Call for Contributions: AUSTRIAN STUDIES 29 (Autumn 2021) Uncanny Valleys Austrian Literature and Film in the New Millennium

Heide Kunzelmann's picture
Type: 
Call for Papers
Date: 
January 31, 2020
Location: 
United Kingdom
Subject Fields: 
Literature, Political History / Studies, Popular Culture Studies, Psychology, Urban History / Studies

Uncanny Valleys
Austrian Literature and Film in the New Millennium

Edited by Heide Kunzelmann and Lyn Marven

Call for Papers - Austrian Studies 29 (2021) will be devoted to contemporary cultural and scholarly engagements with the uncanny, a phenomenon centrally embedded in recent discourse, not least through the coinage of ‘uncanny valley’ for our response to life-like robots when they fail to maintain their human semblance (Mori, 1970). Sigmund Freud’s seminal essay ‘Das Unheimliche’ (1919) consolidated a number of tropes that have since served in cultural and literary studies to analyze the subtle ‘added texture in a film or story applied to instill an inexplicable air of unease, a cognitive dissonance that mounts and mounts’ (Ra Page, 2013, 3). In the late twentieth and twenty-first century, theoretical readings of the uncanny mood are legion – in multiple transnational epistemological and ideological contexts, applied to both individual and collective anxiety and trauma (Cixous 1976; Garber 1987; Derrida 1994; Taylor 1991; Fisher 2014 and 2016). The uncanny experience of feeling fundamentally unhomed, even on one’s home territory, seems to be a core quality of the modern human condition, and literature and the arts are uniquely suited to bringing the drivers of this experience to the fore. The ephemeral quality of uncanny experience – often triggered by no more than a glimpse of something strange in a familiar context or vice versa ̶ and its profound psychological impact on the reader or viewer combine to inform aesthetic strategies exposing repressed fears, immoral histories or unpopular truths.

Austrian cultural production after 1945 has been enduringly haunted by unsavoury truths. The fraught relationship of post-war Austria with its own history and the collective denial of responsibility for National Socialist crimes informed a cultural discourse that was polarized between apologetic or extremely judgmental viewpoints (Fliedl 1998). Towards the turn of the new millennium, however, research began to discern alternatives in the steadily growing number of phenomena and artefacts that accept the uncanny core of a dialectical, integrative approach to Austria’s difficult history (W.G. Sebald 1991).

Since the early 1990s, a host of narratives based on uncanny topoi or conceived around a central uncanny experience or eerie space have been produced in Austria or by Austrian authors and film-makers, for example Elfriede Jelinek, Doron Rabinovici, Thomas Glavinic, Constantin Göttfert, Alois Hotschnig, Anna Kim, Kathrin Röggla, Clemens Setz, Ursula Poznanski, Veronika Franz, Severin Fiala and others. The uncanny has been used with critical and satirical intent, also to highlight the unsettling of established notions of humanity following what has been referred to as the ‘nonhuman turn’ of digitalization (Hamilton 2016). Uncanny topoi play a central role in recent poetological commentaries (Kehlmann 2014) and new research on Austrian literature and culture has focused on the uncanny as crucial to a deeper understanding of subjects' struggle with individual and collective histories (Schlipphacke 2015; Leitgeb 2018 and 2019).

We invite contributions on and case studies of all aspects of the uncanny in recent Austrian literature, film and scholarship. Interdisciplinary approaches are encouraged; topics may include:

- Contemporary representations of the Freudian uncanny tropes

- The uncanny, the weird and the eerie in relation to the digital, robotics, artificial intelligence and anthropomorphization

- Notions of self and identity and their disruption through the uncanny

- The uncanny mode as poetological trope in the context of authorial authority

- The eerie and the weird in relation to Austrian geography: the uncanny in the Vorstadt (urban peripheries), urban areas versus countryside, remote spaces, mountains and valleys…

- Contemporary reworkings of uncanny Austrian myths (folk tales, urban mythology, founding myths)

- The impact of the uncanny on the notions of Heimat and Anti-Heimat

- Permutations of Derrida’s concept of ‘hauntology’ with a focus on politics and history

- Uncanny aspects of language experiments and concrete poetry

Abstracts of 300 words should be submitted to h.m.a.kunzelmann@kent.ac.uk and L.Marven@liverpool.ac.uk by 31 January 2020; draft articles will be due for submission on 1 September 2020. All articles are subject to double blind peer review.

Austrian Studies is published in English; all quotations must be made available in both the original language and English translation. Please follow the submission guidelines closely: http://www.mhra.org.uk/pdf/as-submission-guidelines.pdf

Contact Info: 

Heide Kunzelmann (h.m.a.kunzelmann@kent.ac.uk) - School of European Culture and Languages, University of Kent (UK)

Lyn Marven (l.marven@liverpool.ac.uk) - Department of Languages and Cultures, University of Liverpool (UK)