The Neo-Rubble Film?: The Significance of ‘Lore’ (2012)

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Reif with ideas about the German past, all clearly enunciated while wedged between storylines, Cate Shortland’s Lore (2012) is a coming-of-age fiction based on the novel The Dark Ship by Rachel Seiffert and set in the social, psychological and physical rubble of the Second World War. Hannelore, her pre-pubescent sister Liesel and their two younger brothers, Gunter und Jürgen, begin a journey from their family’s summer home in Bavaria up to Omi’s house in Hamburg. Directed by their Nazi mother in fairytale fashion to take the trains, go through the mud and find Omi’s house at the end, all while she is packing her Ehrenkreuz der Deutschen Mutter before her arrest, the children are left alone to face Germany at Stunde Null. On their way between survivor camps, trying to find a singular running train, Hannelore (Lore) meets Thomas, a Jewish boy going on 18. Between the developmental sexual tensions and starvation frustrations, Lore is an a-typical rubble film, but belongs in the category because of its dealing with the immediate post-war German psyche and environment. Using the framework of Professor Robert Shandley’s ‘Seven Rs of Rubble Film’ (Redemption, Reconciliation, Redefinition, Restabilization, Reintegration, Reconstruction, Reprivatization), this paper will position Lore within the genre, while complicating and delineating the genre paradigm with its inclusion; directed by an Austrailian of German heritage, produced with documentarian attention to realism and historical detail, set primarily in the American zone and Schwarzwald, Lore represents a neo-rubble hyperrealistic depiction of womanhood during occupation from the perspective of an adolescent’s journey through the rubble.

Thematic Placement of ‘Lore’ and Other Rubble Films

Essential to the rubble film is being among the rubble. Though this is the constant, the original genre of rubble film finds its departure into “The Lost Years” from 1949-1963, the post-Oberhausen Manifesto (OM) generation (Franklin, 1983) and finally, the neo-rubble generation (Moeller, 2014). Why are there only four years of original rubble, when it took 30 years to rebuild the Frankfurt Altstadt? Suggested by MUBI to occupy the postwar period of 1946-1949, “original” rubble films have a character deeper than authenticity of the rubble. Of course, this four-year time span does not represent the remaining rubble in both Germanys. It discounts the authenticity of the rubble used as the set for The Marriage of Maria Braun (1979). By virtue of ending in 1949, what the postwar period suggests about original rubble films is that they are pre-Konrad Adenauer and pre-68er student movements. Ideologically, “original” rubble films stand for a time when those producing the rubble films were the same people who had staffed the Nazi Dream Factory (Shandley: 181), those filmmakers who were “employed to deceive, distract and mold the German public” during the Third Reich (10). This generation of film has been criticized for not giving an honest depiction of the past. Shandley suggests that the second generation of rubble films “used this alleged failure on the part of their predecessors and parents as a rhetorical foil against which they posited their own cinematic project,” (181) alluding to the signatories of the Oberhausen Manifesto. This paper advances the genre towards a neo-rubble turn, meaning that the original rubble film is being revived after many years of its existence within a “cinema of confrontation” (181). Lore is notably absent of significant political ideological preoccupations, and rather sticks to a realistic depiction of rubble life.

Perhaps because director Cate Shortland is an Australian documentarian, but Lore doesn’t quite pass within the nostalgic lineage of post-OM generation rubble films like Deutschland Bleiche Mutter (1980) and Das Wunder von Bern (1994). Even though Lore “revisualizes and revises the past” (Frey, 2013) like any historical film, it doesn’t fall decisively within the heritage genre and stands out as an art-house film without post-OM qualities – a neo-rubble film. Lore does not satirize original rubble film like the fake bombings in Maria or the melodrama in Bleiche Mutter, but it still belongs alongside these films in the rubble category. In the book Postwall German Cinema, Matthias Frey cites Shandley’s 7Rs to contend that Das Wunder is indeed in the rubble category because it includes a restabilization of society and a restoration of “moral security” (27), and suggests that Das Wunder, like Maria, has a reconciliation at the end. Claiming that Das Wunder and other post-OM films used “tropes” (28) of postwar films, Frey might entice a Deleuzian reading of Das Wunder as a “monopoly of reproductions,” a “utilisation of the residue of conventions,” (Cinema 1: 26). Such artificiality is avoided in Lore by virtue of its unique placement outside the city rubble, in the Schwarzwald, its complication of art-house genre’s melodramatic nature, and its collective protagonist-viewer consciousness. Frey discusses how the reconciliation is actually a reaction of Das Wunder against original rubble films. Original rubble films often hinted towards reconciliation with the (former) enemy but never fully achieved it (Shandley: 184). What brings Lore forward as a neo-rubble film is its engagement with original rubble film metanarratives without a critical reaction to them.  Lore does not have a reconciliation with the enemy, though the opportunity arises during her journey with Thomas. Nothing between the Jew and the Hitler Mädel becomes resolved.

Considering Lore within the genre of “neo-rubble”, it is necessary to look into what makes a genre “neo”. Neo-noir is an applicable comparison by virtue of its cultural and historical proximity with rubble films. In The Philosophy of Neo-Noir, author Mark Conard implies the “neo” turn as a self-reflective genre that itself “functions as a kind of philosophy of noir”. If philosophy, particularly existentialist philosophy, defines the noir genre, Shandley would say that Vergangenheitsbewältigung defines the rubble genre (182). Lore stands out from the post-OM generation because it doesn’t mock original rubble films. Instead, I argue that Lore takes a reflexive turn, functioning itself as Vergangenheitsbewältigung – an ongoing process of coming to terms with the past. It does this through its unclosed endings and hyperrealistic aesthetic choices. In Theodor Adorno’s lecture “Was bedeutet: Aufarbeitung der Vergangenheit?” (1959), the continued process of reconciliation is positioned against the idea of guilt, much like Lore’s engagement with lived reality is positioned against post-OM critical realities. Adorno says:

Bei alldem jedoch hat die Rede vom Schuldkomplex etwas Unwahrhaftiges… Das zöge die Moral aus jenem >>Und ist so gut, als wär’ es nicht gewesen<<, das von Goethe stammt, aber an entscheidener Stelle des Faust, vom Teufel gesprochen wird, um dessen innerstes Prinzip zu enthüllen, die Zerstörung von Erinnerung.
In Sonja Boos’ introduction to Adorno’s lecture, she reminds us that the preoccupation with guilt is seen by Adorno as an “objective constellation… it is the destiny of political entanglements that constitutes the nexus of guilt.” This objective and political construal of society is notable in post-OM films; in both Das Wunder and Maria Braun, the camera views them from the outside. In Lore, the camera becomes one with Lore’s and with Thomas’s emotions, and, apart from the longshot cross-cuts of landscapes, occupies itself with nothing else – nature is the backdrop, instead of a berubbled Berlin. Adorno’s commentary about subjectivity engages the feelings the viewer has alongside Lore’s journey through a callous world:

“Nach der subjektiven Seite, in der Psyche der Menschen, steigerte der Nationalsozialismus den kollektiven Narzißmus, schlicht gesagt: die nationale Eitelkeit ins Ungemessene. Die narzißtischen Triebregungen der Einzelnen, denen die verhärtete Welt immer weniger Befriedigung verspricht und die doch ungemindert fortbestehen, solange die Zivilisation ihnen sonst so viel versagt, finden Ersatzbefriedigung in der Identifikation mit dem Ganzen.”
Lore’s dependence on her National Socialist identity, the world she was born into, carries her throughout the film. Her continued ideological battle with Thomas and her steadfast, in Ordnung character confirms this internal battle that has little to do with guilt or politics. It is in this sense that Lore is a reflexive and therefore neo-rubble film, because it doesn’t work on the project of Vergangenheitsbewältigung through objective criticisms like guilt, but rather, she experiences the process of coming to terms with the past.

In the singular other article classifying a film as “neo-rubble”, Maria Moeller suggests that The Good German, directed by Steven Soderbergh in 2006, is “a film not made in the aftermath of WWII, but which revives and further develops some of the most distinctive narrative and visual patterns of the rubble films, with the technical possibilities of a modern Hollywood studio,” (98). We can immediately see a generational relationship between Soderbergh and Shortland’s films, though I find Moeller’s positioning of The Good German as a neo-rubble film to be as superficial as its Hollywood interpretation of Stunde Null. On a most basic level, the plot doesn’t enter German life – the film is about Americans visiting Berlin on a mission – it is inherently objective and political. Her commentary on neo-rubble echoes Conard’s cinematic evidence for neo-noir as an uptake of modern technology to depict themes enigmatic of film noir. She also cites Shandley’s thematic umbrella for rubble films as “‘good Germans’ during ‘bad times’” (87), which she claims is enigmatic of the “escapist attitude in dealing with the past and present period in the aftermath of the war and Nazism,” (ibid.). Moeller focuses on Shandley’s R for redefinition of the Germans as the guilt of The Good German’s leading characters, who actively try to “endanger their lives to serve justice” (92), which implies their reconciliation with the past. Unlike Das Wunder and The Good German, Lore maintains the original rubble film tendency to not have a full reconciliation, rather, it presents a new scope to the greater problem; in the end, Lore rebels against the conventions of her lineage and destroys the final porcelain figure of her mother’s. Unlike Das Wunder and The Good German, Lore maintains the original rubble film tendency to avoid a full reconciliation. Rather, Lore presents a new scope to the greater problem; in the end, Lore rebels against the conventions of her lineage and destroys the final porcelain figure of her mother’s.

