Jennifer Magro Algarotti, Department of Germanic Languages and Literatures, The Ohio State University
“The Austrian Imaginary of Wilderness: Landscape, History and Identity in Contemporary Austrian Literature.”
Contemporary Austrian authors, such as Christoph Ransmayr, Elfriede Jelinek, Raoul Schrott, and Robert Menasse, have incorporated wilderness as a physical place, as a space for transformative experiences, and as a figurative device into their work to provide insight into the process of nation building in Austria. At the same time, it provides a vehicle to explore the inability of the Austrian nation to come to terms with the past and face the challenges of a postmodern life. Many Austrian writers have reinvented, revised, and reaffirmed current conceptions of wilderness in order to critique varying aspects of social, cultural, and political life in Austria. I explore the way in which literary texts shape and are shaped by cultural understandings of wilderness. My dissertation not only sheds light on the importance of these texts in endorsing, perpetuating, and shaping cultural understandings of wilderness, but it also analyzes their role in critiquing and dismantling the predominant commonplace notions of it. While some of the works deal directly with the physical wilderness within Austrian borders, others employ it as an imagined entity that affects all aspects of Austrian life.