Project Proposal for Centre for Advanced Study, Oslo, Norway




Jakob Lothe


1. Background

Narrative theory can be traced back to antiquity, but in its recognizably modern form it belongs to the twentieth century. The telling of stories has increasingly been seen as central to culture, and as a fundamentally meaningful human activity. Investigations into prose fiction, folk story, anecdote, film, and (more recently) discourses ranging from the political and legal to the religious and the commercial have all contributed to the development of an interdisciplinary field of enquiry known variously as gnarratologyh or gnarrative theoryh.


Narrative theory is an area of research in rapid development, and this growing body of knowledge now plays an essential part in a wide range of academic disciplines. In literary studies narratology has revolutionized the study of prose fiction over the past thirty or so years; on the battle-torn terrain of film studies the issue of narrative is agreed by all combatants to be of central importance; in linguistics and pragmatics theories of narrative have contributed to and benefitted from investigations into conversational exchange, while the traditional discipline of rhetoric has been renewed through its fruitful collaboration with narrative theory. Moreover, professional historians have participated in heated debates associated with the approaches to historiography initiated by writers such as Hayden White, in whose work theories of narrative have played a pivotal role in arguments about the way in which the historian finds ? or creates ? patterns in the events of the past. One interdisciplinary field in which polemic related to this topic has raged particularly fiercely is that of studies of the Holocaust. Here narrative theorists have been centrally involved in heated intellectual and ethical controversies about the representation of this part of our past.


In a historical perspective, narrative theory owes much to Russian formalism, the Prague School of structuralism, and the Chicago school of neo-aristotelianism. The concept of narrative theory (or narratology) was initially associated with French structuralism, in particular with the work done in the 1970s by Claude Bremond, A. J. Greimas, Tzvetan Todorov, Roland Barthes (in his Structuralist phase), and Gerard Genette. The work of these and other scholars including Mieke Bal, Seymour Chatman, Gerald Prince, and Jonathan Culler often consisted in the application of linguistic models to literary texts in order to discover the underlying gnarrative grammarh, the deep mental structure of glangueh. In the 1980s and 1990s, however, the concept of narrative became an interdisciplinary junction, and the frame of reference for the study of narrative was given a much wider scope. As narrative and narrativity became the focus of various studies in the human and social sciences, including those referred to above, narrative was no longer seen as an exclusively literary phenomenon but as a conceptual tool, a mode of knowing, a structuring framework for all human experience. This focus on narrative is related to the postmodernist mistrust of all gmeta-narrativesh (Jean-Francois Lyotard), which ? paradoxically perhaps ? highlighted the centrality of discourse and narrative in the constitution of reality. The postmodern sensibility is thus concerned with the dynamics of representation and with the relations between narrative and ideology, power, and knowledge. Some notable instances of this paradigm shift can be found in the ongoing controversy about the significance of narrative in historiography as presented by Hayden White and in the philosophical work of Paul Ricoeur, David Carr and others.


Donald E. Polkinghornefs Narrative Knowing and the Human Sciences (1988) is an illustrative example of these developments (which, as they in turn reflect back on theories of literary and textual narratives, hold considerable potential for reconceptualization). Polkinghorne argues that narrative meaning ? which can be produced both orally, visually, and through verbal prose ? is a cognitive process, organizing human experience into temporally meaningful episodes. Narrative, in short, is a powerful mode of explanation. Yet although many narrative theorists would concur with this view, there is still a great deal we do not know about the mechanics and effects of the subtle, complex, and far-reaching process of narrative production and reception. Narrative also serves to generate meaning and a sense of identity. It is connected with the production of knowledge, and thus for both tellers and audiences with the effects of power, desire, and memory (which are, of course, related to our understanding of gknowledgeh). gNarrativeh can be defined in different ways: because the phenomena to which the term refers are dynamic and changing, any definition of narrative needs to be refined, modified, and extended ? both in the light of new research and because of the wealth of new narratives that are constantly being produced.[1] The proposed project is thus grounded both in the study of narrative as a textual phenomenon and in the conception of narrativity as a pervasive cultural phenomenon.