NPR movie critic Ella Taylor suggests that the porcelain figure is a “sentimental symbol of her shattered harmony”. Lore’s rebellion against Omi and her mother reflects the generational conversation of Deutschland Bleiche Mutter as well. Unlike the observational standpoint in Lore, by which the audience is meant to know as little as Lore and yet know more from a historically omniscient perspective, Bleiche Mutter quite clearly depicts the Nazi as the rapist aggressors and makes use of more dramatic acting to convey trauma. Perhaps in reaction to this type of stereotypical realism of Maria and Bleiche Mutter, Shortland’s style relies heavily on ambiguity. Tight close-ups and shallow focus narrow viewer attention to the journey of Lore amidst the political tension, rather than actively involved in it. As well, the sexual tension between Lore and Thomas drives this rubble film forward towards reconciliation, not unlike Die Mörder Sind Unter Uns (1946), while romances in Maria, Bleiche Mutter, and Das Wunder were supplementary to this process.

Though Shortland maintained a strict historical hyperrealism which guides the viewer alongside the postwar rationality of a Hitler Youth, she thinks that Lore can address current ideological occupations by virtue of unsettling the audience (Filmmaker Magazine). Phoenix, directed in the same year as Lore by Christian Petzold, also takes this unsettling approach to retrospective. Instead of disturbing the viewer with graphic imagery, Phoenix maintains a constant psychological unease also on the basis of a romantic relationship between a Jew and a German. In both films, rubble was created for a set rather than in reality (Women and Hollywood). In the Evan Calder Williams tradition of salvage punk, this could be considered salvage rubble because it “returns to the repressed idiosyncrasy of outmoded things” (Socialism/Barbarism). Lore does not depict the landscapes of winding spires of rubble as in Murderers, but the rubble among the wider landscape of Germany. In an interview with Collider, Shortland says that the houses they used in the Black Forest were in fact remaining relics:

“The two houses we shot early in the film were Jewish houses that had been taken off the families in the 1930s.  When we found those houses, they were all boarded up.  They had been completely gutted and their fireplaces had been taken out and the windows were shattered.” (2012)

Shortland also emphasised that Lore was shot at a remaining armaments factory in Görlitz which had been a concentration camp. The importance of the factory to rubble film is echoed in Bleiche Mutter, as they journey through factory ruins. Phoenix, on the other hand, used artificial set design for all of its rubble scenes (Variety, 2015). Whether rubble restored from its current state to that of its past, or non-rubble with precise resemblance, they transform “rubble into representation” (von Moltke, 2010) giving them the genre description of ‘rubble film’. To ‘salvage’ the rubble, in Williams’ terms, would be to expose Walter Benjamin’s “residues of a dream world… the underground currents that actually expose the loops and fuses of repression and its expectations,” (ibid.) rather than abide by a “falseness… the wrong dream image, ideological blind that is the dream image proper to the liberal escape plan,” (ibid.). This differentiation recalls the suggested political/ideological departure from the post-Oberhausen Manifesto generation into the more personal neo-rubble film.

In the Senses of Cinema Petzold dossier, Jaimey Fisher also notes a Benjaminian turn in the rubble film Phoenix, he writes: “Phoenix marshals remnants and fragments of a particular historical moment,” using Denkbilder (thought-images) that “collide with the present moment to conjure moments of insight” (ibid.) in their filmic bricolage. He says that Petzold, like Benjamin, “investigates the very fantasy that private life of love and/or family can provide a hermetic space of resistance sealed off from public events,” (ibid.). Like Lore, Phoenix’s character Nelly (Nina Hoss) exists in a constellation of life forces that are always interacting with the postwar reconciliation. The personal life does not stop when the political life exerts itself into it. Like Lore, Phoenix deals with themes only implicated in original rubble films, such as the Jewish question, the female’s perspective in a world suddenly devoid of healthy male figures other than the occupying forces, and, perhaps most thanks to film technology and the possibility for historical research, an increasingly realistic retrospective about life in the rubble. Lore’s neo-rubble departure from Phoenix also has to do with the difference in resonance of these Denkbilder. In the sense of Rainier Maria Rilke’s interpretation of thought images, “The work of the eyes is done, tue nun Herzwerk an den Bildern in dir,” Lore’s aesthetic makeup focuses mostly on her journey rather than on stereotypical images from the post-war period. That is not to say that seeable, physical post-war images are absent, but rather, in the words of Shandley, “the rubble film project is the attempt to separate film discourse from political discourse by reprivatizing the narrative itself,” (187).

Other visual ‘fragments’ of rubble films which cue us to Lore’s postwar residue include trains, tonal relationships and a few direct references between Lore and Maria. Shortland uses fragments of historical research, authentic physical objects and intertextual reference to build a salvaged rubble film, a neo-rubble film. Though Shortland, Petzold and Fassbinder share striking tonal relationships, Shortland’s film stands out for its contrastive aesthetic and the commentary on children’s lives and the situation of rubble-life outside the cities. It balances out other films in the neo-rubble category like the soldier-focused A Good German (2004) and Phoenix. Trains are an element shared between Maria, Phoenix and Lore which spans across the original rubble films, too. In Lore, trains serve the elemental purpose of pushing her journey of redefinition forward. Maria uses trains to contrast her waiting for Hermann. In Phoenix,

she uses the train to imitate her recent return from Auschwitz and her reintegration to society. It is safe to say that trains are the first part of a reconstructed society and are as essential to the rubble film as the U-Bahn is to Berlin. Another rather significant visual callback exists between Lore

and Stunde Null film Der Untergang (2004). Both depict the shooting of


a German Shepard and the burning of Ordner in a pile during the onset of occupation.  According to Fisher in his comparison of rubble films with the Deleuzian idea of neo-realist films, another essential part is the

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instance and effect of occupation (1997). Maria merely makes fun of the occupying forces by depicting them diving for cigarettes and being duped by a German woman. This metaphor certainly doesn’t seem to apply in Lore and Phoenix, which both depict the perverse constraints of occupation upon German women.In both films, the subjection to soldiers is made clear, but this political tension doesn’t drive the plot. Lore reconciles the past with attention to the inward coming-of-age story as a “complex study of moral relativism” (Indiewire, 2012). Shandley would position Lore next to original rubble films, “including The Murderers Are Among Us and Love ’47 [which] dwell on personal rather than materialrehabilitation,” (187), Screen Shot 2018-02-10 at 10.08.18.png

which also make the case for Lore’s neo-rubble classification. Compared to post-OM films, Lore comes aesthetically and thematically closer to original rubble films without making a satire of them. To that end, the is not fully reconciled and Lore’s redefinition remains still in process.
The (De)Nazification of Lore 

“The opening montage of Lore suggests a more complex image of childhood than that of pure innocence… images of Lore bathing, Liesel playing hopscotch, and a brief but sharply focused image of a swastika on a piece of her clothing… suggest a mutli-faceted construction of childhood as traditionally innocent and playful, but also eroticized and politicized” Debbie Pinfold, “The Sins of the Fathers” (2015)

From the outset, Lore represents childhood innocence of the Hitler Youth and the aggressive anti-Semitism they were indoctrinated into during upbringing. Reminding us immediately of Lars Von Treier’s Europa (1991), Lore’s beginning scenes use both montage and a non-diegetic countdown until Stunde Null and Lore’s transition from childhood. Pinfold’s analysis of this scene is that the sister’s “slap of the rope on the barn floor; the chink of the pebble on the hopscotch court,” emphasize that the sister is “standing on solid ground,” while Lore’s Nazism is about to be in question. Marked ‘Himmel’ and ‘Hölle’ at either end of the hopscotch track, the cross-cut to Lore exposing herself out of the window and the arrival of ‘Vati’ foreshadows the lightness and darkness of their family unit. Lit red internally by an outside bonfire of what seem to be Konzentrationslager Inhaftierungsunterlagen belonging to Vati, the feeling is that house, the Heim, of the family is burning into a rubble just like the documents they are trying to hide.

In preparation for their arrests, Mama and Vati tend to different affairs: he, burning the files and shooting the dog, and she, the packing. Shortland directed this scene “by asking all the actors to hurry” (Indiewire, 2013),but also with sight to the events as they would’ve happened. Shortland states that they did workshops with elderly Germans who were part of Bund Deutscher Mädel, watched a lot of documentaries, and “tried to build [the actors] up gradually from the skin instead of starting with the text, so that they already had an organic understanding of the world,” (Collider, 2012) before shooting. As the little boys are pulling their fathers’ files down the stairs to burn, you can see that the files are nearly as big as them. This is reminiscent of a Benjaminian perception in Berlin Childhood 1900, as he experiences the unheimlich world of adults. The sister, Liesel, is as well imbued in a shielded childhood perspective, as she stares at the designs on the china rather than packing it. All the while, Lore is helping her mother pack the silverware and learning commands she would use with her siblings in the coming journey. Mama instructs her to pull a dangling red thread out of her dress bosom, a notation to the viewer that her Ordnung is tied into feminine aspects.

