CoFi/Project Description/Description/Objectives


This project features a diachronic and a synchronic analysis of the distribution of so-called ‘pandemic fiction.’ As a specific form of fiction, ‘pandemic fiction’ includes literary and cultural productions which strongly rely on the representation and functionalization of the pandemic. Even though the term ‘pandemic literature’ has already been used sporadically by scholars such as De Paolo (2014) and systematically by Outka (2019), the research team opts for the term ‘pandemic fiction’ as the term ‘literature’ is often understood in its narrow sense as textual productions only. The project, however, also includes multimodal productions, such as film, TV/mini/web series, video clips or comic strips.

Regardless of the actual characteristics of the pandemic, speaking about corona is fundamentally subject to a discourse formation of the pandemic crisis.[1] Over the last centuries, pandemic fiction has constantly contributed to the pandemic discourse with regard to the representation, function and aesthetic modelling of social pandemic events. They are either part of concrete historical experiences (e.g. Boccaccio’s Decameron), or pure fictitious allegorical pandemics (e.g. Saramago’s Ensaio sobre a Cegueira, the classic melodrama Jezebel) or mixed forms (e.g. Manzoni’s Promessi sposi, Camus’s La Peste). All these canonized foundational pandemic key texts can be subsumed as ‘early pandemic fictions.’ They determine the overarching pandemic meta-narrative,[2] which persists in contemporary ‘Corona Fictions,’ i.e. fictitious productions resulting from the present Covid-19 pandemic.

Similarly to scientific insights in the medical field at the end of the 19th century, which influenced the stories about communicable diseases (cf. Wald 2008, 13), the current technological progress influences the pandemic meta-narrative. Our objectives are to compile the current Corona Fictions in an Open Access bibliographic network and to determine how this meta-narrative is continued and transformed within current Corona Fictions. By this, we will be able to demonstrate how health policy measures, e.g. the lockdown, influence cultural production processes and sociocultural practices emerging in the context of pandemic narratives.


[1] The word ‘crisis’ already carries the definition of illness. As a medical term, ‘crisis’ is also more than appropriate for a pandemic because a crisis is considered the moment when doctors have to decide whether a patient will survive or die (cf. Kosellek 1982, 617-625). This concept of concrete medical crisis, which can affect every patient, can be transferred to describe problematic moments of a society as a whole (cf. ibid.).

[2] For a differentiated view on the variety of the term of meta-narrative, especially in contrast to the use of metafiction, see first of all Nünning (2001) and Fludernik (2003) with their seminal contributions on the concept. Ayres (2008, 508) moreover states that a “[m]eta-narrative can be understood in two ways: (1) as a narrative about narrative or (2) as a narrative above narrative”. Therefore, we point out that our understanding of the term meta-narrative refers to the second definition as it also functions within our transmedia approach in terms of one pandemic meta-narrative operating above other pandemic narratives.