2. Problems to be explored

Narrative theory constitutes an excellent basis for research conducted by a team united by shared knowledge of, and concern with, the issues outlined here. At the same time it needs to be stressed that contemporary theorists do not share a single approach to these, and one team member may well take issue with certain points about narrative made by another member. This kind of critical confrontation can be very constructive, generating new ideas and moving the work of individuals and of the research team as a whole in interesting directions. Because of the breadth of the field and the diversity of approaches, the term gnarrative theoryh needs to be delimited in order to become operative, and a limited set of questions must be concentrated on. It is natural to achieve such a focus by taking research already produced by the team members into consideration, and I list three premises to which they subscribe.


First, the basis for this proposal is literary studies. Beyond formalism we may have come, but we owe to formalism (in its different variants from Russian formalism through deconstruction) our understanding that literary texts are meaningful not just because of their gcontenth but also because of the totality of their verbal presentation. Narrative is a synthesis of what (story) and how (discourse), and narrative theory builds on this fundamental insight as it investigates the dynamics of that synthesis and its consequences. This premise constitutes a basis for studies of not only verbal but also filmic fiction (and not only fictional but also historical narrative). More specifically, it is also the basis for my contributions to narrative theory and analysis in Conradfs Narrative Method and in Narrative in Fiction and Film (both published by Oxford University Press). The project proposed here will further extend, and demonstrate the critical value of, such approaches.


Second, a main premise for the teamfs understanding and application of gnarrative theoryh is that narrative theory and analyses of texts are, and should be, closely interrelated. As one team member, James Phelan, puts it, gIf the untheorized interpretation is not worth reading, the untested theoretical proclamation is not worth believingh.[2] If a narrative theory promotes an improved understanding of the literary text (considered as a complex semantic structure and a potentially significant cultural document), then its application to textual analysis is not only heuristically justified but critically essential; concomitantly, conclusions arrived at in and through analysis can have consequences for the development and revision of theory. In Narrative in Fiction and Film this view of the close relationship between narrative theory and analysis is manifested in the bookfs bipartite structure, and I propose to structure the research teamfs work in a similar way.


Third, narrative needs to be understood as a form of textual process rather than as formalist schematization. Narrative is more than just words on a page. A complex and dynamic form of communication and of social and cultural exchange, narrative has changed over time and contributed to larger historical and cultural change. Similarly, narrative theory has a dynamic history and a potential for influencing other critical modes. While much is positive in the diversification of narrative theory in the 1990s (partly as a consequence of its appropriation by disciplines other than literary studies), there are also examples of studies that ignore or marginalize insights from narrative theory as it has developed in the twentieth century. In some contributions to postcolonial studies, for example, there is a tendency to reduce literary texts to relatively stable carriers of ideological positions. But this is to distort and simplify both verbal and filmic narratives, which depend for their originality and significance as cultural documents on the interplay of form and content. If, as critics now tend to stress, reading is a social activity that is influenced by the society beyond the author and critic, then it is important to study narrative texts as richly complex manifestations of such social activity. It is to this kind of project ? the study of narrativefs textual dynamics and the intersections of those dynamics with other larger social activity ? that the project proposed here will contribute.


The main questions and issues to be explored by the research team can be divided into two problem areas. As these are interrelated, all participants will be active in both. 


2 a) Analysis of modernist narrative: Conrad and Kafka

Although narrative plays an important part in prose literature of all periods, the innovative and experimental manner in which modernist authors employ a range of narrative techniques in order to generate and shape a radically new thematics is still, in spite of considerable research efforts, not fully understood. Modernist fiction presents a particular challenge to the study of narrative: it is the product of the epistemic break of the turn-of-the-century, which generated an aesthetic break and a problematization of realistic narrative premises. Recent research has stressed the geographical and temporal variants of modernism, linking questions of language and form to issues of intertextuality and influence across national boundaries. One example of this kind of study is English and Nordic Modernisms, which is the result of a research project on modernism with participants from all the Nordic countries.[3] The research team will profit from, and extend, the work of this Nordic project by discussing the seminal contributions to modernism by two authors not considered in English and Nordic Modernisms, Joseph Conrad and Franz Kafka.


