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Identity in Communicative Contexts

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Edited By Kamila Ciepiela

The central focus of the book is the identification of the ways people engage in communicative encounters to (re)constitute personal and social identities. Its aim is to identify some principal themes that have emerged from the ample research on identity in a variety of contexts. A common thread of the articles is the role of language in the construction and performance of identities. It embraces an exploration of the sociocultural environments in which human communication takes place, the interplay between these environments, and the construction and display of identities through our communicative performances. Research located in a range of literary, sociological, psychological and linguistic perspectives is used to illustrate the potential of communication in establishing a sense of identity.

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Redundancy as a tool for identity-creation – the narration scenes in Thomas Mann’s Joseph and his brothers

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Abstract One of the most conspicuous features of Thomas Mann’s monumental novel cycle (written in the 1930s and 40s), Joseph and his brothers, is that its characters often tell stories of their ancestors and of their own past over and over again. It is also noticed by the novel’s narrator, that these re-narrations are practically redundant since neither of the participants acquires any piece of “new” information, they just re-tell stories which all of them are already familiar with. This could be considered as a function of language which is completely independent from the transmission of information – in these beautiful conversations (schöne Gespräche) the participants use language and narration in a quasi-sacral action which contributes to the establishment of their identity. According to Mann’s own point of view, it is intended to serve as a model of archaic/mythic consciousness. In a famous letter to Karl Kerényi, Mann wrote that the goal of his novel is “to take myth out of the hands of fascism and to re-function it to the field of humanity”. Accoring to this either the novel itself should not be considered as merely an artistic re-creation of a mythic story, but a monumental “redundant narration” as well – by this the novel is not just an artistic model of the identity-crating power of narrative conversations, but it also brings this force into effect by attempting to strengthen the identity of the devotees of humanism against the power of Nazi barbarism. In my paper...

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