Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



Major Professor

Stefanie Ohnesorg

Committee Members

Maria Stehle, Daniel Magilow, Harry Dahms


Literary characters as well as the realities that surround them can be portrayed and developed through the lense(s) of the languages that these characters speak and experience. This dissertation analyzes such ‘literarily enacted language biographies’ (‘Sprachbiographien’) in the following German texts: Engelszungen by Dimitré Dinev (2003), Das Gedächtnis der Libellen by Marica Bodrožić (2010) and Mehr Meer: Erinnerungspassagen by Ilma Rakusa (2009).

Drawing upon current research that focuses on literary multilingualism as well as language biographies, this dissertation analyzes which literary strategies Dinev, Bodrožić and Rakusa employ in these texts to narratively (re)construct the protagonists’ language biographies. Three common thematic motifs are selected to analyze the narratives from various perspectives: Family memory (Familiengedächtnis), Love (Liebe), and City (Stadt). Mikhail M. Bakhtin’s study Discourse in the Novel (1934) – in particular a close reading of his findings concerning dialogism and polyphony – serves as the theoretical framework for this study. Bakhtin’s concept of the “Image of Language” (Bild der Sprache) is interpreted as both – an expression and a representation – of the characters’ speech.

The analyses of the texts show that the authors create ‘literary life scenarios’ (‘Literarische Lebensszenarien’) that highlight the characters’ fluid and complex language identities elucidating their personalities as individuals who cross and push borders (‘Grenzgänger’).

Dinev, Bodrožić and Rakusa construct characters who ‘perform’ speech and whose speech is at the same time the ‘object of reflection’. I argue that the authors enact what Bakhtin calls an “artistic texture” (künstlerisches Gewebe) of the “Images of Languages” (Bilder der Sprachen) in which the characters’ – often highly idiosyncratic and creative – language use and language exposure (within and across the cultures they experience) are intrinsically interwoven into a highly complex relationship.

In my analysis, I show that the narrated biographies that Dinev, Bodrožić and Rakusa develop in their texts need to be understood as ‘literarily enacted language biographies’ (‘Literarisch inszenierte Sprachbiographien’) that are extremely fluid and dynamic, and that through this fluidity succeed in identifying the complexities that complicate the processes of identity formation and a sense of ‘belonging’.

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