Angry Texts. The Language of Aggressive Emotions in 20th Century German Literature

How does literature convey linguistically expressed anger? What purpose does that serve and what do the differences mean? The analysis uncovers concepts of an emotion and its relation to semiotic and symbolic practices.

Project No. G 211

Alfred Alexander Stumm

Anger is regarded as ambivalent in our culture. In parts of the stoic and Christian tradition it is even considered as purely negative since it is directly associated with cruelty. This study, however, conceptualizes the emotion primarily as a functional form of communication. Correspondingly, anger dominates literary texts not only as narrated angry actions of characters but also as solely expressed through language. These are essentially phenomena of the character's or narrator’s discourse. Thus, rhetorical and poetical aspects converge.

The main focus lies on the implicit linguistic presentation of aggressive emotions in 20th century German literature selected from different genres. First of all, the analysis of the chosen works describes the interplay of formal and semantic elements communicating the emotion. This raises questions of inner-textual and extra-textual pragmatics. The synthesis of the results shall define the scope of a new notion of literature studies: angry text.

Methodically the project works with the theoretical tools provided by the discourse on aesthetic experience. Furthermore, it is oriented towards the assumptions of traditional and current emotion theory and research. Accordingly, the foundation of the interpretations will be a cultural dispositive of the emotion family „anger“ which has to be ascertained before.


Comparative literature


Prof. Dr. Oliver Lubrich

Prof. Dr. Hans Richard Brittnacher