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Heimat Babel: Heimat and Language in Post-German Poetry from 1989 to the Present (2022-)

Chiara Liso, Research Area 4: "Literary Currencies"
Doctoral Research Project

Since its renaissance at the turn of the 19th century, the concept of Heimat shares an intimate relationship with language. Although the renaissance of the word at that time seems closely interwoven with the notion of a homogeneous German nation-state and the establishment of the ‘monolingual paradigm’ (Yildiz), this constellation does not remain unchanged throughout history. Exemplary for this is the revival of Heimat in the last three decades, respectively in a time of post-monolingualism, in which overt and covert multilingual phenomena are in tension with assumptions of monolingual normativity. For alongside old, regressive, place-bound semantics of Heimat, there also exist new, progressive senses that strip the concept of any nation-state specificity.

This project focuses on the nexus between Heimat and language in post-German poetry from 1989 to the present. In the study, ‘post-German poetry’ refers to manifestly or latently multilingual poetic works, which as such refute the notion of language as a closed, geographically and ethnically bound entity. Through a ‘close reading at a distance’ (Walkowitz) of selected post-monolingual poetry, the focus lies not so much (but also) on the conceptual and metaphorical unfoldings of the link between Heimat and language, but rather on its textual constitution. How are reflections on Heimat language shaped textually? How do experiences of belonging and non-belonging as well as the power relations underlying language unfold on the textual level? Can an affective dimension of the language experience be observed? How is the historical and political horizon of post-monolingual poetry configured? In addition, the study will tackle the question of how and to what extent previous categories and institutions of literary studies should be rethought so that multilingual and transnational literature can be appreciated in its complexity.