Discourses of Mobility - Mobility of Discourse


This research project has a double focus: On the one hand, it analyzes the metaphorical appropriation of technological inventions in literary discourse. How, it is asked, does literature come to terms with entirely new experiences that are caused by new technologies of mobility? What kinds of metaphors are being used to familiarize the unfamiliar forms and functions of machines that make possible movement through space at hitherto unheard-of speed? On the other hand, it pursues a second, more theoretical aim. As early as 2001 Peter Stockwell called for a combination of Critical Discourse Analysis and Cognitive Linguistics. On a theoretical level, the present project tries to test if such a combination is possible and whether or not it proves useful in analyzing literary texts. Mobility technologies are a promising field for such a test, because they provide the kinds of primary experience that are so central for Cognitive Linguistics and, at the same time, they have become an important part of what in Discourse Analysis is called the “System of Collective Symbols”. This system, in turn, has a strong influence on the acceptance of or resistance to technological innovation. Consequently, our findings will prove useful not only for literary and cultural scholars but also for historians of technology and everyone who is interested in the conditions under which innovative technology will or will not be accepted in a given culture.

The project, which originally developed out of a research seminar on cognitive approaches in literary studies, eventually resulted in a collection of 22 essays that analyze numerous poems on trains, cars, and planes from different phases in the popularization of the respective technologies against the background of the theories mentioned above.

Discourses of Mobility – Mobility of Discourse: The Conceptualization of Trains, Cars and Planes in 19th- and 20th-Century Poetry , edited by Peter Wenzel and Sven Strasen, was published at WVT Trier in 2010. It includes essays by Christina Anders, Magdalena Cullmann, Veronika Feuerriegel, Katja Kramer, Timo Lothmann, Aljoscha Merk, Lars Odenkirchen, Tanja S. Romich, Antje Schumacher , Monique Sontag, Julia Vaeßen and Peter Wenzel.