“Etwas aus einer anderen Oper”: Listening for a New Radiopoetics in the Hörspiele of Austrian Women Authors after 1945
In Austria, radio has historically figured as a crucial site for poetic experimentation that both thematizes and subverts power structures inherent in language—with the advantage over other literary forms that it reaches a potentially enormous, diverse, uniquely attentive audience. Radio authors work with spoken language and extra-linguistic utterance to foreground the political reverberations of sound and silence in ways not thinkable in print: post-war Austria was a particularly rich scene for this type of intermedial experimentation in the verbal arts, where a long tradition of innovation with the form traces through the fraught sub-genre neues Hörspiel. In this project, I am using a combination of archival audio, archival print materials and interviews to re-investigate the radio work of Austrian women authors Ingeborg Bachmann, Elfriede Jelinek and Friederike Mayröcker—exploring the relationship between the semiotic innovations of the postwar Hörspiel and post-68 neues Hörspiel, and the broader political context through a feminist-theoretical and literary-historical lens.
Elisabeth Fertig is a Ph.D. candidate in Comparative Literature at the University of Michigan, where her research focuses on the intersection of experimental poetics and radio drama in English and German. Additional research areas include sound studies, media theory, audio storytelling, feminist and queer theory, contemporary poetics, early German Romanticism, critical translation studies, and autotheory. She has designed and taught courses on the new rhetoric of American advertising, podcasting and audio composition, among others; and presented papers on apocalyptic humor in Beckett, and the silence of Walter Benjamin’s radio archive. She earned her B.A. in English and German from Oberlin College. Alongside her work as a Ph.D. student, Elisabeth Fertig hosts a weekly radio show combining music, poetry and critical commentary on WCBN-FM, Ann Arbor’s freeform community radio station.
The "Hörspiel" [listening play] has always been a hybrid, genre-defying form. In this lecture, Ingeborg Bachmann’s radio work is put in conversation with that of Austrian female poets airing in the 1970s and after—in particular Friederike Mayröcker and Elfriede Jelinek—to trouble the categories that have traditionally informed critical discussion of the genre.