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Leslie A. Adelson - "Horizons of Hope in Times of Despair: Alexander Kluge's Cosmic and Global Miniatures for the 21st Century, A Literary Perspective"

Tuesday, April 2, 2013 - 4:45pm

Kaufmann Auditorium, Goldwin Smith Hall

Leslie A. Adelson (Jacob Gould Schurman Professor of German Studies; Director of the Institute for German Cultural Studies, Cornell University)

A polymath of European modernities and German critical culture in the wake of fascism, war, and genocide, Alexander Kluge is best known for seminal contributions to New German Cinema, social theory on alternative public spheres, and programming innovations in television.  W.G. Sebald once likened Kluge, who has also been a literary author of experimental fictions since the 1960s, to Walter Benjamin’s angel of history on a dedicated quest for redemptive futures of possibility.  Rather than rehearse a familiar tale of Kluge’s resistance to grand narratives of modernity, politics, or narrative itself, this lecture probes instead quirky relations between pastness and futurity—in dimensions both large and small—in the recent proliferation of prose pieces by one of the most dynamic public intellectuals in Europe today.  Focusing on emphatically short fictions with high stakes from Kluge’s story collection Tür an Tür mit einem anderen Leben [Door to Door with an Other Life] (2006), the lecture asks after the specific literary forms and narrative functions of futurity in Kluge’s storytelling practice for the 21st century.  The analysis foregrounds two key subsets of the author’s literary production for a contemporary readership.  Leslie A. Adelson will first address the form that futurity takes in the outer space of what she calls Kluge’s “cosmic miniatures” at the outer narrative limits of his future-oriented prose.  She will then offer initial thoughts on the storytelling status of Kluge’s “global miniatures,” in which tales of Marx in London, Soviet remnants at Stanford, and cinema in the People’s Republic of China revisit the meaning of revolutionary hopes and horizons in the aftermath of 1989.  Original citations will be presented in German, with English translations provided.

Leslie A. Adelson is the Jacob Gould Schurman Professor of German Studies and Director of the Institute for German Cultural Studies at Cornell University, where she is also a graduate field member in Comparative Literature; Feminist, Gender, and Sexuality Studies; and Jewish Studies. Former chair of Cornell’s Department of German Studies, she teaches modern German literature with an emphasis on literature since 1945, and transnational theories of culture, difference, and migration. Major monographs include The Turkish Turn in Contemporary German Literature: Toward a New Critical Grammar of Migration (2005). Current projects address futurity in contemporary German literature, especially in experimental narrative by Alexander Kluge.

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