Review Essay: On the Long and Stony Road of Approaching Empirically and Clinically Based Studies on Literature and Psycho-Trauma

  • Harald Weilnböck Universität Zürich
Keywords: psycho-trauma studies, psychoanalytic studies of literature, interdisciplinary / qualitative culture studies, narratology, narrative turn, the re-philologizing of the German speaking humanities


The reviewer takes Hannes FRICKE's book on the cross-relations of literature, film and psycho-trauma studies as a point of departure to articulate some thoughts and observations about the continuing dissatisfactory state of interdisciplinary literature and culture studies. In the introductory sections, the reviewer gives examples which recall the absurdities of post-modern psycho-trauma philosophy in the tradition of Richard RORTY and, at the same time, underlines how this post-modernist minority position is actually quite well embedded in the interpretations of main stream German speaking philologies with which postmodernism often seems to be so much at odds. The unseen common denominator lies in an anti-analytical and anti-interdisciplinary ideology that tends to de-empiricize and ontologize psycho-social phenomena and gives proof to the recently coined key word about the re-philologizing of the humanities. This epistemological backlash is all the more deplorable since many fields in social sciences and clinical studies have began to engage in the narrative turn, i.e., follow a cross-disciplinary interest in narration as a fundamental core process in human psyche and interaction. Thus, the anti-narrative and anti-interactional habits which are shared by main stream philologies makes it seem increasingly unlikely that literature studies will soon realize the inevitability of engaging in qualitative-empirical and psychological studies of art, media and reader response. The quite intricate dynamics of de-empiricizing psycho-social phenomena of narration can even be found in projects which explicitly try to inaugurate a philological narratology within a cross-disciplinary context (as, for instance, the two narratological readers of NÜNNING & NÜNNING or the Hamburg DFG-Research-Group on Narratology). Moreover, at the heart of these anti-enlightenment latencies of the anti-analytic and anti-narrative turn, in some instances, authors in social sciences and psychoanalysis can even be found. In turn, clinically sound psychological literature studies seem to be forced to go into internal exile and are represented by authors such as FRICKE who aren't members of the institutions of academic literature and film studies. FRICKE's book presents an impressing collection of clinically well-based psycho-traumatological readings focussing on literary texts and films of high-art canonical and popular genres—from GOETHE's Faust and Heinrich Leopold WAGNER's drama Die Kindermörderin to contemporary authors such as WILKOMIRSKI, SCHLINK, GRASS, MANKELL, KRISTOF, etc. and even encompasses popular texts such as the Hannibal Lecter trilogy or the films about the Vietnam veteran, Rambo. The structure of the book follows the var URN: urn:nbn:de:0114-fqs0602256


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Author Biography

Harald Weilnböck, Universität Zürich
Harald WEILNBöCK ist Germanist, Literatur- und Filmwissenschaftler sowie Gruppenanalytiker in freier Praxis; er hat am German Studies Department der University of California in Los Angeles mit einer literaturpsychologischen Arbeit über Friedrich HöLDERLIN promoviert, habilitiert derzeit zum Thema "Borderline, literarische Interaktion in frühen Kriegsschriften Ernst Jüngers" an der philosophischen Fakultät der Universität Leipzig und führt in der Abteilung der klinischen Psychologie und Narratologie der Universität Zürich ein qualitativ-empirisches Forschungsprojekt der Europäischen Union (sechstes Rahmenprogramm, Marie-Curie) im Bereich der Literatur- und Medienforschung durch: "Narrative media interaction and psycho-trauma therapy". Hierbei werden Methoden und Ansätze der qualitativen Sozialwissenschaft, Tiefenpsychologie und Psychotraumatologie für Fragen der qualitativ-empirischen Literaturforschung in den Sektoren der Rezeptions- und Textanalyse furchtbar gemacht.