Edited By Michael Gratzke, Margaret-Anne Hutton and Claire Whitehead
Part I After Postmodernism? Narrative, Genre, Form
Kristin Veel Surveillance Narratives: Overload, Desire and Representation in Contemporary Narrative Fiction Traditionally, the idea of surveillance is related to the faculty of sight. From God’s all-knowing eye over Bentham’s panopticon architecture, to the CCTV cameras in train stations, vision prevails.1 Even when we are dealing with eavesdropping or ‘dataveillance’, we often speak of surveil- lance as that which makes visible what was previously invisible. It is thus not surprising that artworks which deal with contemporary surveillance societies often choose visual media for their investigations, thereby using the same technologies (cameras, screens) as the surveillance industry.2 Narrative fiction has, however, been crucial in forming our cultural imagi- nation and conception of the implications of surveillance. Therefore, it is imagery stemming from literary works by authors as dif ferent as Franz Kafka, Aldous Huxley, George Orwell and Philip K. Dick that still domi- nate the contemporary public debate. This chapter will explore how contemporary literature portrays the conditions of life in a surveillance society by looking at three examples of recent narrative fiction, respectively Ulrich Peltzer’s Teil der Lösung [Part of the Solution] (2007), Catherine O’Flynn’s What Was Lost (2007) and Tim Lott’s The Seymour Tapes (2005). These novels point, on the one hand, to the conditions of attention in a world in which the problem is often an 1 Astrid Schmidt-Burkhardt, ‘The All-Seer: God’s Eye as Proto-Surveillance’, in Thomas Y. Levin, Ursula Frohne and Peter Weibel, eds, Ctrl [Space]: Rhetorics of Surveillance from Bentham to Big Brother (Cambridge, MA:...
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