Lore experiences the breakdown leading to the rubble of her mother’s female dignity. Notable early on that the mother’s smoking has become more fervent, Mama’s character seems no less ambivalent to the children than SS-Officer Vati. She emulates the strong Nazi woman, even quoting a soldier’s expression in Untergang  “Wir müssen Politik machen” when demanding that Vati turn himself in. Berating the father for being a Screen Shot 2018-02-10 at 10.13.29.pngcoward, one of the most arresting traits of rubble film arises: the problematizing of the Nazi masculinity in the twilight of the regime. Not only does Lore witness Mama passively kick Vati in the shins when he forces them to move house, Lore also witnesses Mama’s denial of Vati as a sexual object. Montage cuts from Lore’s perception of Vati’s hand in Mama’s garter, to Mama’s hand meeting Papa’s cheek bring the viewer into the perception of Lore. The camera tends Mama specifically only through Lore’s perception; encounters with the mother are also always encounters with Lore.

In the rubble of Mama’s Nazism, Lore takes on the task of mothering herself (Pinfold, 52-52), while Mama takes on the role of a father. Once Vati is arrested, Mama fixes her hair (in the fashion of Maria Braun, “this is how Americans like it”) and leaves to sell china. Lore discovers Mama with ripped tights and bloodied thighs upon her return, crying hysterically, saying “Er ist tot, Lore! Tot!” Lore looks up from the blood to ask “Vati?!”, and is readily slapped by Mama’s cigarette hand and the response “Unser Führer!” Mama takes on the nationalistic obedience of Vati’s military character and is soon after arrested by American soldiers. The depiction of American soldiers is always brief, as Lore and the viewer only sees them in passing, but Lore’s fear of them is clear when she demands that her siblings obey or the Americans will put them in camps. Though we never see violence committed by the soldiers, Americans are the face of adversity. Pinfold notes the re-use of her mother’s statements when demanding that her siblings obey and suggests that Lore “uses her Nazism to stand tall in the face of adversity”. When the going gets tough, the reversion to recommended Nazi ideals is easy. Shandley’s R for Redefinition applies to Lore taking on the mother role. Her seemingly unwavering anti-semitism is challenged, but there is no reconciliation. Her denazification and coming-of-age constellations are indeed surrounded by political tensions and the possibility to reconcile with the enemy of the semite, but nothing is definite and it is always in process.

Exemplified by the scene of Lore wincing as her father shoots the dog and then learning that he had committed atrocities, Lore’s journey is an informal reeducation. The audience is educated alongside Lore, but with a better historical understanding of the likelihoods and context. Among the ‘educational’ images pasted on the wall by the American soldiers, Lore finds a man with Vati’s uniform and build. She touches the sticky wall, trying to clear away excess glue from the photo, only to cover her fingers in it.  While she lies down at night, playing with the glue’s residue between her fingers, she overhears two women discussing how Hitler would have never allowed them to endure the condition of hunger, and how they had to wait for bread in a line with Jews. They are a residue as well, still clinging to old ideas. The motion of her fingers pulling apart suggests the departure from the past. The children’s journey is the emblematic process of reconciling the reality of their parents’ crimes and their personal moral scope, but it is never resolved and never directly addressed. Rather, their journey is addressed under the scope of a non-political nature.
The Hyperrealism of Neo-Rubble

One thing separating Lore from other rubble films is its relationship with and location in nature. In an interview with Filmmaker Magazine, Shortland mentioned sticking close to depicting realistic detail from the time, the use of nature was also a conscious choice, as revealed in an interview with Collider:

“We were influenced by two things: documentary filmmaking, because we wanted the film to be fresh and immediate, and the whole aesthetics of National Socialism with nature. Nature became a character in the same was as it was mythologized within the Nazi party… then, as the film continues, all the color is leeched out of their clothes. The landscape becomes more and more desolate until they are standing on the mud and there’s almost nothing left.” (2012)

Shortland continues to discuss nature by citing the discussion of a survivor in Claude Lanzmann’s Shoah, in which the interviewee says, “Look, Claude, look at the birds. Look at these beautiful trees. See the sun shining. This is what is was like when they were murdering us.” “Post-war films are made,” says Shortland, “really dark and they have this kind of sepia. I thought, that’s actually not the reality in a lot of cases.” Picking up on the southern German aesthetic choice by using feeble, misty fades, overly-saturated color forest tones, and bright reds and blues well known from propaganda material, Shortland establishes a layered visual field that challenges the sensibilities of previous rubble-films (Cook and Stone, 2014:26).

Cook and Stone comment on Lore’s aesthetic hyperrealism in their 2014 book “Screening European Heritage” by saying that the camera’s “self-conscious use of restraint and authenticity foreground a sense of performativity that invites us to distance ourselves from, and thus reflect upon, the world we are watching,” (xxiv). Screen Shot 2018-02-10 at 10.16.43.pngThis is notable in the forest-play scene when the camera is handheld and shaky, so while the subjects are joyfully running and dancing through the forests, the viewer is given a voyeuristic foreshadowing that doesn’t allow one to forget the larger context. As it follows the boys running, and advances from outside the girls’ dance circle and down to their feet, the camera distances the viewer from the play. It is creepy not only because of the suddenly cheery Volksmusik and lighter, almost neon colors amid a sickness of Endkrieg worry, but also because of the notably märchenhaft ambience, which transports the viewer to an omniscient position of knowing that something more negative is on the horizon.

While director of The Good German treated filming as if it were on the black and white level of 1945 but with more CGI, Lore made use of its technical advantages to represent reality. The forest becomes an operable element of realism for Shortland. Using a 25mm and 35mm lens because they are “the closest to human eyes in the world,” lead camera operator Arkapaw had a sense for the reality he depicted. He told the American Cinematographer: “Amongst all the human angst and tragedy, nature has an enduring quality. Its lushness, beauty and survival instincts are a way of [suggesting] the future… using tungsten balanced negatives, it takes the warmth out of the skin tones, giving flesh a kind of purity.”

The forest is not part of the rubble, but contrasts it. Sensually depicted with long shots, non-diegetic bird chirping and still shots of changing tree colors, the psychological rubble is conflicting in comparison. Screen Shot 2018-02-10 at 10.18.05.pngNature’s redemptive quality ties together aesthetic concerns with ideological assertions, moving beyond Shandley’s 2001 assertion that “rubble films are, on the whole, long on ideological assertions and short on aesthetic ingenuity,” (189) and supports the neo-rubble focus on a revival of reality.
Thomas’ Masculine and Jewish Character

Citing Lutx Koepnick and von Moltke, Fisher suggests that “tales of private friendship and even love between German gentiles and Jews foreground a Germany at stark odds with the Nazi regime and its racist, biopolitical, ultimately genocidal agenda.” (Senses of Cinema, 2017). Not only does Thomas provide ‘Lore’ with an extra layer of personal experience, which creates a sacred space of sexual satisfaction and friendship despite the rubble, but he also occupies a space of the ethnographic ‘Other’ in opposition to the family’s typically Aryan biology and disposition. Thomas’s ‘Otherness’ is established sooner than when we (and Lore) initially see his Judenstern – his ‘performative’ masculinity sets him apart: the first encounter with Thomas, he is judging Lore for her request of the Jewish woman to clean herself before feeding Lore’s baby brother. Thomas’s disapproving gaze makes her lower her eyes and forget the request. Their second encounter, in which he attacks her with the attempt of figuring out what she tore off the wall of pictures, symbolizes the aggressive blame and education of Germans. On their third and final encounter, before Thomas joins the family, he and Lore negotiate their perceived meanings of each other as “Nazi” and “Jew” by humming the same tune. Framed almost like a standoff, the two fixate on the other as both a threat and the problem. Lore is worried that he is a rapist and her humming while holding the baby is motherly, nurturing and based in values of decency and respect. She is holding on to meaning in a world where she has no control. His whistling is sinister because we are not yet aware of his intent, and it is at first non-diegetic, much like the whistling in Fritz Lang’s M (1931). She hums back at him and approaches him almost as a surrender to death in order to hold on to her old values, i.e. her mother telling her to “remember who she is” on a forested path not unlike this one. In this third meeting, the negotiation of meaning comes through the symbolic content of a shared song, and he becomes the redeemer of her Nazi habits. Thomas is integral in Lore’s educational process.

Thomas is notable because he occupies a masculine role – a role more masculine than Lore’s “coward” of a father. According to Fisher’s 2007 article, “On the Ruins of Masculinity”, rubble films emasculate the German man as a reaction to a world where the “Führer ist tot, Lore!”. They do so in such a way that “masculinity was implicated in the devastating destruction” (Hester, 2009). Lore’s Vati is emasculated by his unhealthy appearance, poor relationship with his family, passionate outbursts and also bluntly by his wife, which fulfils this rubble film’s attention to the downfall of the hegemonic Nazi male figure. The acne-faced soldier crying in the truck while the family is escaping to their summer home depicts the boyish image given to German men of a rubble film (Fisher, 2007).

