Contested Issues. Public Conflicts in the German-Speaking Literary World

Tuesday, 12 July 2016: 14:15
Location: Hörsaal 14 (Juridicum)
Oral Presentation
Tasos ZEMBYLAS, Vienna University of Music and Performing Arts, Austria

Conflicts and scandals around literary works and authors cannot be understood apart from the circumstances of their development. Differing interpretations and valuations don’t necessarily end in public conflict. In order to explain the emergence of literary conflicts one has to grasp the particular social configuration and the prevalent grounds which account for the individual conviction that it is worth fighting over interpretations of literary works.

The presentation will focus on the literature in German speaking countries because this geographic space has not only a common language but also quite similar history and cultural heritage. The great variety of contested issues in this literary world that occurred in the last 20 years pushes me to search for some analytic criteria to formulate a typology of conflicts. Hence I regard three classification levels as the most significant: On the normative level I draw on the distinction between legal norms and moral standards of a social group. On the pragmatic level I focus on the form a controversy is carried on e.g. in a law-court, in mass-media and in political institutions. On a teleological level I regard all expressed or hidden intentions of parties involved in a conflict as significant for understanding their behaviour.

According to this classification structure I have identified five different types of conflicts:

  1. 1.      Legal conflicts related to the freedom of artistic expression against other rights, such as the protection of the private sphere.
  2. 2.      Conflicts that result from certain tacit social expectations and demands of writers.
  3. 3.      Conflicts that burst when a literary work articulates harsh criticism to dominant beliefs of a social group.
  4. 4.      Conflicts that reveal the internal antagonism within the literary world.
  5. 5.      Conflicts that emerge from stage-managed scandals.

The analysis of public literary conflicts can be linked to a social analysis.