'We may lack toilet paper, but we will never lack poetry' - Corona Fictions Workshop Report

Presentation by Albert Göschl on the interconnectedness of scientific and literary 19th century hygienic discourse.

At the beginning of December 2021, the team of the Corona Fictions project organized a bilingual two-day online workshop under the title “Corona Fictions. Workshop on Viral Narratives in Times of Pandemics” (Dec. 9-10, 2021). This workshop brought together several collaborators of the FWF-project (P 34571-G) from New Zealand, Austria, Czech Republic, Germany, France, Canada and the United States in order to discuss literary and media representations of the current health crisis and its precursors in Pandemic Fiction. 

The Corona Fictions workshop started with the opening talk of Yvonne Völkl “Deconfining Pandemic Fictions!,” in which she introduced the prerequisites, research objectives and questions guiding the Corona Fictions project.

The first panel on Thursday was dedicated to Pandemic Fiction produced before March 2020. Petr Kyloušek (Masaryk University, Brno) presented recent abhumanist novels from Quebec in his talk “Une dystopie abhumaniste: le cas de J.D. Kurtness et de Christiane Vadnais”. Afterwards, Albert Göschl (University of Graz) demonstrated the interconnectedness of non-fictional and fictional discourses within “Utopianism Clean and Pure. The Interconnected Hygienic Discourse of 19th Century Science and Literature.”  

In the second panel, Guido Furci talked in his presentation “‘Sinon ça va? Ça va (pas)’: sur les activités du Mouvement Transitions en temps de confinement” about the magazine section Sablier and elaborated on the limits of writing in the midst of a health crisis. Then, Nicole Perry (University of Auckland) introduced the audience to the Covid-19 policies in New Zealand and to the  dystopian webseries The Creamerie with her talk entitled “A Pandemic-Themed Television Series Premieres during Lockdown in New Zealand: The Creamerie (2020), Dystopic/Utopic Futures, and COVID-19.”

In the evening, French author David Chapon read excerpts from his Corona Fictions novel Éloge du cygne (2021), which he has written during the first lockdown and which has been first published online and in 2021 in print with the Parisian publishing house TohuBohu. In the subsequent discussion with participants and students, the literary characteristics of his text, writing as a coping strategy in the crisis and the relation between community and individual were main points of interest. 

The second day of the workshop started with the presentation of Susanne Grimaldi (TU Dresden) on “Portuguese and Spanish Poetry in Times of Pandemic Crisis.” She showcased poetic examples written at the beginning of the Covid-19 crisis and illustrated similarities with socio-economic crisis writing. Thereafter, Marina O. Hertrampf (University of Passau) exemplified the potential of humor in literature as a means of coping strategy in her presentation “On the Humorous Lightness of the Coronavirus Pandemic. Case Analyses of Poetic and Narrative Texts by Jacques Moulin and François Varay.” 

The second panel started with the presentation “La pandémie comme inspiration et contrainte en Acadie: le cas de Pépins de Satellite Théâtre.” Therein, Pénélope Cormier (Université de Moncton) and Sandrine Duval (McGill University) introduced the audience to the world of the Acadian theatre and highlighted the innovative changes the Covid-19 pandemic generated within the local theatre production. The last presentation was given by Julia Obermayr (University of Graz). In “'Confinés. Égalité. Fraternité’? Corona Fictions as Cultural Indicators of Social Cohesion and Resilience in 8 Rue de l’Humanité,” she drew the attention to audiovisual responses to the pandemic and demonstrated how these Corona Fictions represent social cohesion and foster resilience. 


We thank all our presenters and the audience - students, colleagues and Corona Fictions collaborators alike - for their contributions to the workshop and their interest in our project.

Looking forward to our future collaboration!

Albert Göschl, Julia Obermayr, Elisabeth Hobisch and Yvonne Völkl

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