topics are as widely spread as linguistic variation, Māori English, English as a lingua franca, intergenerational conflict, hip hop discourse, literature and the creative arts, science drama, childhood in crime fiction, and the crisis of «high art».

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the editors
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Contents
  • Introduction: Contact and Conflict in English Studies
  • The Expression of Societal and Cultural Conflict in Language
  • Māori English on the Background of Cultural and Linguistic Contact in Aotearoa – New Zealand
  • Research Perspectives on English as a Lingua Franca
  • Language Contact, Culture Contact and Intergenerational Conflict
  • Hip Hop Discourse: Identity Formation and Tirolean Youth
  • ‘There is no method …’? Contact and Conflict in Interdisciplinary Studies
  • The Two Cultures Revisited: Strategies in Science Drama, with an exemplary reading of Caryl Churchill’s A Number (2002) and Elfriede Jelinek’s Kein Licht (2011/12)
  • Evil Encountered? – Childhood, Violence and Innocence in British Crime Fiction
  • Failure, Farce, and Futile Rage: Cultural Criticism and the Crisis of ‘High Art’ in Thomas Bernhard and William Gaddis


Introduction: Contact and Conflict in English Studies

Contact and Conflict contains contributions to the 2012 conference of the Austrian Association of University Teachers of English as well as some invited papers reflecting current research in this subject area. The aim of the ASE conferences is to bring together scholars from various fields of English Studies, such as Anglophone literatures, critical theory, cultural studies, interdisciplinary and comparative English studies, linguistics and didactics, all taught at Austria’s English departments. Most of the contributions show that these classifications are no longer as rigid as they used to be and that interdisciplinary research is thriving in all these fields. In so doing, English Studies has become rife with contact and conflict.

In linguistics, research into language contact has greatly increased in the past few decades and has found its way into different sub-fields of linguistics, particularly sociolinguistics, language change, studies on multilingualism and code-switching, as well as pidgins and creoles, see the excellent Handbook of Language Contact edited by Raymond Hickey in 2010. The present papers present original research projects in some of these areas, starting with a discussion of the problematic modelling of variation in language (Mazzon) and continuing with issues which seem to be quite diverse at first sight, but which are connected in various ways: issues of contact between different languages in a post-colonial setting (Onysko), the different forms and functions of English as a Lingua Franca (Seidlhofer, Dorn, Schekulin, Santner-Wolfartsberger), intergenerational contacts of, and conflicts between, bilingual refugees from the Holocaust (Duran Eppler), and hip hop discourse among Tirolian adolescents (Averill).

Gabriella Mazzon’s contribution “The Expression of Societal and Cultural Conflict in Language” deals with a central issue of modern linguistics, namely how to model and explain linguistic variation, in particular in regard to conflicting cultural and linguistic norms and ‘anti-norms’. Her critical discussion of this problem, which is best exemplified in the conflict between standard and non-standard varieties, spans from earlier stages of English to modern sociolinguistic theories and analyses this conflict ‘within a cultural model of opposition and resistance’. Mazzon proposes that these issues might be best approached from a cognitive perspective within the model of Figuration Kontra developed with her participation ← 7 | 8 → at Innsbruck University. Many of the issues addressed in her paper are explicitly or implicitly taken up in the other linguistic contributions of this volume.

In the course of its world-wide expansion and adoption in many countries of the British empire, English has had close contacts with indigenous languages and has developed a number of varieties showing clear traces of these manifold linguistic contacts. Among these, the description of Māori English is still widely neglected, but is the object of an ongoing research project involving bilingual Māori-English speakers. In his paper, Alexander Onysko first discusses the historical linguistic setting of Aotearoa/New Zealand and the early cultural and linguistic contacts and conflicts between Māori and English. The renaissance of Māori culture and language since the late 1970s has led to a revitalisation of the Māori language and to diverse mutual contact influences on Māori and English also leading to the emergence of Māori English. The description of this particular contact variety of English is one of the main aims of the project and is illustrated with examples from a variety of contact situations, particularly from the lexicon, though methodological issues are also addressed.

