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Reviewed by:
  • Orwells Enkel. Überwachungsnarrative ed. by Werner Jung and Liane Schüller
  • Simone Pfleger
Orwells Enkel. Überwachungsnarrative.
Herausgegeben von Werner Jung und Liane Schüller. Bielefeld: Aisthesis, 2019. 255 Seiten. €34,80 broschiert oder eBook.

Orwells Enkel commemorates the 70th anniversary of the publication of George Orwells’s 1984, to which the edited volume’s title alludes. The twelve essays engage with the ubiquity and pervasiveness of (digital) surveillance and their socio-cultural impact as well as their representations in contemporary literature, film, and TV.

Liane Schüller and Rainer Schüller-Fenger’s contribution centers on artificially intelligent systems, which are used for surveillance practices in our everyday lives or featured in literature. Identifying artificially intelligent systems such as HAL in Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) or a space-shuttle assistant that was transported to the International Space Station (ISS) in 2018, ‘smart’ products and services such as GPS tracking in portable devices, self-driving cars, and shopping stores without employees and cash registers, the two scholars suggest that we already live in a world that is shaped by technology and artificially intelligent objects, whose “globale Tragweite und Auswirkung auf die Zukunft” (34) are difficult to foresee at this point in time.

Simone Loleit’s essay suggests that the medieval Salman und Morolf can be seen as the prototype for contemporary espionage novels. She contends that the medieval epic is filled with instances of reciprocal surveillance. Morolf, Salman’s brother, acts in several parts of the epic like a military strategist and a spy, observing every move of Salme, Salman’s wife. In line with the gender dynamics of the medieval period, he is more powerful than she and able to enact his power and control over her, which ultimately ends in Morolf eliminating Salme.

Peter Ellenbruch emphasizes science fiction as a popular genre that has traditionally featured surveillance motifs. His literary history of science fiction covers a large number of popular cultural texts by authors such as E.M. Forster, Paul Gurk, C.M. Kornbluth, Heinrich Hauser, Philip K. Dick, and William Gibson and spans the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Most of the works that Ellenbruch cites have been canonized by their readers and evince a clear tradition and a genealogy of surveillance narratives.

Sabrina Huber posits the concept of the surveying narrator in her comparative analysis of the narrative perspectives in Juli Zeh’s Corpus Delicti (2009) and Thomas Sautner’s Fremdes Land (2010). She focuses specifically on how “mit Augen, Kameras, Cookies oder anderen Hilfsmitteln” (71), a point of view is constructed in both texts that gives insight into the protagonists as well as social structures through the [End Page 733] narrator’s voice. These modes of narration impact readers’ ability to generate a coherent and cohesive structure and allow the narrator to control the discourse by strategically providing and withholding information for and from readers.

Martin Hennig’s examination of surveillance in culture and the culture of surveillance underscores that contemporary society and culture are shaped by the commercialized systemic monitoring of subjects. Films such as Alfred Hitchcock’s Rear Window (1954) thematize the need to observe other people’s habits and to document them, and thus expose human voyeuristic desires. The 2007 remake Disturbia exemplifies a shift away from “Sicherheitsdiskursen” to “Sichtbarkeitsdiskursen” (105), highlighting a change from privacy to visibility related to surveillance. As such, the focus on voyeuristic tendencies of the observer is replaced by the portrayal of exhibitionist behavior by the observed—the films foreground who is being watched instead of who is doing the watching and how contemporary (digital) cultures hail technological devices and media for self-surveillance to optimize one’s body.

Matthias Kandziora engages with the connections among exterior and interior surveillance and memory through the example of Christa Wolf’s Stadt der Engel. Kandziora outlines the linkages between exterior, or manifest, surveillance and the GDR’s Stasi as well as its counterpart interior surveillance and its ties to the Freudian superego and the enforcement of self-control. These two aspects collide when Wolf’s protagonist discovers her own Stasi files and is able to resolve her trauma by working through her memories of...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1934-2810
Print ISSN
0026-9271
Pages
pp. 733-736
Launched on MUSE
2021-01-20
Open Access
No
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