While the selection of modernist literature represents a first specification of 2 a), the choice of Conrad and Kafka further specifies the problems to be explored in this part of the project. We have chosen to focus on these two writers for five reasons. First, different as they are, the narrative fictions of both Conrad and Kafka are strange and peculiarly elusive ? creating meaning and yet deferring and problematizing that meaning. These qualities of their fiction, observable in short fiction and well as in novels, can only be identified and properly considered through analysis. Aided by recent narrative theory (to which members of the research team have made significant contributions, cf. the presentations below), narrative analysis can greatly improve our understanding of this particular quality in their works. As a corollary, application of such theory to Conrad and Kafka may also expose the theoryfs weaknesses, if any, when considered as a basis for literary interpretation: this will be an additional critical benefit of the systematic interlinking of theory and analysis.


Second, in Conrad as in Kafka space and location play a crucial role, although the presentations of space can be quite different ? both in each author and in their individual works. Space is, of course, a fundamental aspect of narrative, which by definition (or at least one commonly accepted definition) presents a chain of events located in time and space. Still, the concept of space is an illustrative example of a term whose meaning, and critical potential, have been greatly extended by recent developments in critical theory, particularly within the rapidly expanding field of postcolonial studies. In postcolonial theory space is both a geographical and a cultural marker, thus actualizing the issue of identity and identity formation and (subtly yet effectively) linking identity to narrative in a manner which prompts analysis. It is relevant to mention that I am currently engaged on the research project gSpace in modernist and postcolonial fictionh, in cooperation with Professor Attie de Lange of the University of Potchefstroom, South Africa. (This project is financially supported by the South African Research Foundation.) While one main working hypothesis of this project is that a significant portion of postcolonial literature needs to be related to its modernist antecedents in order to be adequately understood, it can also be suggested ? as indeed this proposal does ? that theories of space developed by postcolonial theorists such as Homi Bhabha may prove very helpful when analysing the narrative fictions of Conrad and Kafka. We also think that such theories are potentially very interesting if applied to Holocaust narratives (cf. 2 b)), in which, as in postcolonial literature, space plays a significant role not just generally and metaphorically but also in a concrete, geographical sense.


Third, modernist narrative in general and Conradfs and Kafkafs narrative in particular involve complex representations of time (multiple and sometimes subtle shifts between time of action and time of telling, use of analepsis, prolepsis, and forms of repetition). How do these experiments with narrative time complicate our understanding of both modernism and narrative theory? How do these experiments intersect with the emphasis on space? The problem of time, and the challenge of coming to terms with various forms of temporal distortions and ellipses, also loom large in Holocaust narratives.


Fourth, even though both Conrad and Kafka are authors of fiction, there is a characteristically indirect yet very important relationship between their created worlds and the historical reality of early twentieth-century Europe. For instance, two key texts written by Conrad and by Kafka during World War I ? Conradfs novella The Shadow-Line (1916) and Kafkafs unfinished novel Der Process (1914?15) can be seen as responding, as complex fictions, to the horror and sense of impasse precipitated by the Great War. This aspect of modernism is interestingly related to the issue of the Holocaust presented under 2 b). Both Conrad and Kafka explore, albeit in different ways, the mechanisms of power and violence as experienced by individuals. For example, when we read Conradfs descriptions of forced labour in Heart of Darkness we cannot but feel that he discerned, in the Polish Conrad scholar Zdzis?aw Najderfs phrase, ga prototype of the twentieth-century Soviet and Nazi labour campsh.[4] There is a strong sense in which modernism, here represented by Conrad and Kafka, not just represents one stage of modernity but also presents a critique of modernity from within (cf. the reference to Zygmunt Bauman below). What may look like a problematic spread in the texts we want to study (Conrad and Kafka on the one hand and Holocaust narratives on the other), will, we think, be a critically productive combination.


Finally, it must be stressed that participants in the proposed project share a strong interest in these two authors and are keen to study (or continue studying) them. It is also convenient and helpful to work with texts that are familiar to all team members.


In addition to the issues about space and time, other main questions to be explored under 2 a) include:

-         What can recent developments in narrative theory tell us about modernist narrative?

-         What are the consequences of the dissolution of the concept of  gModernismh (to be replaced by various gmodernismsh) for our understanding of modernist narrative?

-         How is the relation between narrative and power presented in Conrad and Kafka? Between narrative and identity? Between narrative and history? Between narrative and familial/personal memory?

