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What is experimental fiction? Lars Bernaerts visiting scholar 2013

25 January 2013

Concepts, Metaphors and the Case of the Postwar Neo-Avant-Garde in the Low Countries
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Lars Bernaerts, Professor for Literary Theory at the Free University of Brussels, will be a visiting scholar at the UCL Department of Dutch in term II and III. His research focuses on experimental fiction and methods of textual analysis (classical and postclassical narratology, speech-act theory). His research project at UCL will focus on the Dutch and Flemish Neo-Avant-Garde of the 1960s and 1970s.

In the 1960s and the 1970s, a number of Dutch and Flemish novelists were exploring and crossing the borders of traditional narrative fiction and were therefore considered as writers of experimental fiction. Some of them (e.g., Harry Mulisch, Enno Develing) ‘defictionalized’ the novel in turning to documentary prose. Other authors, such as Ivo Michiels, Mark Insingel, Sybren Polet and Jacq Firmin Vogelaar, ‘denarrativized’ the novel by reducing the psychological complexity of characters or by introducting alternative, often linguistic principles of coherence instead of chronology and causality.

Rather than looking at the Dutch neo-avant-garde from a literary-historical point of view, Lars seeks to answer the question what constitutes a novelistic experiment from the vantage point of narratology. Narratological concepts such as naturalization (Culler), narrativization (Fludernik) and the unnatural (Richardson) will be evaluated as possible instruments to define the formal innovations typical to the (Dutch) neo-avant-garde. These concepts, when confronted with metaphorical descriptions such as ‘experiments’ and ‘games’, allow us to clarify how the experiment is the unstable product of an interaction between the text and the reader.

Lars Bernaerts teaches literary theory at the Free University of Brussels and he is a postdoctoral researcher of the Flemish Research Foundation at Ghent University. He is the editor of the academic journal Spiegel der Letteren. His research focuses on experimental fiction and methods of textual analysis (classical and postclassical narratology, speech-act theory). He is the author of De retoriek van waanzin (2011) and he co-edited Stories and Minds, a volume on cognitive narratology which is forthcoming at the University of Nebraska Press in 2013.

Page last modified on 25 jan 13 22:04 by Ulrich Tiedau