Janine Hauthal is Postdoctoral Fellow of the Research Foundation – Flanders at the Vrije Universiteit Brussel (2014-2021) where she is affiliated with the Centre for Literary and Inter¬medial Crossings. Her research interests include ‘fictions of Europe’, metareference across media and genres, contemporary (Black) British writing, postcolonial literature and theory, postdramatic theatre (texts) and transgeneric/transmedial narratology. Her research has been published in peer-reviewed journals such as Modern Drama, Journal for Postcolonial Writing, Zeitschrift für Literaturwissenschaft und Linguistik and English Text Construction as well as with Academia Press, Brill, De Gruyter, Routledge and Ohio State UP. She is currently working on a monograph on Britain in Europe: The Emergence of Transnational Discourses in Con¬tem¬po¬rary British Literature and has started a new project concerned with “Europe in the Anglophone Settler Imagination after 1989”.
‘Doing Europe’: Transnational Identities in British Short Story Cycles About Europe
In a context of increased debate on the status and future of Europe, one frequently rehearsed argument is that the EU has failed to forge a European identity. Several writers, however, have risen to the challenge of imagining transnational Europe as a community despite its considerable size and diversity. Focussing on British ‘fictions of Europe’, this paper is part of a bigger research project and takes the following observation as its cue: While British novels about Europe tend to resort to different types of genre fiction and engage with Europe as a ‘myth’, short story cycles rather set out to imagine ‘everyday ways of being European’, a notion I take from sociologist Adrian Favell. Depicting acts of travelling across borders, working abroad, entering transnational relationships, and taking holidays or retiring to another European country, these fictions imagine Europe as a ‘unitas multiplex’ that becomes manifest in these diverse ways of ‘doing Europe’ that are facilitated by the European free movement accords. Strikingly, all four texts in the corpus, to which this description applies, make use of the specific generic affordances of the short story cycle in their depiction of Europe. Focussing on John Berger’s Once in Europa (1983), Julian Barnes’s Cross Channel (1996), Adam Thorpe’s Shifts (2000), and David Szalay’s All That Man Is (2016), the paper has a two-fold focus: firstly, it examines how these texts negotiate centrifugalism and centripetalism, disruption and unity, and how the tension between these forces creates a tenuous sense of coherence that makes the short story cycle a particularly apt form for depicting commonality and international divisions in collective transnational entities such as Europe. Secondly, I will demonstrate how the cycles’ heightened degree of reader involvement serves to entice readers to imagine Europe as a community in which transnational citizenship co-exists with national affiliation. Ultimately, the genre-specific nexus of Europe and narration in the four texts enables a shift in focus from the national to the transnational and produces new topographies of Europe that move beyond the imagery handed down in previous centuries. Keywords: transnational identities, European identity,
imagining Europe, short story cycle, contemporary British literature.