The Emptying of Meaning in Döblin's "Berlin Alexanderplatz": N/A

Goran Mijic
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This paper re-examines the relationship between technological and narrative language. It questions the usability of highly specialized technical discourses entering enormously the realm of literature at the beginning of the 20th century for practical humane domain. The essay raises the question to what extent these technical discourses leaving their specialized fields actually reach the realm of society and whether they foster or defy the participation of broader sections of the society. The paper focuses on montage fragments in "Berlin Alexanderplatz," by which the writer Döblin intends to overcome what he calls "the dead bourgeois language of novel." He tries to enliven language by incorporating authentic documentary citations from real life (weather forecasts, listing of trolley stops, excerpts from different handbooks etc.) instead of using naturalistic description. The purpose of my investigation is to show that Döblin is only partly successful in his new authentic language program, because many fragments detached from narrator, characters, narration, and other fragments, too, turn out to be exactly the opposite — "dead empty language." This paper tackles the problem of the emptying of meaning as a result of increasing automatization of language in a highly technologized society. I argue that Döblin fell victim to the phenomenon of "emptying of meaning" on the one side, but that he also offered a solution in form of practical application of montage fragments within the diegetic sphere of "Berlin Alexanderplatz," on the other.

Keywords: Technological and Narrative Discourse, Emptying of Meaning, Montage Technique, Technology and Individual, Literary Criticism in a Technological Age
Stream: Human Technologies and Useability, Technology in Community, Knowledge and Technology
Presentation Type: Virtual Presentation in English
Paper: Emptying of Meaning in Döblin's "Berlin Alexanderplatz", The

Goran Mijic

PhD candidate, Department of Languages and Literature, University of Utah

My interest in science and technology dates back to my childhood. My father used to invent different machines, and my mother and older sister were mathematicians. Surrounded by all sorts of technological apparatus and theoretical thought, I felt deep admiration for the wonders of modern technology and science. At the same time, I was somewhat frightened by the rigidly structured time and reasoning of my parents, so that I felt that I was missing something essential. I have compensated for this lack through the study of humanities. I have become involved with in-depth studies of German literature, languages, philosophy, and sociology; however, I have never abandoned my interest in technology and science. I found a solution in combining literature and technology/science at the University of Hamburg, from which I received my M.A. degree, and which is known for its specialization in the interaction of the expanding natural sciences and technology on the one hand, and German literature on the other. At the University of Utah, my studies focus on 20th- century German novels and film. The relationship between 20th-century German novels and films and technology/science has been investigated in numerous papers and oral presentations, which have generally focused on the human battle against the technological Leviathan - a frightening invisible societal giant who determines the life of human beings and who is difficult to control. The role of the language, especially the relationship between "expert knowledge/discourses" and "everyday language," has always played an important role in my projects. In the future I would like to examine how literary topics can enrich, offer an alternative, or maybe even solve some scientific concerns, and vice versa.

Ref: T05P0188