The depiction of Thomas, on the other hand, as both a survivor and the masculine figure, is also the depiction of hope for a future Germany. Like Susan Jeffords portrays in her book The “Remasculization” of Germany in the 1950s, masculinity is not absent from Germany after the war, but rather occupied by outside males who assume the roles of protectors (164). Portraying this point is the scene when Lore decides to proposition a German man to use his boat and yet Thomas ends up rowing her and the family to safety. Lore stumbles upon this Kerl and his boat while he is listening to the radio, and with a heavy accent he implies that he is untergebildet. Next to him, the camera focuses in on a bucket of eels using the sharpness and precision of hyperrealism that Shortland and her production team are known for. Slithering and shiny, they look like a bunch of slimy dicks, which a bucket of fish or crabs wouldn’t have. This makes the scene eckliger, but Thomas killing the Kerl neutralizes the eels – the eels return to their symbolism as the nasty patriarchy of the past, less focused upon by the camera and castrated by the moral righteousness of the present. Despite the foreboding music, nobody is bitten once they take the boat and cross the water. This was a false foreshadowing, which keeps the viewer as naïve as Thomas about the upcoming scene after they are safely across. After Lore offers herself to the Kerl, which causes Thomas to strike him dead, she tries to kill herself, but instead is bathed of her sins in the river and carries on to another survivor camp.

Following Sigmund Freud’s coming-of-age theory known as the ‘Elektra Complex’, this scene can be interpreted as a transition from adolescence, loving the father(land), to adulthood, loving another. Lore’s act of offering herself could be seen as progeny – enacting the traditions of the mother, and perhaps her perceived-values of German women getting raped – and then transferring her trust of the father to a non-kin male in the same milieu – the Kerl. But the scene of Thomas killing the Kerl and her rebirth in the water is also about Lore giving up her ‘father figure’ Nazi ideals and realizing that her parents had been schuldig, and so was she, for doing something immoral to solve a perceived problem. Indignantly, Thomas saves her from suicide and the viewer is confronted by the reality of guilt that Germans were experiencing. He gains empathy for her, despite her continued anti-Semitism; this is enigmatic of a Nachkrieg reconciliation in Germany and throughout Europe. The racism was not gone, it was simply recognized. Complicating the image of Thomas is his habit of stealing and his false papers; though we have seen the tattoo on his arm, we and Lore both consider that he was just using the image of being Jewish to get past the Americans. It is possible that Thomas is a dangerous Kapo. His departure from the movie upon losing his stolen papers switches the role of ‘redeemer’ back to Lore. Her exposure to Thomas helped her reflect on Nazi ideology of good and bad and transition into womanhood, but there was no reconciliation of her sexual demands or her denazification.

Reception of Lore 

The reception of Lore confirms its belonging to a neo-rubble genre. As nem baj says on, “Lore is both ‘wartime’ and ‘post-war’, that’s a paradox the movie never solves.” Existing within a paradox of unfinished metanarrative Rs (reconciliation, restabilization, redefinition) and finished cinematic Rs (reprivatization), Lore fulfills “The tendency of all [rubble] films to bring the story to the point where the characters can return to ideally constructed private, apolitical lives,” (Shandley, 188). The neo-rubble character exists within its stylization; while post-OM films use politically critical tropes as aesthetic and “shut down discussion about the Nazi past” (ibid.), Lore continues the project of Vergangenheitsbewältigung through the hyperrealistic stylization and extending its storyline into the future. “Lore is an anti-Heimat film that explores the breakdown of such links and experiences of young characters brought up with a Nazi family,” says Roy Stafford of Global Film Studies, “Lore is kind of a modern version of a rural Trümmerfilme. The film narrative is not ‘resolved’ as such,” (2014). When Lore disobeys Omi and proceeds to smash the porcelain figures important to Mama, “The telling of this history is not a one-time project to be completed and left behind,” (ibid.) – cue German punk scene. One must imagine Lore protesting with the 68ers, rather than knowing that her character has been influenced by them via cinematic criticism of the post-OM generation. Shortland’s Lore sets the stage for the neo-rubble genre.



Written Narrative Discourse in Second Language Acquisition Studies


  1. Introduction

The purpose of this literary review is to learn as much as possible about written narrative student discourse (WND) in the second language (L2) classroom. In Winter of 2018, I will conduct my first student-based study on non-native (NNS) and heritage German language learners (HL) by asking them to engage in L2 WND. The impetus for this project is to research the development of possibilities for self-hood via discourse as inspired by Heidegger’s 1924 lecture on rhetoric as the hermeneutic of Being, and Foucault’s attention to discourse as epistemological (1972). I choose to look through the lens of subjective development during second language acquisition (SLA) (Kramsch, 2003; Pavlenko & Latolf, 2000). Unlike Pavlenko’s rich narratological study of texts (2001), I will investigate subjectivity through student WND because written narration has a “tangible contribution to the ‘reflexive project of the self’,” (Ivanic, 1998) and students exist at a particular conduit of identity development. This literary review investigates existing approaches to SLA WND and commences with a discussion of how the findings inform my project.


  1. Pragmatics of WND

Discourse Theory, much like the Latin term ‘discurs’, is interpreted as a complex linguistic phenomenon. Narrative is a mode of discourse while the student classroom narrative defines a domain of discourse. Narrative discourse is historically interpreted through Speech Act Theory in communication studies as a socio-pragmatic praxis of phronesis, or use of practical wisdom (Bühler, 1934; Fisher, 1985; Jakobson, 1960). In current SLA narrative discourse research, communicative wisdom is investigated as a variable linguistic skill, techne, which must be re-conceptualized in each new language. For example, If the student doesn’t know how to write a narrative following a Bildungsroman structure, how can she achieve native accuracy in German WND production? Approaching SLA WND as both a linguistic task and a genre task makes the classroom domain linguistically and contextually critical to SLA.

An analysis of WND’s development in SLA studies shows early attempts at correlation of grammar with functions of discourse (Halliday, 1978; Sinclair & Coulthard, 1975) and more recent attention to interpersonal meanings beyond lexicogrammatical analysis (Martin and White, 2005). Current methodology trends towards a corporeal discourse analysis of teacher contextualization, task assignment and perception, and finally, student response; “What kind of interaction may bring about what kind of affordances for language learning?” (Huth, 2011) My findings for WND in SLA address the roles of artefacts (multimodality, metaphor), code-switching, and cooperative learning (scripting, repair and feedback).


  • Cohesion and Coherence as Properties of WND

In this literature review, I outline theories and methods that play a part in analyses of WND in SLA. The majority of research done on narrative in SLA follows the development of speech acts “taking an extended turn to tell a story (narration)” (Burns, Champion, de Villies & Pearson, 2012). Throughout this review, some SLA oral narrative discourse studies will be used to delineate ideas about WND analysis, but no textual or naturalistic studies are included. Historical approaches to discursive narrative analysis include the advent of microstructures, the cohesive links between sentences, and macrostructures at the level of thematic coherence and organization (Halliday & Hasan, 1976). ‘Thematic coherence’ takes a more functional approach to meaning. ‘Cohesion’ implies a formal linguistic distinction of appropriate negotiation of meaning, it is a Generative Grammar that “provides texture” (Wang & Guo, 2014). For example, because German language lacks a continuous tense, an English learner of German might lack cohesion in their narrative if they have not acquired the use of German adverbs to assign the aspect of an event as ongoing. (Berman & Slobin, 1994).  Halliday and Hasan (1976) suggest different cohesive devices for analysis of ND which resemble SLA stages of acquisition.[i] In their model, interlanguage variability of aspectual items create breakdowns in cohesion.

Systemic-Functional Linguistics (SFL) takes into account the cohesion of lexical and aspectual functions of discourse (Simon-Vandenbergen, 2014, as cited in Martin, 2016). The difference between the lexical grammatical aspect and the aspectual grammatical distinction mark two different but complementary frameworks in SLA studies – the Aspect Hypothesis (Anderson, 1986 as cited in López-Ortega, 2000) and the Discourse Hypothesis (Bardovi-Harlig, 1994). Discourse systems of foregrounding and backgrounding are functional systems that don’t rely on grammar alone (Bardovi-Harlig, 1995; Hopper, 1982; López-Ortega, 2000). The relationship of discourse and aspect recurs back on Vendler’s ranking of aspectual classes as the red thread between language and philosophy through discourse (1957, 1967, as cited in Vendler, 1980).

Halliday uses Vendler in his 2004 study about “the linguistic system as a whole” (3) during spoken narrative discourse. Halliday cites his 1970 study about systems of transitivity and ergativity, explaining that speaker involvement in a narrative as either the “Affected” or the “Causer” shifts the tense and the aspect, particularly in relationship to verbal morphology. I will reflect on narrator subject position in section VI, but am using Halliday’s study to contend that cohesion is determined both formally and functionally. Vendler’s ranking suggests that the aspectual category of ‘telicity’ has the highest level of complexity in discourse – the notion of experienced time as a determinus for morphology. Anderson (1991) also determines that acquisition of telic morphology follows acquisition of lexical time phrases, which he called the “Lexical Aspect Hypothesis”. Researchers Bardovi-Harlig and Reynolds (1995, 1998), López-Ortega (2000), Potowski (2005), Ramsey (1990) Salaberry (1999) and Wulston-Christianson (2015) look at aspect in foreground and background clauses to determine that lexical cohesion increases with SLA, following the order of the Lexical Aspect Hypothesis.

Studies that have disproven the Lexical Aspect Hypothesis, most notably the European Science Foundation’s longitudinal corpus, are often function-based rather than form-based (Bardovi-Harlig, 2000: 269). Looking at lexical aspect and verb morphology in WND against a backdrop of functional concerns like foreground and background, Flashner (1989), Ellis (1986) Givón (1983), and Verónique (1987) have mixed results about whether foreground or background verbs typically carry morphology. Likewise, in Hatch, Shirai and Fantuzzi’s 1990 study of interlanguage variability in narrative discourse, the grounding aspects are weighed against the time distinctions, but they conclude: “Tense cannot be described without reference to narrative structure and the goal of the storyteller” (Cohen, Gass & Tarone, 2013). Grounding principles (the background and the foreground information), lexical aspect and subject position are interdependent properties of cohesion in SLA WND.