-         If one general preoccupation of modernism is the act of fragmenting unities, how is this kind of fragmentation related to the problem of narrative beginnings and endings in modernist fiction?

-         To what extent, and how, does the experience and sense of exile become part of narrative formation in Kafka and Conrad? It is reasonable to believe that theories about exile developed by postcolonial theorists (e.g. Edward Said) can productively be applied to the analysis of space as one constituent aspect of narrative in Conrad and Kafka.[5]

-         How are the various film adaptations of Conradfs and Kafkafs works ? most recently, Francis Ford Coppolafs Apocalypse Now Redux (2001), based on Conradfs Heart of Darkness ? related to the authorsf literary narratives, and how does this kind of intertextuality (across different media) change our understanding of the modernist period?


The teamfs work on modernist fiction is united by a common interest in, and commitment to, narrative analysis of a selection of key texts. Although the selection of these texts remains to be finalized, it will include both novels and short fiction by Conrad and Kafka. This sustained focus on analysis ? on close reading based on rereading of the relevant texts ? reflects the teamfs concern with the philological aspect of literary studies.


2 b) Theoretical exploration of narrative: fiction and history

In this theoretical part of the project too, the basis for the teamfs research efforts is literary studies, including literary theory as it has developed from Aristotlefs Poetics onwards. However, constituent aspects of fictional narrative can be better understood if related to, and compared with, historical narrative and forms of narrative not (or not only) transmitted through verbal prose. Relating literary narrative to historical and filmic narrative, the research team is as interested in the differences between such narrative variants as in the similarities. As briefly indicated above, humans produce a wide range narrative utterances. In Hayden Whitefs phrase, gnarrative is an expression in discourse of a distinct mode of experiencing and thinking about the world, its structures, and its processesh.[6] Clearly, fictional narrative is related to, and informed by, history and society: this is one essential reason why literature matters. And yet, although Hayden White may be right to point out that historical narrative employs techniques of fiction, a given fictional narrative cannot be verified or falsified in the way a historical account can be (or needs to be). Fiction claims to be able to convey its own unique kinds of truth; it can, as Theodor W. Adorno has observed, serve as a form of subconscious writing of history.  


Responding to the work of Hayden White and others, Dorrit Cohn identifies three criteria  

of fictionality in her book The Distinction of Fiction.[7]  First, fiction can be understood by

reference to the relationship between two levels of analysis ? most often called story and

discourse ? while understanding history requires understanding an additional relationship, that

between story and discourse on the one hand and reference to the historical record on the

other. Second, fiction enjoys a freedom of focalization that history does not: fiction, unlike

history, can authoritatively represent the inner thoughts, feelings, and consciousness of

characters without the mediating consciousness of an external narrator. Third, fiction, unlike

historical narrative, allows for unreliable narration, that is, a disjunction between the norms of

the author and those of the narrator the author creates. Some team members disagree with

Cohn about these signposts, and even more about the assumption that we can distinguish

fiction and history on the basis of the formal features of each. But it does not, of course,

follow that they are right and she is wrong. The essential point to make here that is that her

important book establishes a good starting-point for the teamfs exploration of this problem.  


In order to establish a critical focus of 2 b) the team will concentrate on narrative representations of the Holocaust. As regards this vexed issue, we are still very much in the process of coming to terms with its impact on our conceptions of humanity, identity, and civilization. This ongoing process is at once reflected in and illustrated by the diversity of critical approaches to the historical phenomenon of the Holocaust. For example, the sociologist Zygmunt Bauman has related the Holocaust to the development of European modernity, arguing that the former happened not just in spite of but also as a result of the latter. Another tendency in Holocaust studies has been to rely on definitions of authenticity in order to grade and evaluate the quality of Holocaust literature and memoirs. Seen in the light of narrative theory, there are strengths and weaknesses associated with both these approaches. While some find that Bauman links the Holocaust too closely to European modernity, the question of what is gauthentich or ginauthentich in accounts of the Holocaust can be difficult to ascertain. One of the insights of narrative theory is that in discussions of first-person narratives we need to distinguish between the gnarrating Ih and the gnarrated Ih, recognizing that even though there is a close connection between the two, the voice and perspective of each gIh are not unproblematically identical. As the German author Christa Wolf puts its, there is a split between gthe memory of ourselves c and the voice that assumes the task of telling ith.[8] It does not follow that the memory of a given event is false, but its verbal representation is not necessarily wholly correct or complete.


