Christian Moser is Professor of Comparative Literature at the University of Bonn. He is President of the German Comparative Literature Association and editor of Komparatistik. Jahrbuch der Deutschen Gesellschaft für Allgemeine and Vergleichende Literaturwissenschaft. He has held Guest Professorships at Columbia University (New York) and Ohio State University (Columbus). Moser’s current research interests lie in the field of literature and globalization, autobiography studies, the poetics of the anecdote, the semantics of barbarism, and play as ritual and cultural practice. Recent books include: Figuren des Globalen. Weltbezug und Welterzeugung in Literatur, Kunst und Medien (with Linda Simonis); Schreiben nach Kleist. Literarische, mediale und theoretische Transkriptionen (with Anne Fleig and Helmut J. Schneider); Barbarism Revisited. New Perspectives on an Old Concept (with Maria Boletsi); Sich selbst aufs Spiel setzen. Spiel als Technik und Medium der Subjektivierung (forthcoming, with Regine Strätling).
Autobiography studies; Poetics of the anecdote; Literature and globalization; Play in literature and culture; Cultural history of barbarism; Literature and ethnography; Literature and walking
The Life of the Anecdote: Anecdotal Modes of Representation in Auto/Biography
Within the framework of this research project, I would like to analyze the literary form of the anecdote as a mode of biographical and autobiographical writing. Taking my cue from the New Historicist revival of anecdotal ‘counterhistory’, but also critically interrogating its major premises, I proceed from the assumption that the anecdote fully develops its literary potential not in the context of historiography, but in the more specific context of life writing. I intend to examine the anecdote as a constitutive element of auto/biographical discourse. To this end, I would like combine a theoretical with a historical perspective. On the one hand, I will focus on the discursive functions served by the anecdote in the field of life writing: its contribution to securing (but also subverting) referentiality, its rhetorical function as a means of producing enargeia, its narrative function as a building block of life stories, and, finally, the part it plays in generating a specific, individualist type of subjectivity. On the other hand, I intend to integrate my theoretically oriented functional analysis within a historical framework. I would like to conduct a number of case studies based on different periods in the history of life writing: late antiquity (Plutarch), the Enlightenment (James Boswell and Jean-Jacques Rousseau), and the late twentieth century (Michel Leiris, Clifford Geertz and James Kochalka). My aim is to trace the emergence of the anecdote as a literary technique employed to produce a specific form of subjectivity, and to explore its potential for challenging current theories of auto/biography.