Breakdowns in cohesion do not completely undermine coherence of the WND, meaning that there is a way to analyse WND beyond cohesion. Privileging a thematic discourse analysis, Widdowson’s 1978 Illocutionary Act Theory states: “In the case of cohesion, we can infer the illocutionary acts from the prepositional connections which are overtly indicated: in the case of coherence, we infer the covert prepositional connections from an interpretation of the illocutionary acts,” (Wang & Guo, 2014). “Coherence” emerges as a metalinguistic analysis of meaning which looks at “underlying functional connectedness” (ibid.) of written or spoken language. WND can be coherent without cohesion, which represents the success of universal grammar communication within a basic variety of morphology (Klein & Perdue, 1997). Underlying structural relationships of narrative story telling can be contributed to our pragmatic communicative capability as humans.

Evaluating coherence in SLA is both a socio-pragmatic and pragmalinguistic concern because linguistic actors are negotiating conversational goals (Mitchell, Mylers and Marsden, 2013 (henceforth ‘MMM’: 210). MMM note that one main goal of L2 pragmatics research is determining how far L1 pragmatic knowledge transfers over: is politeness register the same between languages? A challenge to investigating L2 pragmatics is the attainability of L2 pragmatic data, in which learners react to different social situations. One method here is the Discourse Completion Task, which is a written task requiring learners to appropriately respond to a given situation. This method is criticized because it does not take place in real-time – it is inauthentic (ibid.) To this end, significant attention has been paid to conversation within L2 pragmatics studies (ibid.).

Coherence in WND is understudied in SLA outside of its relationship with tense and aspect because of a contention about the validity of delayed response communication (ibid.). Written narratives created outside of the classroom (and read in the classroom) can be seen as a text, while SLA WND remains a discourse by virtue of its statements made in conversation with the task (Foucault, 1969). Because classroom L2 WND requires a negotiation of meaning, the SLA written narrative remains in a discoursal form. The narrative line functions around the specific goals of the author, and in the context of SLA, the reader, too.

Leppänen and Kalaia (2002) assign this process of “story grammar” to linguistic autobiographies, examining them in the coherence schema of Propp’s Story Grammar Analysis (1968, as cited in Pavlenko, 2007): setting, initiating event, character’s internal response and plan, character’s attempts to solve the problem, consequences. Following this narratological line, Labov’s High Point Analysis is applied to SLA NWD by Rintell (1990): presence and non-presence (abstraction), orientation, complicating action, evaluation, and a resolution. Mann and Thompson (1987) also take a functional approach with Rhetorical Structure Theory, suggesting that narrative discourse can be simply divided into nuclei and statellite statements. Maeno (1995) uses stanza analysis on L2 narrative prose. These coherency studies account for the dialogical processes of positioning the self in an L2, though other frameworks of analysis also claim to do so.

Considering learners’ own positionality as a property of SLA NWD has inspired analysis of discourse to the extent of Subject Positionality, Life Reality Positionality and Text Reality Positionality (Pavlenko, 2007). In each of these three endeavours, emphasis is directed to either the subjective sphere, the socio-political sphere and the narrative value sphere. By thematically coding SLA narrative discourse, themes from each category are highlighted. Advantageous to this method is the thematization of SLA experiences and therefore themes that are important to learners. For example, Menard-Warwick (2009) points out the life reality and subjective experience of gender norms within SLA. These resources create visibility for key issues in learner experience. A textual reality example of this is Francheschini’s 2003 study of Turkish immigrants in Germany: their textual nuance and subtleties increased significantly when narrating about her adulthood in Germany, as opposed to the more basic textual form her narration of childhood took on.

SLA NWD has formative and functional aspects that are interwoven. Analytic approaches to SLA NWD take cohesive and coherence approaches, which are bound together by rhetorical, linguistic and contextual L2 knowledge. Purely formal considerations of SLA NWD are not enough to analyse discourse, while purely functional analyses are not enough to measure SLA. SLA NWD is special because it represents a crossroads of subjective and linguistic development into another system of expression.


  1. Genre and Critical Language Awareness in WND

In her 1992 study of SLA and narrative writing, Hatch agrees with Halliday (1976) that narrative coherence is transferred from the L1 and must be learned again for the L2. For example, the American positions their narrative orientation at the front of the discourse (in the form of a thesis) while the German positions their orientation at the end (the analysis). Trained in school to write in these specific academic styles, German learners of English struggle with narrative formation due to conflicting communicative competence (Bagarić, 2007).

For one or two days per semester, “English Academic Writing (C1)” students at the University of Münster would demand a discussion about how thesis-based “inductive” reasoning became prevalent in American academic writing. I would explain to them that the American thesis-based writing is a relic of oral, political argumentative tradition, while the German purpose-based introduction is a relic of the philosophical, written tradition (Dahl, 2004; Mauranen, 1993). While reading American narratives in the following lessons, students would complain that American authors “auspacken” (“to give it up” in a manner similarly annoying to conveying too much personal information to an acquaintance) too quickly, and they lose interest. This cultural variation between “inductive” and “deductive” discursive style was so strong, that some of my students refused to write thesis-based argumentative papers in their bilingual subject courses. Hinds’ 1987 contrastive rhetoric approach would suggest that English is a “writer-responsible” language while German (and most others) are “reader-responsible” because the purpose-based model requires readers to reach the end before making conclusions. Mauranen (1993) suggests that discourse acts performed in oral and written narrative are culturally informed.

SLA NWD is a learned genre. Features that differentiate it between languages require the L1 narrative style to be considered during analysis in order to find, particularly, the coda. Coda is the meaning statement, the moral statement, approached by Hatch as universal to all narrative stories (1992), but this universality is debated by researchers of Hopi and Japanese narratives (cited in Hatch, 1992: Shaul et al., 1987; Matsuyama, 1983). Would educating learners about rhetorical function of L2 narrative heighten their discursive potential, or would it distract students from freely expressing their lived realities by imposing a structure?

Critical Language Awareness (CLA) of writing as a complex social act shapes writer identity, granting the writer social control over their expression (Ivanic, 1998). For example, the students in Münster noticed the use of thesis statements in “personal history” narratives of American university applications, and questioned whether this is a requirement for admission. Developed by Hawkins in 1984 and further by Fairclough in 2003, this CLA hypothesis suggests that students should “discover language for themselves” (Bolitho et al, 2003) before producing language. In the case of WND, teacher input includes the designing, presentation of and potential involvement in the student writing task. CLA in SLA “empowers learners by providing them with a critical analytical framework to help them reflect on their own language experiences and practices,” (Ivanic, 1997), essentially placing narrative at the heart of WND.

Janks discusses the implication of CLA on encouraging transformative action through student journals (1999). In her 2014 book Doing Critical Literacy Janks concludes that WND provides a platform for evaluating student awareness of socio-cultural orientation. Creating cultural contextual awareness proves to elevate the critical level of L2 narrative in English African American Vernacular (Dyson & Smitherman, 2009; Sweetland, 2006), heritage Spanish learners (Valdés, 2005; Leeman & Serafini, 2016; Parra, 2016; Reznicek-Parrado, 2014) and L2 learners (De Cock & Suñer, forthcoming; Campbell, 1990; Kramsch, 2009). During a seminar held between the UC Davis Department of German and Catholic University Louvain, Professor Suñer showed data suggesting that historical context facilitated the comprehension of metaphoric taboo expressions and increased depth of SLA NWD. Using contextual awareness to improve the level of ND is also accomplished by Professor Claire Kramsch.

Kramsch’s The Multilingual Subject (2009) uses studies of university student SLA narrative to discuss language learning and the development of subjectivity. At the end, there is a disclaimer that her students had been informed by a four-month term of multilingualism studies. Kramsch’s students’ awareness of potential SLA narrative depth and direction was culturally au courant, giving them a critical awareness of linguistic subjectivity. Even discourse analysts who have focused on subjectivity within SLA narrative (cited in Pavlenko, 2007: Granger 2004; Pavlenko 2003; Treichel, 2004; Yelenevskaya and Fialkova, 2003) had not exposed their classes to multilingual theory beforehand. My research group will, like Kramsch’s, come from a multilingual theory course, but my course will be taught in a common L2. I hope that their instruction in multilingual theory will allow them to narrow down, clarify and interpret linguistic experiences like in the case of Kramsch and Lam’s 1999 SLA diary narrators.

CLA provides a framework for implicit learning, which supports an input-based, emergentist cognitive model of SLA (MMM, 2013: 99). This contrasts conscious, elicit learning known in the Skill Acquisition Theory (ibid.: 139). CLA is particularly relevant to SLA NWD because it approaches language teaching as discourse teaching, rather than explicit grammar instruction. Kramsch and Suñer contribute NWD coherence and cohesion to conceptual systems previously engaged with during in-classroom context building. CLA underlines lexical, aspectual and discursive crossroads of WND to the extent that writing narrative is viable system for CLA (Svalberg, 2007). Svalberg cites that in preparation for L2 narrative writing, Jones (2001) exposed his Spanish learners to authentic and inauthentic oral narratives and asked them to notice differences. Likewise, this passive approach to teaching critical discourse was undertaken as an educational program in South African highschools, “in order to not agitate the already inflamed national psyche,” after the democratic revolution (Janks, 1996). Using Fairclough’s model of Dimensions of Discourse Analysis, CLA becomes a reciprocal process of ideological and social analysis unto narrative production that includes critical ideological and social discourse (Fairclough, 2003: 206). Task development in the framework of CLA uses and produces informed SLA WND.