Most contemporary representations of the Holocaust are narrative representations. As these accounts both present and reflect a strong need for new identity formation, they illustrate the possibility of constructing a sense of self through narrative.[9] Moreover, for the person looking back the Holocaust is itself an uncanny narrative, involving (though it did not necessarily do so at the time of the experience) a beginning, middle, and end. Narrative representations of the Holocaust are autobiographical as well as fictional. Studying examples of both, the research team will focus on the complex and shifting relationship between past and present selves as presented in first-person autobiographical and fictional Holocaust narratives. It follows that genre is a key issue. The team will discuss the characteristic narrative features of genres such as the report, the journal, the travel story, the Hassidic tale, the fragment, the parable, the short story, and the novel. The possibility, and problem, of memory is a significant factor in all these generic variants of Holocaust narrative.[10] We will also discuss selected representations of the Holocaust on film.[11]


The theoretical and methodological problems prompted by Holocaust studies will constitute an essential part of the teamfs discussions. The  narrative criteria need to be carefully selected and combined in order to enable the researcher to differentiate between the textfs gverbal worldh and the underlying ghistorical realityh which, although present in both historical and fictional narratives of the Holocaust, assumes different forms and has varying effects and implications. It is essential to avoid a circular argument in which the narrative theory employed comes to terms only with texts responding to that particular theory.


An additional critical focus of 2 b) is postcolonial studies, an expanding field of study that also highlights the relationship of narrative fiction and history. Of course, the affinity between Holocaust literature (responding to one particular, temporally and spatially limited chain of historical events) and postcolonial literature (dealing with ongoing global processes with countless national, cultural, and linguistic variations) should not be exaggerated. Still, problems of power and violence loom large in postcolonial literature too, as do the issues of identity and race. Postcolonial critics stress that postcolonial literature is situated in history, responding to and dramatising problems typical of the postcolonial era and of a gpostcolonial spaceh subjected to pressures of globalization. As indicated above, such an emphasis has entailed a tendency to equate literary texts with ideological positions. Dissenting from this tendency, the team wants to highlight the narrative and structural dimensions of postcolonial fiction. It is important to discuss ? both theoretically (referring to the work of Edward Said, Homi Bhabha, and others) and by considering selected narratives by the authors mentioned below ? how fictional form is related to, and presents, a multi-faceted postcolonial historical reality. 


The following questions can be subsumed under 2 b):

-         Does narrative fiction present specific clues to its fictionality, and if so, do such clues indirectly tell us something essential about corresponding ones in historical narrative? What can (analysis of) modernist narrative tell us about possible clues of fictionality?

-         Is it, combining recent narrative theory with insights resulting from the analyses conducted under 2 a), possible to refine the definitions of significant narrative concepts, so as to make them more accurate and more productive?

-         Taking the Holocaust as a significant example, is it possible to make some general (theoretical) comments on the ways in which this historical event has been, and continues to be, presented as historical narrative, as fictional narrative, or as a blend of both  ? not only in verbal fiction but also in innumerable film and TV versions? Is Anton Kaes right to suggest that gthe further the past recedes, the closer it becomes [because] images c reproduced thousands of times, render the past ever-presenth?[12] Or is it rather, as several historians have argued, the other way round? What are the consequences of such contrastive notions for our understanding of the past, and for narrative theory and analysis?

-         Considered from the vantage point of narrative, what are the most significant differences and similarities between autobiographical and fictional Holocaust narratives? What is the role of memory within these two main variants of narrative representation? How are memory and creativity interlinked, and what is the relationship between memory and narrativity? How does memory transform reality and narrative transform memory?

-         What can be said about the need, or retrospective search, for meaning in Holocaust narratives? To what extent is gmeaningh (if this word is meaningful here) dependent on, or generated by, narrative structure?

-         Taking the historical period of postcolonialism as a second example, how is the relationship between fictional and historical narrative presented in postcolonial studies?

-         How is history, or the process of history, presented in the narrative fiction major gpostcolonialh writers such as J. M. Coetzee and Salman Rushdie? How do they present the issues of race, power, and violence, and how are these issues related to the problem of identity, or identities?


