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Representing Consciousness in Fiction: Neo-Modernist Strategies in Contemporary British and American Novels

August 17th, 2012

What goes on in people’s minds? How do we make sense of what happens in the world around us? Or, to cite an example, how might a traumatic brain injury affect a human being’s capacities to think, feel, and speak? Many contemporary British and American novels have developed great interest in questions like these. They explore literary means of representation which are apt to highlight how their characters perceive and individually construct the world they live in. The lecture intends to address several literary techniques of representing consciousness, which, since they first became prominent during the literary period of modernism, are sometimes referred to as ‘neo-modernist’ strategies or associated with a ‘modernist revival’ in contemporary fiction. For that matter, attention will also be paid to the questions of what distinguishes the employment of modernist storytelling devices in novels after, say, 2000 from their literary precursors in the first half of the twentieth century, and what new ways of depicting mental processes contemporary novels show.

Alexander Scherr is a research assistant in the Department of English and a doctoral candidate at the International Graduate Centre for the Study of Culture (GCSC). His PhD thesis deals with the appropriation and transformation of scientific knowledge in contemporary British and American narrative fiction. Before he came to Giessen in October 2011, he worked as a coordinator and manager of language courses at the University of Bonn for two years, where he had also studied English, Philosophy, and Musicology.