  1. Code-switching and Conducting L2 WND

Targeted instruction towards narrative writing is one way to scaffold learners’ understanding of the task, but it does not represent the learner’s interpretation of the NWD task itself. This section looks to social-constructivist theories of SLA to understand the subjective experience of a NWD task; engaging the “reader-writer relationship rather than directly with the text” (Mauranen, 1993) Writers establish their identity by taking on a “stance” which is not encoded in language (Ochs, 1993). Negotiation of a social stance is particularly difficult for SLA NWD because they are presenting themselves in a context that is not their own. They may also lack awareness about how to position themselves in their desired manner. Addressing interlanguage phenomenon, like avoiding using a thesis statement, Hinkel (1997) shows that learners may choose to not accept the L2 culture because it threatens their reputation in the L1 culture. Rampton’s 2002 study of British learners of German suggests that ritualizing the contentious threat to face, in this case, the use of the imperative in casual speech, “bonds the class into a rite-like initiation,” (Kramsch, 2009). This transition between primary habitus and secondary habitus of a new language is applicable across educational settings. The question at the fore is: how can SLA NWD maintain personal integrity while abiding by new habitus?

Kramsch’s The Multilingual Subject draws on Kristevean notions of personal resignification in the L2. One could say that the Münster students who refused the thesis-based construction lacked the symbolic tactics to resignify, and were instead “hostage to an idealized cognitive model of the self” (ibid.: 117) based on the German language. Kramsch suggests that researchers have approached symbolic orientation in many different ways: attitude (Carroll, 1962; Spolsky, 2000), appraisal (Schumann, 1997), investment (Norton, 2000), enagagement (van Lier, 1996; Pennycook, 2001) and motivation (Dörnyei, 2001). The question of resymbolization and SLA NWD is posed most clearly by Kramsch: “How do they use the semiotic resources offered by their various symbolic systems? What intertextualities do they establish with their prioir discourses and how do they resignify or reaccentuate them?” (ibid.: 127)

The narrative is a conceptual map of our experience. In an SLA context, the SLA is inherently bilingual, with a chance and likelihood of multilinguality in a classroom. Because of this, there are various narrational positions available to the narrator, a circulation of cohabitating awarenesses. So, what happens to the learner when they are asked to narrate something in their L2 when they have experienced and remembered it in another language? This highlights the possibility of code-switching during NWD tasks as beneficial to the cohesion and coherence of NWD (Kramsch, 2009; Pavlenko, 2007).

Code-switching is an important linguistic resource with semantic and affective functions. Following the positive reasoning for task-based code-switching set out by Macaro’s 2001 article, using the L1 during complicated writing tasks accelerates their output process (Anton and DiCamilla, 1998; Kobayashi and Rinert, 1992; Friedlander, 1990), reduces memory constraints (Kern, 1994; Skinner, 1985), allows for contrastive analysis as a nuance within narrative recall (Butzkamm, 1998; Campbell, 1997), and contributes to the development of conceptual abilities and “encourages autonomy of expression” (Ministrè de L’Education Nationale, 1996). Codeswitching is a fundamental language skill (Hagen, 1992) that has been proven to benefit coherence and cohesion of SLA NWD.

The aforementioned studies record teacher’s intentional use of L1 with the learners, and also learners’ allowance of use of L1 with the teacher. A principle idea for L2 exclusivity, that is, that learners would have less exposure to target language (cited in Macaro, 2001: Cook, 1991; Harbord, 1992), is overcome by the idea that the L1 would trigger a deeper understanding of the task. The problem with looking at classrooms as divided into L1 and L2 is noted by Gramling as a “myth of monolingualism” (2016). If a teacher were to use the majority L1, this would still be imposing a framework of power on students’ whose L1 was not represented, while still depriving students of a lexical and syntactic framework for answering. In this heteroglossic context, the multilingual learner encounters the need to cohesively and coherently comprehend and create the NWD task.

As Odlin (1989) suggests, L1 forms used in L2 production may not meet the normative cohesion or coherence of narrative discourse. Odlin is cited in Kubota’s (1998) study of the transfer of L1 to L2 during writing tasks, finding that participants’ L1 and L2 morphological patterns were shared between languages. Using the L1 to scaffold production of L2 is investigated by Uzawa and Cumming (1982), also cited in Kubota, who claim that the L1 nuances were simply simplified to meet requirements of the L2 task. Beare (2000) and Carrington (2007) gave their students the allowance to use L1 in their narrative building, and then tracked student strategies. In both cases, students relied heavily on L1 during conceptual and rhetorical planning, but rearranged their rhetorical structures to create target-like L2 texts. Kobayashi and Rinnert (1992) and Cohen and Brooks-Carson (2001) discovered that early SLA made better use of direct translation, while more advanced students preferred ‘direct composition’ in the L2.

As concluded in Nassaji and Karim (2013), students’ success in L2 writing depends on their awareness of L2 rhetorical features, and the possibility to draft in L1 when they feel it is necessary because “learners need to be trained to discover strategies that work best for them.” Kramsch also suggests that “second language acquisition research strives to find ever better strategies for language learners to gain their own, autonomous space in the foreign language,” (119) and promotes students’ reflection on their own SLA NWD process.


  1. Corpus Linguistics, CMC and Potential of WND

Unlike the study of narrative as a text, SLA studies of WND see narrative writing by language learners as a discourse. Because the student is in constant communication with the teacher, NWD is a teacher-student discourse unlike spoken narrative discourse between students. Though significant research has been done on SLA oral narratives and SLA narratives as text, the contributions to SLA NWD are relatively slim. This is possibly due to more simplistic methods of testing rhetorical and linguistic accuracy, like with the Discourse Information Gap (DIG) and other shorter activities. Though oral narrative satiates the SLA desire to understand subjective experience of learners and allows conveyance of multimodal meaning, it is a less complex form of rhetorical and linguistic transfer than the written narrative. Attributes of NWD include greater deliberation and sophistication in nuance. NWD is, essentially, a greater body of knowledge about the language learner.

Coding narratives according to themes, rhetorical and linguistic trends, patterns and conceptual changes (Strauss & Corbin, 1990) allows the development of a functional corpus of SLA NWD. Corpus Linguistics as an analytical tool marks the arrival of competence-based performance data (MMM, 8). Jaworski and Coupland (1999) underline that a large corpus of WND qualitative, thematic research complements the quantitative corpus. Lee (2008), McEnery, Xiao and Tono (2006) call for corpus linguistics to augment their annotation systems to mark pragmatic features, which would allow function-based rather than form-based searches possible (Barron & Schneider, 2014). Function-based searches in NWD corpora would allow thematic subcategorization. This feature is used by corpora of spoken narratives, like in the USC Shoah Foundation’s tagging of themes within Holocaust (and other genocide) survivor narratives. Known as the “Visual History Archive”, the Shoah Foundation’s systematic classifications of multimodal discourse make it a significant project for oral narratives. NWD is included in the Narrative Corpus developed by the Heidelberg Corpus (Hendriks, 2005), the British National Corpus and the ICE-GB (cited in Rühlemann, 2015: Nelson, 2001; Rühlemann & O’Donnell, 2012). None of these include functional or thematic subcategories, but provide a database of research for further studies.

Likewise, CMC is a potential realm for gathering SLA NWD. This post-modern addition to the possibility of narrative discourse provides ample opportunity for collecting student-student samples. Garton (2012) suggests that teacher-fronted elicitation of NWD produces reactions of agency among learners, that they will purposefully reinterpret the project to match their own linguistic aspirations. Likewise, Hellermann and Doehler (2010) note the individual adaptation of tasks in student-student discourse pairs, suggesting that this type of co-construction produced more discourse than teacher-student interaction. Toth (2011) contends that student-student narrative discourse is better at solidifying known structures, while teacher-student discourse encourages students to grammaticalise. CMC also distorts the possibility of teacher-student NWD, because, in the case of blogs or Canvas chats, students are asked to engage in a public space, rather than personally. Kramsch (2009) suggests: “The displacement creates a physical space of disjunction that throws off his interlocuters.” (165)

Teacher-fronted SLA NWD exists in a unique realm of academic interaction with a focus on context, accuracy and reflection. By analysing SLA NWD, the context of a learner as a learner is forefronted in the narrative reflection, while the lexical-grammatical aspects are deemed important beyond merely the comprehension in student-student interaction. There is space in the SLA studies discourse for a corpus of NWD to be collected and marked according to cohesion and coherence, in order to balance attention between the subjective, socio-political and textual research being done.


  • Discussion of Findings

When taken together, this paper has provided an extended review of understanding how SLA narrative discourse works in the L2 classroom. These findings suggest that narratives represent a discursive practice between the learner, the target language, the target culture, their teacher and themselves. More specifically, the grammatical, lexical and other critical features of communicative competence have taken shape in the context of NWD. This paper has noted that teachers are an integral part to SLA NWD, but more important is student interpretation of the task. Thus, the structure of interaction between teachers and students via the task has been investigated. However, although a great deal of information has been learned about the nature of WND in the SLA context, more empirical research is needed. What follows are potential future research paths in this area as well as some sample research questions.