The rapid spread of English as a Lingua Franca (ELF) on a global scale in recent decades has brought about a wide range of contact situations and linguistic contact phenomena, but also social – and also academic – conflicts. The linguistic description of ELF has become one of the fastest growing research fields in English linguistics, which has been greatly furthered by the compilation of the electronic VOICE corpus of ELF interactions by Barbara Seidlhofer and her team in Vienna. Their paper starts with an outline of recent developments in ELF research and the VOICE corpus by Barbara Seidlhofer, followed by three case studies on particular linguistic features of ELF. Nora Dorn looks at the use and communicative functions of the progressive in ELF interactions from a quantitative and a qualitative point of view. Claudio Schekulin’s study on negative contractions shows that the range of internal variation in ELF can be well captured by analytic variationist tools. In his view this study, carried out within a sociolinguistic framework, can have an impact on traditional sociolinguistic concepts. The issue of turn-taking and speaker allocation in ELF is addressed by Anita Santner-Wolfartsberger, who also discusses the applicability of relevant concepts from conversation analysis and related fields. Similar to Schekulin, she also claims that results from ELF research can be of relevance for the study of interactional pragmatics.

Eva Duran Eppler’s contribution investigates intergenerational conflict resulting from language shift and acculturation from an interdisciplinary point of view. Combining sociolinguistic methods with concepts from cross-cultural and memory research, Duran Eppler analyses a recorded discussion between different generations of Holocaust refugees which centres on issues of language ← 8 | 9 → transmission and use as well as cultural aspects of food consumption. Her close linguistic analysis establishes the relation between language use and identity, especially in the Vienna-born mother’s frequent use of code-switching as against the London-born daughter’s insistence on good English as a reflection of her assimilation to the host society. This linguistic conflict is linked to a cultural conflict concerning practices of food consumption, which also involves a grandson and thus spans three generations.

Julia Averill’s paper on hip hop discourse reports on a longitudinal ethnographic study of how Tirolian adolescents use hip hop as a means of identity formation. Though the study focuses on the linguistic aspects of hip hop discourse, other cultural means of expression such as rap, dance, dress and graffiti also form part of this process. Direct observation of hip hop performance as well as interviews with the boys reveal that the informants’ use of hip hop language is closely linked to the adaptation of key terms learned from rap music and video. A central question of the research project is to uncover the functions and purpose of hip hop discourse among Tirolian male teenagers and their adaptation of African American hip hop culture to their local Tirolian linguistic and cultural identity, raising questions of authenticity and alternative identities.

In literary and cultural studies, the topic of this volume is addressed in terms of such conflicting zones or points of contact as the intersections between literature, science and the arts (Fuller, Coelsch-Foisner/Herzog), ‘high art’ and ‘mass culture’ (Mösch), and childhood and crime in current crime fiction (Flothow).

What the individual papers suggest is both the topicality of such contact zones and ways in which cultural issues are complicated in the light of the aesthetics, genre dynamics and artistic strategies of individual works and sites of literature.

David Fuller, speaker of honour at the 2012 conference, illustrates how the ‘creative contact with other disciplines in an academic context can be fraught with difficulties’, while ‘thinking beyond disciplinary boundaries is natural to unfettered intelligence and inherent in criticism’. According to Fuller, method is the key issue of such conflict: whilst literature is ‘situated knowledge’, in other disciplines, such as the sciences, the cultural construction of knowledge plays a lesser role and method is universal. Arguing that ‘the perception of any work [of art] can be deepened by placing it in a variety of human contexts – that is, by reaching out into the worlds in which it was made and the worlds in which it has had and now has meanings’, he discusses some striking examples of recent multi-media art productions in which he himself collaborated. These include a ballet based on Marlowe’s Edward II, choreographed by David Bintley and an opera about Alzheimer’s disease, The Lion’s Face, with a score by Elena Langer and libretto by Glyn Maxwell, launched at the Brighton Science Festival.