It will be noticed that while some of the questions listed under 2 a) incorporate elements of theory, several of those under 2 b) mention historical and literary examples in a way that seems to invite, in part even necessitate, analysis and careful reading (or viewing). This kind of interplay of narrative theory and analysis is intended. Members of the team regard it as a strength rather than a weakness, as the two constituent aspects of the project will mutually enrich each other. Thus, aspects of narrative theory and analysis as studied under 2 a) will also be activated in the teamfs discussions of Coetzee and Rushdie, two exceptionally interesting authors as far as fictional representation of history is concerned.


All in all we think the teamfs work ? as presented under 2 a) and 2 b) ? holds a very considerable potential for improving our understanding of the mechanisms, effects, and meaning of narrative. To explore narrative in the way set out here is a critical objective situated at the centre of humanistic studies. As we are convinced that an understanding of narrative cannot and should not be separated from the ways in which it is structured and produced, it makes sense to analyse selected narratives by two writers who, through their seminal contributions to European modernism, extend as well as probe the limits of fictional representation. It also makes sense to combine this kind of narrative analysis, which may enable us to reconceptualize key terms in narrative theory, with an investigation of the relationship of fiction and history as outlined under 2 b).


Approaching the complex issue of the Holocaust with respect and humility, and bearing in mind the fact that the framework of Holocaust literature is never exclusively that of literary studies, we believe that narrative theory and analysis as combined in this project can make a significant contribution to the study of Holocaust narratives. In this critical endeavour ? as in our discussions of Conrad, Kafka, and postcolonial literature ? we want, by concentrating on the interplay of narrative form and content, to highlight the ethical dimension of literary studies.


3. Envisaged results

In addition to the intrinsic value of the teamfs work ? including workshops, seminars, two conferences, and ideas for further research (and possible further cooperation) ? I plan to publish internationally two books which will reflect and present the teamfs research. The first book can provisionally be called gModernist Narrativeh, the second gNarrative and Historyh. This will give junior members, who will profit from the seniorsf constructive criticisms, the opportunity to publish internationally. The books will be co-edited with central members of the research team. Professor Phelan (introduced below), who is co-editor of the series on the Theory and Interpretation of Narrative at Ohio State University Press, has expressed a strong interest in considering both books for publication. In cooperation with Professor Odd-Bjorn Fure (introduced below), I also plan to publish a book in Norwegian. This book will discuss narrative representations of the Holocaust. It will be launched at Villa Grande in Oslo, the venue of the Centre for Studies of the Holocaust, and we will edit and advertise the book with a view to reaching not just an academic but also a non-academic audience.


4. Team members

a) Norwegian seniors and assisting project leaders

If this project is selected I would wish to involve researchers who are currently conducting the very best work in narrative theory and analysis. I shall restrict myself to giving short presentations of them. In Norway, Professors Beatrice Sandberg and Jeremy Hawthorn will both be active members and co-organisers of the team during the whole year. Additionally, the teamfs work will profit from contact and cooperation with Professor Odd-Bjorn Fure. Professor Fure is Research Director of the recently established Centre for Studies of the Holocaust; he is also the editor of Norsk historisk tidsskrift (Norwegian Journal of Historical Studies). His competence as a historian and his specialist knowledge of the Holocaust will be of great value.[13] He has expressed his enthusiastic interest in the project, and will be an associated member of the research team.


A Professor of German Literature at the University of Bergen, Beatrice Sandberg is an internationally recognized Kafka scholar. She is currently working on the issues of history and narrative, and on autobiographical literature (including Holocaust literature) and its contribution to history.[14] Sandberg and I arranged an international conference on Kafka at the University of Bergen in 2000, and we are co-editors of Franz Kafka.[15] Rather than demanding a new start, working with Sandberg on the project proposed here would in practice amount to a continuation of research already begun: this enhances the possibility of success.


Born and educated in Britain, Jeremy Hawthorn has been an unusually productive researcher since becoming Professor of Modern British Literature at NTNU (Norwegian University of Science and Technology) in the early 1980s. Hawthornfs many publications include two major studies of Conrad as well as books on the novel, modernism, and literary theory and terminology. His current work also involves studies of film and postcolonial studies. Particularly relevant to 2 b) is his Cunning Passages (1996), which explores the implications literary debates have for our attempt to understand both reports of historical events, such as Hiroshima or the Holocaust, as well as fictional works whose relation to historical reality is more complex and indirect. As in the case of Sandberg, I have known Hawthorn for many years and cooperated with him on several projects, and in large part our research interests overlap.  


b) International seniors

Four distinguished international seniors have committed themselves to join the project, should we be fortunate enough to be able to realize it.