First, most of the research on SLA NWD has been carried out in L2 classrooms that focus on linguistic content. More research is needed to understand the nature of discourse patterns in content-based courses. Focusing on SLA NWD of advanced bi- and multilinguals could shed light on their process. Some research questions to be explored here include: How do high-proficiency learners participate in discourse with their teacher through narrative? What are the features of NWD in content-based courses as opposed to linguistic-based courses? Is this an argument in favour of CLIL?

Second, virtually none of the studies reported here have dealt with the question of how students’ ethnic backgrounds play in to their formation of foreground and background in NWD. Though alluded to by studies of Hopi and Japanese differences in narrative genre, the treatment of narrative as a universal reality seems problematic. The paucity of research regarding linguistic socialization into genre begs the question: How does the learner’s L1 factor in to narrative genre?

Third, there is a distinct poverty of discourse data for German learners. The PoLL and ESF longitudinal projects shed some light onto narrative progression in German, but these studies are not thematised for coherence. The abundance of literature on French, Spanish and English exists within the realm of romance languages, while other Latin-based languages with more complex casual forms are ignored. Given the relative difficulty of learning native-like German modality and mood, at what point in SLA does NWD become ‘advanced’? What marks an advanced German learner in NWD? Are there culturally specific writing conventions that should be taken into account?

Fourth, though CLA studies account for empirical investigation into in-class work and learner production of critically aware NWD, there is no work done about the contribution of whole-class discussions. Reserved primarily for smaller, seminar-style, content-based settings, CLA as a classroom discourse has room for exploration. A main question here is: do students gain more implicit information in whole-class or peer settings? How is multimodality advantageous to CLA? What is the best potential scaffolding for their abstract/symbolic competence?

Many studies engage how students perform narrative discourse in oral settings and

focus on specific patterns of interaction between discourse partners. They investigate the student’s positionality and acquisition level from a retrospective point of view. In my SLA NWD study, I want to focus on students as active reshapers/ resignifiers of their own language. I would like to use in-class experiences (in the L2) to facilitate NWD. To the end of CLA multimodality, I will look towards L2 cinematic expression as an authentic and affective way to deliver meaning.














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New Media as a Celestial Emporium of Benevolent Knowledge


New Media as a Celestial Emporium of Benevolent Knowledge

Erin T. Altman

21 March 2013



Conceptualization of the nation-state has a geopolitical history in territorial definition. Defined by political borders, the nation-state is comprised of citizens and non-citizens. Regulated by national policy, national education systems, economy and (other state regulation), citizens and non-citizens have specific experiential boundaries within the nation-state. Fast-forward to the 21st-century, introduction of the Internet increased rapid global communication. Uniting experiential differences with cross-border commonalities, the institution of “New Media” allowed life spheres once bounded by the nation-state to thrive in a global community. In this vein of rapid and broadened communication, does New Media undermine political hegemony?

An epoch of globalized knowledge has intrigued geographers and political philosophers alike. The Internet’s spectrum of information is mediated by the formalized interest in communication studies, and reaches a point of practical convergence in the field of Communication Geography. Beginning through the discourse of globalization under the Association of American Geographers’ ‘Geography of the Global Information Society’ in the late 1990s, Communication Geography now represents phenomenal points of geographic and political intrigue. Dissemination of knowledge over a non-physical space indicates a differentiation in geopolitical power from that of the post-modern age of print media. The epoch of New Media signals a revision in philosophies of communication, geography and power.

New Media’s relationship with the Internet is a viral one; increased access to the Internet and subsequent Internet enlargement are aspects of New Media’s definition of being ‘new, unregulated content’ (Lister, 2003). Inexorability of New Media has gained the attention of geographers and political philosophers, situating the Internet as an entity ‘without boundaries, without limitations, except through state regulation of media.’ (Lister, ibid). New Media is a broad representation of this exponential production of knowledge, unto a platform which is controllable only through governmental intervention with citizens’ freedoms to information. Content that faces scrutiny and regulation includes pornography, intellectual property, and anti-social movements. New Media’s ethical dimension calls in to question the moral biases, societal pressures and most importantly- political agendas in the globalized community.

The globalized community is defined in this case as those who have infrastructural ability to allow Internet access. Establishment of this ‘core’ and ‘peripheral’ relationship echoes the economic mapping of modern nation states, and substantiates the discussion about New Media geopolitical philosophy by outlining the actors. For the sake of giving primacy to New Media politics, rather than global inequities, the ‘Core’ represents those countries whose annual income per capita is higher than the annual cost of an Internet-capable device. Because of the significant difference in income distribution, it is unnecessary to determine the cost of this computer, rather the ‘peripheral’ countries can be outlined by those misfortuned by civil war, populations with 1/3 prevalence of HIV/AIDS, infant death above 50% and other development indicators outlined by the United Nations (2000). Geopolitical inactivity of ‘peripheral’ countries allows ‘core’ countries to enable the discourse surrounding New Media’s information society.

Positioning New Media as an ‘information society’ clarifies its internal discourse separate from that mediated by state-civil society relations. Bringing to light the state-civil society relationship as different from the global-New Media relationship requires the understanding of nation-states as maintaining hegemonic power. Given that the modern livelihood of any societal actor is defined by citizenship through state legibility (O’Tuathail, 1998), New Media represents a differing societal discourse in its allowance for society to remain anonymous from a hegemony. Signifying again the global, a-political aspect of New Media discourse, anonymity of expression is adverse to the legibility of print media. New Media’s exponential increase in communication, coupled with the significant transcendence of non-economic geographic borders, lends to an institution of power that is not the nation-state.

In defining the nation-state against New Media, there is a blatant primacy in their different situations of power (Hanafi, 2005). Reflecting on the resource struggle that established colonial relations, leading to modern-day borders of nation-states (Murphy, 2013), power is expressed over a given territory and over a given population. These two elements of capital, human and territory, suggest a physical embodiment to the nation-state. New Media, on another level, has no physical embodiment. Speculation by the Osmo Project (2008) about mapping New Media, so as to physically represent the ‘Geography of Internet Infrastructure’ proved to be a spatial model of network expansions. So to say, the map of New Media is impossible to represent cartographically, but does maintain a certain taxonomy of expansion. Using the Barbasi-Albert model of evolving networks, which was originally designed for the purpose of tracking military communications in the Second World War, Osmo Project represents the expansionary possibilities of the Internet as limitless. The geographies of nation-states remain steady until a phenomenon of upheaval, as opposed to New Media, which expands without physical boundaries. In the discourse of geopolitics, expansion is akin to power gains, because of the increase in territorial and human resources. Unlike geopolitics, New Media assumes no hegemonic desire for power. Given that geopolitics is etymologically relational- given the root of ‘politics’ in the Grecian division of men based on political affiliation- New Media is merely one actor against no others. Why, then, is New Media involved in the discourse of geopolitics, if it is not an inherently power-seeking institution, with no geographical territory, and with anonymity of societal involvement?

Describing the “constellations” of New Media as representative of globalizing forces, senior geopolitical philosopher Jürgen Habermas suggests that the communicative and geographic scope of New Media leads to political fragmentation. Habermas’s conversation about evolving identities and cultures within the nation-state are significant, due to their representation throughout the discovery of the Internet. Habermas recognizes the global forces of New Media as being overwhelmingly powerful of the nation-state; New Media’s transcendence of borders- omnipresence if you will- acts as a “cultural substrate of civil solidarity.” (Habermas, 2001.) Solidarity is used in Habermas’s conversations about changing geopolitical structures, to power lying increasingly in the hands of civil society, rather than with the state. Phenomenal separatisms highlight the increasing volatility of civil society’s solidarity, and are in a direct rebellion to the increased power of the state (Foucault, 1977). From the beginning of nation-state creation, the consolidation of internal power through citizenship and representation within a hegemonic vacuum has likewise increased the state-civil society bond. Foucault’s notion of rebellion in the face of increased power proves that civil society, although identifiable within the nation-state’s borders, begins to fraction. By centralizing the state hegemony, nation-states are disregarding the smaller substrates of civil society. New Media’s representation of these ‘cultural substrates’ encompasses the ability for members of global civil societies to communicate their alterity from the confines of state legibility- citizenship. This formalized understanding of New Media’s pressure on hegemony can be summed as a platform, which allows civil societies to communicate towards solidarity, which effectively fragments the consolidation of state power.

Defining the discourse of geopolitical theory in to the formal (theoretical), practical (implemented) and popular (societal) expertise, historian Paul Routledge has outlined the three analyses of New Media: the formal being the outside speculation, like this essay. The practical, being the regulated state policy regarding New Media. And finally, the popular, being civil society’s use of New Media. It is important to note here, that the popular is not a reaction to the regulation, but is a discourse within itself. Civil society is divided from hegemony of the state through the anonymity of New Media, which allows for the solidarity among actors. Expanding on solidarity as a popular discourse, the predictions of Habermas have become significant in the recent Arab Spring uprisings.

