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Agata Joanna LAGIEWKA
(Mag.; Research Fellow, University of Alberta)

Writing the Hybrid Self in Contemporary Austrian and Canadian Literature

‚As always on this boulevard, the faces were young, coming annually in an endless migration from every country, every continent, to alight here once in the long journey of their lives.’ What Brian Moore, an Irish writer and novelist who immigrated to Canada, describes is the image of many boarders worldwide each day. In my research project I am particularly interested in German and English literary texts and writers with a migration background from the 1940s until today with the authors originating from Eastern and Central Europe. The research interest lies in the historiography and sociography of creating literary representations of stories of migration, with two stories within one text, the story of origin and of the destination, as well as the language crossing process of each writer questioning the concept and the roots of ‘migration autobiographical writing’. The focus of the study intents to share a light as to why Austria and Germany and Canada and the USA respectively were and are still considered desired immigration countries and how that reflects on hybrid writers with a transcultural background. It would be of particular interest to be able to draw a comparison on the textual basis of material as well as the underlying publishing possibilities given in Austria and Canada.
     My research project is an attempt to illustrate the desire to tell stories that represent millions of untold European life-stories including self-justification of broken lives and the difficulty to decide in which country and with which language to ‘live’, with the environment and immigration laws worldwide aggravating the question of public identity, subjectivity, selfhood and private self as a migrant and writer including artists from the migratory waves of the World War II and its consequences on people born in Eastern European countries and the migration waves under communism in the 80s.
     Writers with migration experiences represent and describe conditions of transcultural border crossing and deal with the issue of setting down roots, demonstrating that there is no homogenous mass but that there are stories who help to reconstruct patterns of settlement and mobility and life stories as well as the attempt of writers to reorganize their new identities through language and writing.
     My project includes writers such as Eva Hofmann, Ruth Klüger, Alina Bronsky, Lena Gorelik, Julya Rabinovich, Eleonore Hummels and Nancy Huston, who question how individuals deal with European and North American social practise in an attempt to situate migration writing in the context of Canada, North America and Western Europe for writers of a mainly Eastern European background who set parameters for characterizations of migrant lives. The common denominating question to all the works to be studied is, whether there is a sense of reflective autobiographical focus in their writing corpus and whether the writers themselves define their belonging to a diaspora and social entity or emphasise on heterogeneity outside of marginalized groups and settlement patterns and members of their new ‘homelands’.


Agata Joanna Lagiewka is the current Wirth Institute Doctoral Scholar Fellow at the University of Alberta, Edmonton. She has been working at the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona in Spain within the ÖAD Lectureship Programme: Teaching German Abroad since 2010 and is writing her PhD-thesis on transcultural German and English literature at the Karl-Franzens-Universität Graz in Austria in the context of migration. Her study fields and publications include contemporary German and English literature with the particular interest on postcolonial literature, migration literature and the concepts of hybridity, physical and mental boarder-crossing and transcultural identity, including social issues from historical, sociopolitical and literary perspective, dealing with migration, discrimination, construction and perception of ‘Otherness’ and racism.


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Institut für Germanistik
Universität Wien
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