Reading Refugee Tales

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TU Chemnitz | Sommersemester 2024 Reading Refugee Tales

Reading Refugee Tales


Refugee Tales, edited by David Herd and Anna Pincus, convey a critique of the inhuman side of asylum seeking, refugeeism and indefinite detention, including the aesthetic terms. The critical tone of the tales' voices, told either by well-known writers after their interviews and conversations with refugees, detainees and asylees, or by the refugees and detainees themselves, is even more remarkable in the context in which they have been written: the tales go against the grain of the dominant discourse of flight, refugeeism and asylum seeking, as they employ a form of telling, walking and writing back to a centre that has ruthlessly enforced its boundaries. Thus, the tales enact a means of political intervention against the inhuman and unjust practice of indefinite detention in Great Britain.


Since the Refugee Tales project was inspired by Geoffrey Chaucer's Canterbury Tales, in this seminar, students will first read a few tales from Chaucer's tales to get engaged in the stories ideas: story-telling, pilgrimage, kaleidoscopic view on society. In a second step they will then embark on the three collections of Refugee Tales and read selected tales. Accordingly, students will address issues such as transnational migration, mobility, and the pre-flight and flight experiences of asylum seekers, detainees and refugees. In doing so, they will explore in which ways the experiences of adults and (un)accompanied minors – including a range of traumatic situations in their country of origin, the death or persecution of family members, war, forced recruitment and personal persecution – are depicted in these textual narratives. In addition to the close readings of texts, students will gain insights into various theories on citizenship, legal issues, and social and political approaches to asylum, refugeeism, as well as indefinite detention. Furthermore, they will learn the conceptual distinctions between literary genres such as the short story, life-writing and epic poem. If the situation allows, we will go for solidarity walks and tell tales.

Requirements for credits

Active participation in every session of the class is expected. Excursions will be organised.

Set Texts/Required Reading

Chaucer, Geoffrey, The Canterbury Tales. Transl. into modern English by Nevill Coghill. London: Penguin 2003.

Herd, David and Anna Pincus. Eds. Refugee Tales. Manchester: Comma Press, 2016.

Herd, David and Anna Pincus. Eds. Refugee Tales II. Manchester: Comma Press, 2017.

Herd, David and Anna Pincus. Eds. Refugee Tales III. Manchester: Comma Press, 2019.

A reader with seminal material will be provided at the beginning of the semester.



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