New Media gained an entirely greater geopolitical significance after the popular uprisings of the Arab Spring. University of Washington study, “The Project on Information Technology and Political Islam” (2011) quantifies the New Media traffic of popular democratic expressions leading up to the Tunisian revolution and subsequent Egyptian overthrow of President Mubarak. The study shows that conversations about liberty, democracy and freedom gained almost 80% of total viewership, and the taxonomy of expansion was proven through the civil society’s rebellion going viral between network clusters in just the week before any given Arab Spring uprising. University of Washington’s study is intriguing, because although touted as the ‘Arab Spring’, the uprisings had very little to do with each other. Egyptian feelings of tax oppression and Tunisian desire for furthered reputation did not exist within the same network clusters, yet the New Media usage patterns were parallel.  Leading the study was Professor Phillip Howard, who claimed that it was not a regional movement, but ‘circumstantial evidence of New Media’s ability to insight solidarity.’

More intrinsically, the solidarity of the New Media movement in the Arab Spring was through the creation of online communities and use of forums. Enabling civil society debate to occur outside the sphere of physical interaction within the state, New Media gave rise to less-geographical, more-ideological communities. In an interview with Egyptian friend and colleague, Omar Hagrass, who took part in both the ‘freedom-blogging’ and Egyptian uprisings, the interconnection between separatist groups through New Media was shocking; not only had Egyptian Computer Scientists created network clusters to divert state attention, but the networks created communities among separatists from the Zapatista movement in Chiapas, Mexico, and the Ulster Nationalist movement in Northern Ireland, United Kingdom. Described by renowned author Benedict Andersen as an ‘imagined community’, the New Media networking done by Egyptian, Mexican and Irish separatists had nothing to do with personal relationships, but instead an imagined kinship in their cause. (1991) Andersen’s prediction of globalized communication as a means to develop a certain consciousness away from that of the traditional nation-state oriented map is congruent with Habermas’s understanding of solidarity between civil society actors as a weakening of the state. New Media becomes a vehicle for shared experience, despite the geopolitical setting.

The anti-geopolitical use of New Media is concurrent to the post-Soviet evolution of geographic theory. Known formally as ‘critical’ or ‘feminist’ geopolitics, the movement for recognition of the intricacies of civil society dominate discourse and shed light on the access to shared experiences. Assuming that the state creation of citizenship creates an empirical definition between one group and another- effectively ‘othering’ them- shows the consolidation of state power in the territorializing of its’ citizens.  This power dynamic is known as the ‘Logic of Alterity,’ which suggests that unified identities are inevitably the hierarchical power. (Isin, 2007. Arendt, 1958.) The Logic of Alterity maintains that subdivision in civil society is seen as ‘wrong’ because of its implied danger to the normative power. The bond between state and civil society consolidations of power are approached monolithically from a macro- to micro-scale. As suggested by New Media’s increased capacity for communication, the state-civil society power is weakened in its normatively unbound allowance for subdivision.

Practically speaking, subdivision in society is increasingly unavoidable with ever-increasing flows of immigration, ideas and innovation. Subdivisions could be ignored, like in the extreme case of fascism, or subdivisions could be embraced under greater state regulation. In the case of the Arab Spring, subdivisions were stifled; New Media was blocked on Internet servers, or Internet itself would be entirely cut off from an area. When this occurred during the Palestinian riots for statehood from Israel in early 2012, the international reaction became an official UN movement towards the ‘Right to Internet Access’. Beginning in 2003, upon the introduction of a knowledge-based economy in Great Britain, the Internet became institutionalized by UN members as a significant expression of freedom. Pressure towards sanctions by the German and French governments (and later acting as leaders in the 2012 vote for Palestinian statehood) depicted a civil society subdivision that was actually favoured by the Social Democratic party leaders. German and French states had seen 8-15% more Palestinian refugees since the upswing in Israeli-Palestinian conflict in the mid-1990s (Human Rights Index, 2005), and despite their non-citizen status of asylum, their voices were clearly present in the decision of French and German ministers to the UN. Despite Palestine having the infrastructural and income capabilities for Internet access, Palestinian refugees were unable to connect to their families in a time of crisis, creating a heightened solidarity around immigrants and New Media discourse.

This hegemonic representation of a non-state civil society is based in the power of New Media itself. As a tool not only for the civil society actors, the state uses New Media to analyze changes in society, which could lead to possible separatism or other fractions of state power. Using New Media as a regulatory mechanism, the German and French governments issued an official Eurobarometer forum on the UN’s ‘Right to Internet Access’ (2011). The Eurobarometer, as the official European Union mediation of member states’ citizens’ feelings towards policy and livelihood, is a vehicle for the maintenance of relations between the state and civil society. The European Union (EU) is a supranational regional power, with a doctrine of supremacy over specific member state policy and is exactly the type of burgeoning power that Foucault described as piquing rebellion (1977). Foucault’s description of heightened power leading to heightened rebellion was a founding anti-geopolitical argument; the European Union stifles rebellion through institutions facilitating power-civil society discourse, such as the Eurobarometer. In fact, in an effort to reduce waste, the EU cut all publically distributed paper materials from its budget- leaving only one vehicle of representative democracy (outside of the national legislatures)- New Media.

Presence of the EU in New Media supersedes any other governmental body, because of it’s expansive “The EU and You” section for forum, information and response. Provided in all 27 recognized European languages, as well as Norwegian, Mandarin, Arabic and Japanese, “The EU and You” is a vehicle of power consolidation through civil society connection (Lister, 2003). This use of New Media by a regional economic hegemony is telling of New Media’s coalescence of communities that that never existed before. If we assume that interest in the EU’s New Media campaign comes from the representative desire from these member states, can we also assume that the representation is being fulfilled?

In the case of Palestinian representation to the UN, Germany and France had already written the ‘Internet as a Human Right’ proposals before the Israeli stripping of Palestine’s Internet access. To this extent, the leading question in the Eurobarometer poll read, “Does freedom to access and contribute to the online community part of your rights to expression?” (personal translation,, 2012). Charged with the vernacular of ‘freedom’, ‘contribution’, ‘community’ and ‘your rights’, the Eurobarometer poll had a suggestive slant towards the affirmative. Upon solicitation of the UN for Internet rights, the EU’s New Media campaign expanded to include open access to textbooks, learning tools for production, and other knowledge-based constructions of European hegemony. Recognizing New Media’s potential for a vehicle of neoliberalism, the EU uses the Internet to distribute ‘Western’ ‘knowledges’ under the guise of open access to information towards a emboldened economy (Cooke, 2004). Nuancing the core-periphery status of nations within and outside of the western ideological constraints, the EU is using New Media to create an ideological hegemony.

New Media’s ability to expand communication across multiple geographical confines is seen as both a tool and threat to state-civil society relationships. Established so far, New Media is a supragovernmental concept, which causes state-civil society distress because of the anonymity of its exponentially increasing character. New Media is also seen as a community-building tool, which can provide democratic reflection on society, amongst a wider group of people. This democracy, though, has established a new ‘core’ and ‘peripheral’ structure- beyond that of economic difference, although beginning with it. New Media’s discourse is essentially a Western phenomenon (Cooke, 2004). The Internet, begun by economic forces like any other modern capitalist endeavour, is also perpetuated by economic forces through payment for its access (on a device) and use. The specifics of the Internet’s existence through the capitalist market, and with the largest servers (Cisco Systems) and largest domain providers (Google, Apple, Yahoo!, and others) being traded publically, does New Media exist within a predominant power structure of the economy?

The impact of economic distribution of New Media access, through either personal access or promotional capabilities, creates a symbiosis between civil societies, the state and the outlying force within them- capitalism. New Media presents an epoch to this relationship, though, in its force of mediation between geopolitical economic disputes. In this vein, New Media is a disruptive force to the history of trade war and commoditization of political relations, because of the anonymity of online economic actors. The financial industry, comprising over 85% of the British Gross Domestic Product, is almost entirely mediated by New Media forecasting and broadcasting (Rowe, 2013). Global Stock Exchanges use the medium of New Media to freely express geopolitically important resource abundance and exchange value. Intrinsic relations of the very essential definition of power- resource security (Murphy, 2013) and the power of New Media access have made those who hold it increasingly more powerful than before.

In a World Systems Theory analysis of the access to New Media, author Mark Graham suggests that the ‘core’ and ‘peripheral’ economies will no longer be defined by income per capita, but rather by their participation in “democratic, capitalist endeavours” (2011). With a strong New Media bias in favour of the democratic system, which promotes and perpetuates a capitalist society, the ‘core’ expands and the ‘periphery’ becomes now a ‘gap’ (et al.). New Media’s perpetuation of dominant capitalist and Westernized communication has created a perilous ‘gap’ between participating countries- and those who do not subscribe to capitalist or democratic idealism- such as Russia, North Korea and greater Africa. Taken on as a practical policy by the United States’ New Rule Association (2005), the ‘gap’ was described as former President George W. Bush Jr. as a, “threat to democracy”. Could it be, that actually New Media is a threat to states that do not so well mediate their civil societies? Or, is New Media just neoliberalization mechanism that is addressed as transnationally important?

The epoch of New Media symbolizes a change in the discourse about communication, geography and power. As a tool for consolidation of both state and civil society power, and as a mechanism of mediation between the two, New Media allows greater flows of knowledge and communication. New Media does not stand without a greater influence, though. Creating a symbiosis between the geopolitical economic sphere and the civil society representative sphere, New Media allows relations to form beyond the control of hegemonic power, but within the influence of it. As seen by the undertakings of both civil society actors and governments, the influence of New Media is strong upon society, and society’s participation in it gives access to the Western powers of knowledge and capital.


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