Themes 2018

(Un)Happy Love – A Tangled Web of Happiness. Narrative in Literature and Film

What is the art of love all about – and the love of art? What is the wider appeal of passionate attitudes to life? The European Literature Days 2018 focus on the theme of love in real life, how we react to this theme in novels and films, as well as the passion for books and films, those subtle pleasures that help us overcome boredom.

Never were so many images produced, and never was so much written as in our present digital world. But when do we choose books, or go to the cinema; when do we stream films at home – and how do we respond in each case? Which screen images and plots affect us emotionally? Why and how do they do this, and why are we indifferent to other genres? Why does a book or film inspire us to adopt new attitudes? Why can fiction and fantasy motivate us more than rationally comprehensible events and ‘true’ news stories?

In the age of wall-to-wall use of the media, literature has not lost its magic. Every culture needs storytelling as a point of orientation, to develop and not to implode. In a similar way to literature, film has made available such narratives for a long while – this explains the attraction of literature and film. Both genres show that there are no guaranteed true stories, although they still offer orientation because they approximate reality. An idea of truth lies behind the transformations and artifices of literature and film and their play on facts and fictional accounts.

To trace the magic of literature and film, the European Literature Days 2018 invite reflections on the different narrative approaches of these genres. To what extent do literature and film control our emotions differently? Peter Weiss summarized the difference between image and language: visual images reveal pain and language explains its underlying causes. Is this an accurate summary? Is his idea of writing as a process of doubt and contradiction also a suitable description for these genres?

What emotions do short stories, novels and films awaken in us? What is the difference between a written narrative and one based on moving images? Which narrative techniques are employed in literature and which techniques matter in film? What makes literary texts inspire a film version? How do films influence writing? Where are the transitions between usually collective film productions and the highly individual process of writing?

Literaturhaus Europa in cooperation with Kino im Kesselhaus Krems and Drehbuch Forum Wien


The Law of the Series

Another area of specialist interest is a unique aspect of narrative in literature and film: the law of the book series or film sequel. In the entertainment industry, this law recently took precedence when it comes to innovation. When J.K. Rowling’s manuscript for the first volume of Harry Potter was turned down two decades ago by more than twenty publishers, it was an accepted principle that literature has no impact for groups of young readers. Indeed, series of published novels were said to have zero marketing potential.

Nowadays, the ‘law of the series’ is an accepted strategy worldwide, regardless of media and formats, with a target audience of consumers aged under 25. The biggest blockbusters and bestselling hits of the last decade were all book series – from Stieg Larsson’s Millennium to Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight Saga and Suzanne Collins’s The Hunger Games to E.L. James’s Shades of Grey. The American cable channel HBO, as well as streaming services like Netflix or Amazon, developed a business model for series formats that is an emerging competitor for Hollywood and increasingly challenges its commercial foundation. However, aside from the major English language markets, a Danish blockbuster hit series and successful series formats from Norway or Austria, from Skam to Borgen and the Vorstadtweibern, became popular far beyond the borders of their original countries and fan communities.

Is the series a cornerstone for new ‘modern’ storytelling with a wide spectrum from trivial to trashy and highly sophisticated, or stories which evolve from the book version to TV hit, game and vice versa, and with commercial rich pickings? Are these series now the latest craze for fan communities in a variety of target groups, which use digital streaming, and social media that perfectly embeds the message for identified target groups? What are the cultural preferences and habits of such audience clusters? Do writers gain access to new fields of work, and their competitors as well?

Literaturhaus Europa in cooperation with Kino im Kesselhaus Krems and Drehbuch Forum Wien

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