Thomas Lornsen (PhD Mcgill) is Assistant Professor of German and Faculty Member in the Department for Culture and Language Studies at the University of New Brunswick, Fredericton. His areas of research interest and specialization include: 20th Century German Literature, Film Studies, German Romanticism, Heinrich Boell, Heinrich von Kleist, Humor, Irony, Literary Theory, Narratology, Narratology.

Listing Details

Department of Culture and Language Studies, PO Box 4400 - 19 Macaulay, Lane Fredericton, Fredericton, New Brunswick, Canada, E3B 5A3
(506) 260-3657
Research Description
My research focuses on a) the political aspects of narrative strategies in the prose of German Romanticism, particularly in the works of 'outsiders' like Jean Paul and Heinrich von Kleist, and b) the impact of these strategies on 20th century German literature and film. As a long-term project I am working on a monograph on narrative irony in German literature from Romanticism to the present. I call for a reconceptualization of unreliable narration as a fundamental form of “discrepant awareness“ and a reassessment of its role in avant-gardist and partisan writing. Drawing on concepts of subversive affirmation, such as Umberto Eco’s “semiotic guerilla warfare“, Michel Foucault’s “non-positive affirmation“, Slavoj Žižek’s “over-identification“, and Linda Hutcheon’s theory of post-modern irony, I argue that unreliable narration is frequently used as a pedagogical tool by way of parodic subversion. Heinrich von Kleist was one of the first theorists and practitioners of this mode of writing. In trying to conform to the conventions of his time, the narrator in his journalistic writing and prose repeatedly cites a variety of contemporary genres, such as the “moralische Erzählung” and the bourgeois tragedy, as well as the aesthetic ideals of German Romanticism. His unreliability, however, allows Kleist not only to circumvent Napoleonic censorship, but also to infiltrate the public discourse and sabotage its codes. In the 20th century, writers as different as Kafka and Heinrich Böll have used techniques of unreliable narration and manipultated focalization developed by the German Romantics. For instance, in his novels End of a Mission, Group Portrait with Lady and The Lost Honor of Katharina Blum, Böll uses narrators who seemingly stand in the tradition of “Dokumentarliteratur” which emerged out of a desire for authentic art in the 1960s. By making his narrators fail at establishing new master narratives, Böll turns his texts into “social sculptures”, as defined by Joseph Beuys, revealing not only the orthodox and iconographic aspects of realistic writing, but also the “merkwürdige Vorstellungen von Realismus” of his fellow Germans