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After the Crash: Economic Crises and Narrative Sense Making in Literature, Film and other Media

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Organizer: Jonas Nesselhauf

Co-Organizer: Monika Albrecht

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From Miles Kahler’s and David A. Lake’s proposal to describe the 2007/08 crisis with the metaphor of an “economic earthquake” to Joseph Vogl’s critical glance at the “spectrology” of political economy and his endeavor to deconstruct its phrasings, scholars from a range of fields such as Social and Political Sciences or Culture and Literary Studies aspire to grasp and explain financial activities by focusing on their manifestations in our imagination and their linguistic mediation, especially in and after times of financial crises and uncertainties.

Once the domain of fictitious reality, the narrative or “storytelling” is understood to be a social and cultural practice, that must be seen as “world-making” and “narrative sense making.” As David Herman in the inaugural issue of the interdisciplinary Journal of Narrative Studies, Storyworlds, observed correctly, the field of economic narratives constitutes a paradigm of cross-disciplinary work since “no one area of study can come to terms with the multidimensional complexity of narrative world-building.”
So, in the aftermath of the most recent global economic crisis, many authors, playwrights, directors and other artists have tried to find new and appropriate ways of illustrating the economic system in various media—be it the ‘return’ to classic genres (for instance multiperspectivity in novels of John Lanchester, Daniel Kehlmann, and Zadie Smith), the deconstruction of economic orders through metafiction (for instance in Adam McKay’s film The Big Short) or through a ‘failing’ narrative (such as Rafael Chirbes’ novel En la orilla), or the re-evaluation of money as a (mass)medium itself (for instance in current works of performing or visual arts).
This seminar explores the multifaceted relation between literature and economy using narratives of financial crises as a tertium comparationis. It welcomes papers for a 20-minute presentation that focus on an exemplary text or use a comparative approach as well as papers that develop new theorizations or expand existing paradigms.
The contributors may address (but are not confined to) the following questions
— How do narratives (in specific media) reflect or respond to economic issues? What kind of narratives are being told and for what purpose?
— Do such narratives have opportunities in mind or do they warn against risks to help preventing crises and disasters?
— Do these narratives tell us about the contingency, irrationality, and impenetrability of economic processes or do they point our attention to systemic questions?
— Are there specific symbols, metaphors, or narratives of (Post-)Capitalism? What are typical figures (heroes and antiheroes) of the financial crisis and what are their possible relations within the narrative and the media itself?
— How can alternative economic systems or topics such as ‘distributive justice’ be addressed (e.g. in Utopian or Dystopian narratives)?

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