J. Hillis Miller, Distinguished Research Professor of English and Comparative Literature at the University of California, Irvine, is a leading literary researcher of his generation (not just in the United States but also internationally), and although he is by no means a narrative theorist only, he has made very significant contributions to narrative theory and analysis ? not least in the books Fiction and Repetition (1982), Ariadnefs Thread (1992), Illustration (1992), Topographies (1994), Reading Narrative (1998), Speech Acts in Literature (2001), and On Literature (2002). Hillis Miller has visited Norway several times, and he is a contributor to the Kafka book edited by Sandberg and Lothe. Immensely knowledgeable yet modest about his own achievements and genuinely interested in the work of others, he would fit perfectly into the research team.



Daphna Erdinast-Vulcan, Professor of English Literature at the University of Haifa, is the

author of Graham Greenefs Childless Fathers (1988), Joseph Conrad and the Modern Temper (1991), and The Strange Short Fiction of Joseph Conrad (1999). She is also a specialist on modernism and on Mikhail Bakhtin, and her research interests include the gcrisis of narrativityh and the relationship between narrative and history. She is currently working on a study of Bakhtin.


James Phelan, Professor English Literature at Ohio State University, has been the editor of Narrative since 1992. A key person in the American Society of Narrative, Phelan has written a number of influential books on narrative theory ? for instance, about character and narrative progression in Reading People, Reading Plots (1989), and about voice, homodiegetic narration, ethics, and audiences in Narrative as Rhetoric (1996). He is currently writing about the rhetoric and ethics of character narration in fiction and in autobiography and expects his next project to focus on narrative time.


Susan Rubin Suleiman, Professor of French and Comparative Literature at Harvard University, has published important work including Authoritarian Fictions (1983), Subversive Intent (1990), and Budapest Diary (1996). Suleiman works on novels, essays, and literary theories of various kinds, ranging from narrative theory to feminist theory and cultural studies. She has also written about film and the visual arts. Her current work in on history and memory, including the Holocaust, and she wants to continue this work as a team member.


 c) Norwegian juniors

It is, of course, essential that a research team like this consist of junior researchers too. Profiting from the seniorsf expertise, the junior researchers will no doubt contribute significantly to the teamfs discussions and work-in-progress, thus making both activities more dynamic and improving the synergy of the research project as a whole.


Anniken Greve is a young gforsteamanuensish (Assistant Professor) of Comparative Literature at the University of Tromso who has done original and promising work on narrative theory.[16] With her training in philosophy Greve is theoretically strong, and she has an expressed interest in modernist narrative (including Kafka) and in narrative analysis. She is currently doing research on the characteristic features of fictional narrative, and is very interested to join the team.


Anette Storeide is a doctoral student in the Department of German, University of Oslo. I serve as co-adviser for her doctoral thesis. Entitled gTestimonies of the Norwegian prisoners in Sachsenhasenh, this thesis explores issues that can be subsumed under 2 b). Storeide has lived and studied in Germany for several years, and she has also worked as a guide in Sachsenhausen. Moreover, she has interviewed, and knows personally, a number of  Sachsenhausen survivors. 


Anne Thelle is a doctoral student in the Department of East European and Oriental Studies at the University of Oslo. I serve as co-adviser for her doctoral thesis, which is on the Japanese writer Nakagami Kenji. Thelle addresses the issues of narrative and history in Nakagamifs fiction, and she also discusses his relationship with modernism: thus she would greatly profit from being a team member. As the time period of Thellefs grant (guniversitetsstipendh) includes 2005?06, she could join the team for the last year of her grant period. She thinks this would be ideal.


Beyond these obvious candidates I want, in the event that the application is successful, to invite doctoral students from other Norwegian universities to visit the team. There are several possibilities here: I am sure that not only literary researchers, but also young scholars working in disciplines such as media studies and history would profit from being affiliated with the teamfs research.



