Titel des Dissertationsvorhabens

Marijana Mikić: Black Storyworlds: Race, Space, and Emotion in Contemporary African American Literature

Stipendiatin: Marijana Mikić BA MA MSc

Laufzeit des Stipendiums: 1. September 2021 bis 30. Juni 2022

My dissertation brings African American literary studies into conversation with cognitive narratology, an interdisciplinary research field drawing on concepts from both narrative theory and the cognitive sciences. In recent years, the study of ethnic and postcolonial literatures by scholars such as Frederick Luis Aldama, Patrick Colm Hogan, Sue J. Kim, and Alexa Weik von Mossner has been instrumental for making cognitive narratology more attuned to different social contexts. So far, however, there has been little cognitive narratological work devoted to texts by African American authors. The central aim of the dissertation is to use African American storyworlds as a key site of study for identifying and analyzing different narrative strategies that are used not only to invite readers’ empathy with fictional characters, but also to encourage an understanding of the larger historical, socio-spatial, and racialized contexts that produce the characters and their emotions.

Using a contextualized cognitive approach, I investigate the intersections between race, space, and emotion in twenty-first century African American writing. Specifically, I discuss how a range of different Black storyworlds negotiate the limitations and possibilities of space and place for Black subject formation within U.S. racial geographies. On the one hand, the novels critique racial hierarchy and injustice by foregrounding the negative affective consequences that are bound up with essentialist and oppressive practices of geographic organization. On the other hand, they emphasize the ways in which their Black characters resist the violence of anti-Blackness by practicing more inclusive and emotionally-liberating ways of self- and space-making. Through a sustained focus on the nexus between race, space, and emotion, the project seeks to highlight not only the potential that a contextualized cognitive narratological approach offers for the study of African American literature, but also the potential that the Black literary imagination offers for envisioning intersectional social justice.