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Civic Storytelling: The Rise of Short Forms and the Agency of Literature with Florian Fuchs & Daniel Heller Roazen

Florian Fuchs, Freie Universität Berlin; Daniel Heller-Roazen, Comparative Literature and Humanities Council

September 27, 2023 · 6:00 pm · Labyrinth Books

Labyrinth Books; Humanities Council; German Department; Department of Comparative Literature

We invite you for a conversation about the deep history of storytelling as civic agency, recalibrating literature’s political role for the twenty-first century.

Why did short narrative forms like the novella, fable, and fairy tale suddenly emerge around 1800 as genres symptomatic of literature’s role in life and society? In order to explain their rapid ascent to such importance, Florian Fuchs identifies an essential role of literature, a role traditionally performed within classical civic discourse of storytelling, by looking at new or updated forms of this civic practice in modernity.

Fuchs’s focus in this groundbreaking book is on the fate of topical speech, on what is exchanged between participants in argument or conversation as opposed to rhetorical speech, which emanates from and ensures political authority. His book outlines a genealogy of various literary short forms—from fable, fairy tale, and novella to twenty-first century video storytelling—that attempted on both “high” and “low” levels of culture to exercise again the social function of topical speech. Some of the specific texts analyzed include the novellas of Theodor Storm and the novella-like lettre de cachet, proverbial fictions of Gustave Flaubert and Gottfried Keller, the fairy tale as rediscovered by Vladimir Propp and Walter Benjamin, the epiphanies of James Joyce, and the video narratives of Hito Steyerl.

Florian Fuchs is currently a visiting Postdoc in the SFB 980 “Episteme in Bewegung” at Freie Universität Berlin. His book prior to Civic Storytelling is  the co-edited and co-translated History, Metaphors, Fables: A Hans Blumenberg ReaderDaniel Heller-Roazen is Professor of Comparative Literature and the Council of the Humanities. He is the author of eight books the most recently of which are Absentees: On Variously Missing PersonsNo One’s Ways: An Essay on Infinite Naming; and Dark Tongues: the Art of Rogues and Riddlers.

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