Monologue Overgrown: Revising The World With Speech In Franz Kafka, Robert Walser And Thomas Bernhard
My dissertation focuses on unstable, chronically unpublished prose texts by three key 20th century prose writers, quasi-novelistic texts whose material instability indicates a deep discomfort with the establishment of narrative authority qua narrative violence. I argue that Franz Kafka, Robert Walser and Thomas Bernhard, radically refunctionalized the device of interpolated "character monologue," turning characters' speech from a narrative function, into a site where a text can be rewritten from within. In the Bildungsroman tradition, extended oral interpolations serve as an engine for the expansion and exposition of the plotted work, deepening the epic narrative world and exhaustively presenting a perspective that will be incorporated into biographical trajectory. I locate an estrangement of this practice: moments when oral monologues of fictional interlocutors "overgrow," becoming an interventionary force that doubles, disrupts and re-frames the narrative discourse out of which it first sprouted. In showing how the labor of 'world-making' is split and spread across different competing layers of these texts, my dissertation contributes to the study of the narrative phenomenon of metalepsis. Chapter One examines the determinations and contestations of social ties occurring across the many mutually embedded monologues in Kafka's early novella Beschreibung eines Kampfes. Chapter Two examines Walser's Räuber-Roman, focusing on the translation of affects into social hierarchies, a process brought to light in protagonist's monologic declarations of sovereignty. Chapter Three examines the parasitic takeover and revision of a young proletarian protagonist's biography by an elderly paternal "mad genius" figure, in an early, unpublished novel by Thomas Bernhard.
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