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The Case of LiteratureForensic Narratives from Goethe to Kafka$
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Arne Höcker

Print publication date: 2020

Print ISBN-13: 9781501749353

Published to Cornell Scholarship Online: January 2021

DOI: 10.7591/cornell/9781501749353.001.0001

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The Function of Fiction

(p.205) 12 Conclusion
The Case of Literature

Arne Höcker

Cornell University Press

This chapter studies how the experience and cultivation of individual subjectivity that since the end of the eighteenth century was inextricably tied to literary discourse and narrative forms of storytelling seems to have been absorbed completely into a thinking and writing in cases. The previous chapters read Robert Musil's and Alfred Döblin's novels as poetological responses to this development. In The Man without Qualities, Musil suggests an essayistic style of writing with which the literary text distances itself from scientific and rational discourse without, however, lapsing into mere fiction. Moreover, the essay sets out to fictionalize rational discourse and pushes it to the very point where it coincides with the fiction that precedes it. Döblin, in contrast, confines his critique to that of narrative while affirming the validity of scientific methods. As a consequence, he rejects any psychological truth claim of literary discourse and attempts to turn the novel into a modern epos that approaches life in its unfiltered totality. The chapter then considers three phases of the discourse of literature, each of which reflects a transformation in the function of fiction that defines the particular historical status of narrative literature.

Keywords:   literary discourse, narrative storytelling, cases, Robert Musil, Alfred Döblin, essayistic writing, literature, literary fiction, narrative literature, scientific methods

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