← 9 | 10 → The precise nature of offstage research in the dramatic context, which Fuller describes as a crucial question in the latter production, is also a central issue in the debate about the two cultures revisited by Sabine Coelsch-Foisner and Christopher Herzog for the purpose of mapping science plays. Addressing the current interest in science, both in the theatre and in drama criticism, Coelsch-Foisner and Herzog pinpoint the epistemological flaws in attempting to define science plays as sites for knowledge transfer and to categorise them with regard to scientific content and science communication. Arguing that science plays must first and foremost be studied as plays, they concentrate on the semiotics of drama and offer a metaphorical approach to its space and figures. To this end, they apply George Lakoff and Mark Johnson’s theory of metaphors and explore the relevance of the concept of ‘novum’ underlying Darko Suvin’s approach to science fiction for science drama. Exemplary readings of Caryl Churchill’s A Number (2002) and Elfriede Jelinek’s Kein Licht (2011/12) serve to demonstrate how drama transforms scientific knowledge into situated knowledge.

Crime fiction furnishes another example of such cultural ‘situatedness’, as Dorothea Flothow’s study of the changing role of childhood in crime novels shows. As distinct from the ‘Golden Age Whodunit’ with authors such as Agatha Christie and Dorothy Sayers, children feature prominently as victims, witnesses, conspirators and criminals in more recent novels by Reginald Hill, Kate Atkinson, Ian Rankin, Ruth Rendell and Val McDermid. Flothow examines these roles in connection with issues of child abuse, youth crime and violence. While thus placing the constructs of childhood emerging from crime fiction in the context of changes in British culture and changing discourses about children, she also stresses the prejudices revealed in many of these novels and concludes that British crime fiction constitutes ‘a more thoughtful place of debate of contemporary issues than its status as a popular genre would lead one to assume’.

A similar case of contact and conflict, notably that between ‘high’ culture and ‘mass culture’, ars and techné, is discussed by Matthias Mösch, whose focus is on the creative reception of Thomas Bernhard. In his comparative reading of the latter’s Concrete (1982) and William Gaddis’ Agapē Agape (2002) in terms of ‘dramatised crises of cultures’, Mösch draws the reader’s attention to an intriguing example of intertextuality, showing how both authors subversively engage with their respective cultural environments. Severely criticising state institutions, religion and commerce, Gaddis is shown to have followed Bernhard’s narrative model of dismantling ‘exclusivist cultural agendas’ in favour of a communal model of art production and reception ‘beyond this rift’.

← 10 | 11 → The editors would like to thank all contributors for helping shape the profile of Austrian Studies in English, all colleagues reading individual papers, Christopher Herzog and Christian Grösslinger for helping put together the manuscript, and the Departments of English and American Studies of the Universities of Salzburg, Vienna and Innsbruck for making possible the publication of this volume.

September 2014 ← 11 | 12 →


ISBN (Hardcover)
Publication date
2015 (August)
Science Drama Children's Literature Literature and Music Language Variation English as a Lingua Franca
Frankfurt am Main, Berlin, Bern, Bruxelles, New York, Oxford, Wien, 2015. 216 pp., 1 b/w ill., 7 tables

Biographical notes

Sabine Coelsch-Foisner (Volume editor) Herbert Schendl (Volume editor)

Sabine Coelsch-Foisner is Professor of English Literature and Cultural Theory at the University of Salzburg. In her research she focuses in particular on literature and the creative arts, aesthetics, cross-arts, genre- and cultural dynamics as well as cultural infrastructures. Herbert Schendl is retired Professor of English linguistics at the University of Vienna. His recent research has focused on historical multilingualism, language contact and code-switching.


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