We Are the Machine

We Are the Machine

The Computer, the Internet, and Information in Contemporary German Literature

Paul A. Youngman


Camden House



An investigation of attitudes toward -- and unease with -- Information Technology, as reflected in recent German-language literature.
Despite our embrace of the sheer utility and productivity it has made possible, the revolution in Information Technology has led to unease about its possible misuse, abuse, and even its eventual domination of humankind. That German culture is not immune to this sense of disquiet is reflected in a broad variety of German-language fiction since the 1940s. This first study of the literary reception of IT in German-speaking lands begins with an analysis of a seminal novel from the beginning of the computer age, Heinrich Hauser's Gigant Hirn (1948), then moves to its primary focus, the literature of the past two decades, ranging from Gerd Heidenreich's Die Nacht der Händler (1995) to Daniel Glattauer's novel Gut gegen Nordwind (2006). Along the way, it analyzes eleven works, including Barbara Frischmuth's novel Die Schrift des Freundes (1998), René Pollesch's drama world wide web-slums (2001), and Günter Grass's novella Im Krebsgang (2003). As wildly different in approach as these works are, each has much to offer this investigation of the imaginary border dividing the human from the technological, a lingering, centuries-old construct created to ease the anxiety that technology has given rise to throughout the ages.

Paul A. Youngman is Associate Professor of German at the University of North Carolina-Charlotte and Director of the Center for Humanities, Technology, and Science.


September 2009
187 pages
9x6 in
Studies in German Literature Linguistics and Culture
ISBN: 9781571133922
Format: Hardback
Library eBook
Camden House
BISAC LIT004170, LIT004260, SOC052000
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Table of Contents

Introduction: Machines, Computers, and the Liberal Humanist Subject
Losing Ground to the Machine: Electronic Brains in the Works of Heinrich Hauser and Friedrich Dürrenmatt
Fearing the Machine -- Two Nightmares in the 1990s: Gerd Heidenreich's New Riddle of the Sphinx and Barbara Frischmuth's Hidden Meaning
Becoming the Machine: Günter Grass's and Erich Loest's Virtual History, René Pollesch's Postdramatic Imaginings, and "Real" Cyber-Relationships according to Christine Eichel and Daniel Glattauer
Conclusion: Questions to Ponder


An astute study of literary and cultural responses to information technologies. TECHNOLOGY AND CULTURE

The author investigates the border between the human and the technological -- a border that he sugests is an increasingly imaginary one. BOOK NEWS

The manifold aspects of the relationship between computer and literature treated make the book an extremely promising basis for further discussion. LITERATURKRITIK.DE

Author Bio

Paul Youngman is assistant professor of German at the University of North Carolina, Charlotte.

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