The Rhetoric of National Dissent in Thomas Bernhard, Peter Handke, and Elfriede Jelinek

June 2000
176 pages
9x6 in
Studies in German Literature Linguistics and Culture
ISBN: 9781571132048
Format: Hardback
Camden House
BISAC LIT004170, LIT004130, POL031000

The Rhetoric of National Dissent in Thomas Bernhard, Peter Handke, and Elfriede Jelinek

Matthias Konzett

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A cutting edge study of the three most significant writers in German over the last decade.
Konzett's study focuses on the new literary strategies with which the Austrian writers Peter Handke, Elfriede Jelinek, and the late Thomas Bernhard engage their readers in critical self-perception. Each articulates a unique model of dissent, combining avant-garde and mainstream techniques of writing that cut across modes of literary discourse and reception. Their writings expose and attack conventions of pre-arranged consensus and harmonization that block the ongoing negotiations necessary for the development of multi-cultural awareness. Bernhard, Handke, and Jelinek question particularly Austria's mono-ethnic and naively accepted national heritage that allows for the unproblematic maintenance of tradition and an apologetic attitude toward the past. Konzett shows that each of the three writers poses the question of national dissent differently. Handke focuses on post-ideological voices that are suppressed in the account of the history of the marginal individual; Bernhard exposes a coercive climate of historical amnesia and national self-canonization; Jelinek confronts the increasing commodification of all cultural identity. All three aim in their rhetoric of national dissent to express alternative, post-national identities for the new multi-cultural Europe.

Matthias Konzett is associate professor of German at Yale University.

Table of Contents

Introduction: Consensus and Dissent in Contemporary Austrian Literature
Publikumsbeschimpfung: Thomas Bernhard's Provocations of the Austrian Public Sphere
Cultural Amnesia and the Narration of the Everyday: Peter Handke's Post-Ideological Aesthetics
Elfriede Jelinek's Austria: Simulations of Death
Concluding Remarks: The Emergence of Recent Austrian Jewish Writing


A stimulating, at times highly original study which sets Bernhard, Handke and Jelinek in illuminating relation. JOURNAL OF EUROPEAN STUDIES

well-informed, eloquently written, and lucidly argued, ... a unique source for Austrian literary and cultural studies. GERMAN QUARTERLY

An outstanding piece of scholarship. MONATSHEFTE

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