[1] One of the most important recent contributions to narrative theory is team member J. Hillis Millerfs Reading Narrative (Norman: Oklahoma State University Press, 1998). Other points of reference are Willie van Peer and Seymour Chatman (eds.), New Perspectives on Narrative Perspective (Albany: State University of New York Press, 2001), H. Porter Abbott, The Cambridge Introduction to Narrative (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002), Paul Cobley, Narrative (London: Routledge, 2001), and Martin McQuillan (ed.), The Narrative Reader (London: Routledge, 2000), all of which include helpful bibliographies.

[2] James Phelan and Peter J. Rabiovitz (eds.), Understanding Narrative (Columbus: Ohio State Univerity Press, 1994), 9.

[3] Bjorn Tysdahl, Mats Jansson, Jakob Lothe, and Steen Klitgard Povlsen, English and Nordic Modernisms (Norwich: Norvik Press, 2002). A further volume, entitled European and Nordic Modernisms and edited by Lothe with Mats Jansson and Hannu Riikonen, is forthcoming from the same press.

[4] Zdzis?aw Najder, Conrad in Perspective (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997), 179.

[5] Cf. the special issue of Poetics Today edited by team member Susan Suleiman, esp. her gIntroduction: On Signposts, Travelers, Outsiders, and Backward Glances,h Poetics Today 17:3 (1996), 283?88.

[6] Hayden White, gStorytelling: Historical and Ideologicalh, in Robert Newman (ed.), Centuriesf Ends, Narrative Means (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1996), 59.   

[7] Dorrit Cohn, The Distinction of Fiction  (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1999).

[8] Christa Wolf, A Model Childhood, trans. U. Molinaro and H. Rappolt (London: Virago, 1976).

[9] Cf. Nicola King, Memory, Narrative, Identity (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2000), and Andrea Reiter, Narrating The Holocaust (London: Continuum, 2000; first published in German in 1995). Both these studies have useful bibliographies.

[10] David Carroll has described the Holocaust as an gextreme limit case of memoryh, and Jurgen Habermas has written that gSomething took place here which up to that time no one had even thought might be possible c Auschwitz has altered the continuity of historical life-connections ? and not only in Germanyh. See Carroll, gForeword: The Memory of Devastation and the Responsibilities of Thoughth, in Jean-Francois Lyotard, Heidegger and gthe Jewsh, trans. A. Michel and M. Roberts (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1990), viii, and Habermas, gA Kind of Settlement of Damages (Apologetic Tendencies)h, New German Critique 44 (1988), 251?52. Cf. Daniel R. Schwarz, Imagining the Holocaust (London : Palgrave, 2000) and Dominick LaCapra, History and Memory After Auschwitz (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1999). As Schwarz is also a recognized Conrad scholar, and as LaCapra has also studied the relationship of fiction and history in modernist literature, their works will be important points of reference.

[11] Two interesting possibilities are Claude Lanzmannfs much-discussed Shoah (gannihilationh in Hebrew) (1985) and Stephen Spielbergfs Schindlerfs List (1994). The teamfs discussion of filmic representations of the Holocaust will incorporte references to photography; cf. Barbie Zelilzer, Remembering to Forget: Holocaust through the Camerafs Eye (Chicago: Chicago University Press, 1998).

[12] Anton Kaes, From Hitler to Heimat: The Return of History as Film (Harvard: Harvard University Press, 1989), ix.

[13] Cf. Furefs essay gTilintetgjorelsen av de europeiske jodeneh (The extermination of the European Jews), Nytt Norsk Tidsskrift 19:2 (2002): 111?40.

[14] See, for instance, her essay gErinnerte und erfundene Erfahrung: Autobiographisches Schreiben als subjektive Geschichtsvermidlung?h, in Edgar Platen (ed.),  Erinnerte und erfundene Erfahrung (Munchen: Iudicium, 2000), 146?61.

[15] Beatrice Sandberg and Jakob Lothe (eds.), Franz Kafka: Zur ethischen und asthetischen Rechtfertigung (Freiburg: Rombach Verlag, 2002).

[16] A representative example is her essay gA tenke med fortellingerh (To think with narratives), Norsk litteraturvitenskapelig tidsskrift 2 (1999), 140?47.