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Readings in Twenty-First-Century European Literatures

Michael Gratzke, Margaret-Anne Hutton and Claire Whitehead

Readings in Twenty-First-Century European Literatures brings together analyses of post-2000 literary works from twelve European literatures. Sharing a common aim – that of taking the first step in identifying and analysing some of the emergent trends in contemporary European literatures – scholars from across Europe come together in this volume to address a range of issues. Topics include the post-postmodern; the effect of new media on literary production; the relationship between history, fiction and testimony; migrant writing and world literature; representation of ageing and intersexuality; life in hypermodernity; translation, both linguistic and cultural; and the institutional forces at work in the production and reception of twenty-first-century texts. Reading across the twenty chapters affords an opportunity to reconsider what is meant by both ‘European’ and ‘contemporary literature’ and to recontextualize single-discipline perspectives in a comparatist framework.

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Part I After Postmodernism? Narrative, Genre, Form

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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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