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Title: Autobiographical writing and the representation of illness : a disability studies perspective on contemporary German literature (2007-2013)
Author: Schmidt, Nina
ISNI:       0000 0004 5990 4127
Awarding Body: University of Sheffield
Current Institution: University of Sheffield
Date of Award: 2016
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This thesis is motivated by a notable new wave – intensifying from 2007 onwards – of autobiographically inspired writing on illness/ disability, death and dying in the German-speaking world. By taking this writing seriously as literature, it examines how the authors of such personal narratives come to write of and negotiate their experiences between the poles of cliché and exceptionality, in text and in the wider public realm. Identifying shortcomings in the approaches hitherto displayed to texts that have arisen out of personal experiences with illness/ disability, the introduction makes methodological suggestions as to how to better read these new illness narratives from the stance of literary scholarship. The thesis goes on to demonstrate the value of a literary disability studies approach to autobiographical illness writing in its four main chapters, which present close readings of five examples of contemporary illness narratives, namely: Charlotte Roche’s Schoßgebete (2011), Kathrin Schmidt’s Du stirbst nicht (2009), Verena Stefan’s Fremdschläfer (2007), and – in the final, comparative chapter – Christoph Schlingensief’s So schön wie hier kanns im Himmel gar nicht sein! Tagebuch einer Krebserkrankung (2009) and Wolfgang Herrndorf’s Arbeit und Struktur (2010-2013). Each chapter analyses narrative strategies, aesthetic forms and experimentations with genre that can be observed in this kind of life writing. Its grounding in the field of disability studies gives the thesis an innovative perspective on each of the texts, and helps to identify gaps and contortions in the dominant readings of the analysed texts – readings which tend to disregard the illness experience at their centre or contest the texts’ literary quality. This thesis shows that when sharing their stories publicly with a wide audience, authors do so with a distinct awareness of the precarious subject position they take up in the public eye; a position they negotiate consciously and creatively in their literature. Writing the liminal experience of serious illness along the borders of genre(s), frequently moving between fictional and autobiographical modes, they carve out for themselves a space from which it becomes possible to speak up and share their personal story in the realm of literature, to political ends.
Supervisor: Bland, Caroline ; Vice, Sue Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available