115th Annual Conference - Honolulu, Hawaii
Friday, November 10 - Sunday, November 12, 2017

Ein Dreieck, keine Gerade: Queer Time in Olga Grjasnowa’s Die Juristische Unschärfe Einer Ehe (2014)

Julia Koxholt, University of Illinois at Chicago

In my reading of Olga Grjasnowa's Die juristische Unschärfe einer Ehe (2014), I argue that Grjasnowa playfully “queers,” i.e. subverts conventional and normative notions of storytelling and lifestyle in form and content, as the work oscillates between  traditional modes and breaks with them. Grjasnowa challenges futurity and teleological modes, and instead depicts “queer” constructions of time such as nostalgia, an intensified focus on the present, as I will argue by drawing on works by Judith Halberstam, Heather Love, Lee Edelman, and others.

Proposal: 

Olga Grjasnowa was born in Azerbaijan in 1984, and her family relocated to Germany as Russian-Jewish quota refugees when she was 12 years old. She studied in Germany, Israel, Poland, and Russia, and has by now published three novels in German. In my paper, I will focus on her second novel Die juristische Unschärfe einer Ehe (2014), which depicts the relationship between Leyla, Altay, and Jonoun, who all are emigrants living in Berlin. Leyla and Altay are married as a strategy to escape their parents’ influence over their lives and to be able to live their homosexual and polygamous desires, and Jonoun becomes Layla’s partner for a while. In my reading of the novel, I argue that Grjasnowa playfully “queers,” i.e. subverts conventional and normative notions of storytelling and lifestyle in form and content, as the work oscillates between adhering to traditional modes and breaking with them. In doing so, she makes her readers aware of these conventions, expectations, and therefore invites us to reevaluate them.

Grjasnowa challenges futurity and teleological modes, and instead depicts “queer” constructions of time such as nostalgia, an intensified focus on the present, and offers an approach in storytelling that goes against teleological perspectives, as I will argue by drawing on works by Judith Halberstam, Heather Love, Lee Edelman, and others.

In this paper, I hope to show that while the work’s structure and content do not radically defy traditional, normative and binary notions of the novel or modes of living, sexuality, and partnership, they certainly make the reader aware of intrinsic issues by queering those concepts and offering alternatives. I argue that the novel, by means of queering linearity, makes a case for viewing identity and sexuality as fluid rather than stable and definable within categories.

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