Ingeborg Bachmann: Gender, Trauma, and Literature
Indelibly marked by the catastrophes of the mid-20th century, the Austrian novelist and poet Ingeborg Bachmann raised questions that disrupt and traverse the bourgeois academic boundaries of postcolonial, feminist, materialist, existentialist and anti-fascist art, thought, and politics—boundaries that dissolve as we confront the history and strange condition of the post-war West. In Bachmann’s work, life clashes and combusts with language, love with art, desire with trauma, dreamscape with phantasmagoria, creation with translation, image with shadow, presence with haunting, redemption with destruction, body with war, and city with history. A narrator of the many ways society inflicts death, Bachmann is a guide through the ordinary and extraordinary fascisms that mark and structure our lives, fed by histories of betrayal in patriarchy, colony, empire, and liberalism. How, in Bachmann’s work, does the mundane intersect with the political—be it in the relations of women and men, in the ways we speak, or in the very ways we think? How do we live in the wake of catastrophe? How do we dispense with nostalgia? What does it mean to be a victim?
In this course, we will turn to the Bachmann’s masterpiece Malina, as well as her poetry, radio plays, speeches, letters, and unfinished fiction, as we draw out the aesthetics and politics of a particular moment and explore Bachmann’s unique contribution to thinking about expression, personhood, intersubjectivity, and politics. As we read, we’ll take up her actual relationships with contemporary political thinkers and writers (such as Paul Celan and Gunter Grass), her struggle with her family’s Nazi past, her conflicts with various forms of normalised governmentalities, including psychoanalysis, and her engagement with multiple forms of expression and technological cultural production. We’ll examine some proposed connections with related writers and thinkers, such as Assia Djebar, Hannah Arendt, Walter Benjamin, Fehmida Riaz, Simone de Beauvoir, and Gayatri Spivak, each of whom, like Bachmann, center the experience of the sufferer and demolish the neat disciplinings of knowledge and experience. In what ways does Bachmann offer an alternative method of inquiry and politics—one that might allow for a different way of encountering, inhabiting, and dismantling the death cults in which we find ourselves?
Course ScheduleWednesday, 6:30-9:30pm ET
March 03 — March 24, 2021