Omnium Gatherum: The Ecological Fictions of Ransmayr, Tokarczuk and Flanagan
Citation:Brennan, Conor, Omnium Gatherum: The Ecological Fictions of Ransmayr, Tokarczuk and Flanagan, Trinity College Dublin, School of Lang, Lit. & Cultural Studies, German, 2023
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This thesis presents a comparative reading of novels by three prominent contemporary writers who engage with ecological themes. Christoph Ransmayr, Olga Tokarczuk and Richard Flanagan are all well-known writers both internationally and within their respective cultural contexts of Austria, Poland and Australia. A comparison of their work is justified not only by the international scale of the climate crisis - and their own opposition to categories of national literature - but also by an array of shared literary influences and intertexts, foremost among them Franz Kafka and Ingeborg Bachmann. As well as a detailed reading of works by these three authors and their literary ancestors, the thesis presents an argument about ecological fiction itself, supporting an understanding of ecology as an expansive category that is inseparable from the aesthetic. It also constructs an argument about acts of reading, and particularly of comparative reading, through its theoretical framework of the 'omnium gatherum'. Chapter 1 introduces the three focus authors and outlines some of their key experiments with the form of prose fiction in the light of the climate crisis. These experiments, it is argued, are influenced by a modernist forebear to whom all three authors frequently allude, namely Franz Kafka. Chapter 2 analyses the portrayal of systems that are historically implicated in ecological destruction. It considers systems of empire and their links to the production of scientific knowledge, as well as the many forms of resistance which processes of colonisation, disenchantment and resource extraction are met with. Chapter 3 introduces another key literary precursor for these texts: the Austrian poet and fiction writer Ingeborg Bachmann. Correspondences between the writing of Bachmann and Ransmayr, in particular, help to shed light on the role of archetypal representation in ecological fiction, which is bound up with the importance of gender and narrative perspective. Chapter 4 outlines the manifesto for contemporary fiction put forward in Tokarczuk's Nobel lecture 'The Tender Narrator'. The ideas outlined in the lecture are explored in more detail through the figure of Janina Duszejko, the narrator of Tokarczuk's 'eco-thriller' Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead (Prowad? sw?j p?ug przez ko?ci umar?ych, 2009; trans. Antonia Lloyd-Jones, 2019). The epilogue draws together the key arguments of the thesis using Ursula K. Le Guin's essay 'The Carrier Bag Theory of Fiction', which offers an original and hopeful alternative to the types of story and system seen elsewhere in the thesis. Through the archetype of the gatherer, and the idea of the novel form as a kind of carrier bag, the epilogue offers ways of bypassing the trap of comprehensiveness, including the new constellations engendered by comparative reading itself.
Author: Brennan, Conor
Publisher:Trinity College Dublin. School of Lang, Lit. & Cultural Studies. Discipline of German
Type of material:Thesis
Availability:Full text available