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Title: Montage aesthetics : narrative, adaptation and urban modernity in Alfred Döblin's Berlin Alexanderplatz
Author: Slugan, Mario
ISNI:       0000 0004 2270 5108
Awarding Body: University of Warwick
Current Institution: University of Warwick
Date of Award: 2014
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Alfred Döblin’s famous 1929 novel Berlin Alexanderplatz has often been discussed in terms of the appropriation of film poetics by the medium of literature and is said to abound with examples of literary montage. In most post-war discussions of literary montage in Berlin Alexanderplatz, however, the device is regularly understood as an umbrella term for anything of stylistic interest. Deploying 1920s and 1930s literary and film criticism I demonstrate that this regularly leads to anachronisms and terminological over-inflation. I thus offer a historically informed definition of literary montage in precise narratological, stylistic and experiential categories. Montage rests on the identification of intradiegetically unmotivated ready-mades and the perceived experiential similarities between the novel, Soviet montage films, and Dadaist photomontage. The lack of motivation affords the experience of disruption which, I demonstrate, has within the Benjaminian “modernity thesis” too often been extrapolated to characterize all film editing. My analysis shows that contemporary critics regularly discriminated between different types of editing on at least three experiential axes – tempo and dynamism, confusion, and disruption. My proposed definition of literary montage thus also allows me to analyse the novel in terms of the key narratological novelties that literary montage introduces: the global proliferation of heterodiegetic zero-level narrators accompanied with the local elimination of zerolevel narrators altogether. In other words, Döblin accomplishes in literary fiction what holds for film fiction in general – the absence of a narrator held to be fictionally in control of the whole of the text. Conversely, through the use of intertitles and the particular type of voice-over interjections, Fassbinder’s adaptation endeavours to emulate the reciprocal commonplace of literary fiction – the narrator’s continuous presence. Paired with Fassbinder’s film, Jutzi’s adaptation demonstrates how visual and sound film montage both differ from literary montage. Whereas literary montage hinges on disruptive stylistic shifts, film montage rests on disruptive spatio-temporal dislocation.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: PN1993 Motion Pictures ; PT Germanic literature