Komparatistik und Gender – die Entgrenzung von Identitäten in/mit Queer

Morgen in der Früh geht’s nach Paris. Ich wurde eingeladen, am Freitag, dem 16. September, beim Journée d`études Littérature comparée et Gender – Queer vers un dépassement des identités? an der Université Sorbonne Nouvelle – Paris 3 zu sprechen. Es ist meine erste Tagung im nicht deutschsprachigen Raum. Dass die meisten Vorträge auf Französisch gehalten Programmwerden, macht mich, ehrlich gesagt, doch etwas nervös, da mein Schulfranzösisch eine ganze Weile zurückliegt und mein Kontakt mit der Sprache seither eher „passiv“ – mehr lesen als sprechen und hörverstehen – ist. Auch das Fachvokabular ist mir meist nur auf Englisch und Deutsch geläufig. Nichtsdestotrotz: die Tagung verspricht laut Programm spannend zu werden. Im Fokus stehen Fragen nach dem Überschreiten von Grenzen zwischen Komparatistik und queer, u.a. im Hinblick auf Übersetzung, Intersektionalität und Intermedialität, sowie Fragen, die sich mit queer als methodischem Rahmen auseinandersetzen. Ich selbst spreche über:

Beyond Ethnic Chick Lit – Queering the Field of ‘World Women’s Literature’

Two frequently discussed terms in general and comparative literature – world literature and women’s literature – as well as two of the latest „turns“ – the global as well as the gender turn – intersect in the Ethnic Chick Lit-Label. Queer, as an analytical tool, is especially useful for calling this problematic generic categorization into question. A queer perspective is as sceptical of heteronormativity, which overlooks the ‘queer’ space in-between ‘the masculine’/’the feminine’, as it is of sex/gender-centrism, which tends to leave out or deprioritize other socially defining categories like for example ethnicity.

Even though the term Women’s Literature and/or Fiction has been criticized frequently over the past decades, the literary market is still driven by the urge to classify literature in gendered terms, freezing once again the old dichotomy of ‘emotional’ Women’s Fiction vs. untagged ‘serious’ (‘Men’s’) Literature. The latest example would be Chick lit, the so-called New Woman’s Fiction, although not exactly new anymore. Originally defined as an Anglo-American, ‘white’, ‘middleclass’ and ‘heterosexual’ phenomenon, starting with the bestseller novels Bridget Jones’s Diary and Sex and the City in the mid-1990ies, Chick lit changed rapidly, crossing genre (e.g. Chick Nonfiction) and gender (e.g. Lad or Frat lit, Queer Chick lit) as well as various cultural, geographic, and linguistic boundaries. The latter development was once called The Chick Lit Pandemic in The New York Times – a headline that was probably meant to mock literary critics, as they mostly spoke of Chick lit as “fluff“, hardly worth criticizing. Now with this “fluff“ going global the ironic picture of a ‘pandemic’ suggested itself: an immensely successful transfer from the Anglo-American centre to the periphery, from the original genre to numerous adapted subgenres. For the latter the term Ethnic Chick lit has been established, which in the broadest sense includes all Chick lit by authors or with protagonists, who have other than so-called “Western“ sociocultural backgrounds. The main criterion, however, seems to be the skin colour (“white“ vs. “non- white“). This definition reveals a very problematic dimension of the term ‘ethnic’: it suggests that ‘white’ women’s literature is not ‘ethnic’, but ‘the norm’.

With the help of selected examples from different linguistic and cultural areas the marginalisation and homogenisation of contemporary women’s fiction through the Ethnic Chick lit label will be analysed. The aim is to question the predominantly Anglocentric perspective in theory-driven research and to illustrate local peculiarities behind the global labelling, within which gender bias and ethnocentrism intersect, which is why a comparative-queer perspective seems essential for my analysis.


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