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Wilhelm Raabe and the Crisis of Narration

Date & Time:
November 23, 2018 | 3:00 pm - 4:00 pm
CHD 420
Ervin Malakaj, Assistant Professor of German Studies, University of British Columbia


Temperamentality. Anger. Frustration. Over the course of his life, German author Wilhelm Raabe (1831–1910) came to articulate arguably the most well-known and explicit resentment of an author toward the literary market. Both celebrated and dismissed by contemporaries, Raabe felt that the varied range of responses to his literary works in published book reviews, letter correspondence among intellectuals, and reader letters to his editors signal an uncompromising, resentful, hostile, even unintelligent reading public in control of the fate of authors. This presentation examines the range of emotions and toxic thinking patterns about his personal fare on the literary market. The aim is to outline an aesthetic mode to his writing, which is market-dependent. The focus is less on how the pressures of the literary market favor some genres of writing over others than on the tone and mood prevalent in Raabe’s writings, which capture a crisis of narration driven by his unpredictable fare on the industrialized literary market of early Imperial Germany. The talk ultimately seeks to theorize an aesthetic mode of fragility effected by the capitalist forces of literary production and consumption as well as a sense of unrequited entitlement.  



Ervin Malakaj, Ph.D., is Assistant Professor of German Studies and affiliate faculty in the Institute for European Studies at the University of British Columbia. His research focuses on German media history broadly with an emphasis on the study of literary markets and their impact on literary form. Currently, he is working on a book project tentatively titled Fragile Literary Cultures of Early Wilhelmine Germany. Other research foci are German film studies, queer studies, and critical pedagogy.