About the presentation:
This presentation outlines the argument of my PhD thesis, which examines three critically acclaimed western European novels published around the turn of the twenty-first century in terms of literary genre. These novels are Dora Bruder (1997) by Patrick Modiano, Austerlitz (2001) by W. G. Sebald, and Sefarad (2001) by Antonio Muñoz Molina. I outline how each of these novels engages with difficult pasts of the twentieth century while adhering to a what might be conceived of as a post-Benjaminian code of ethics. This ethical approach necessarily foregrounds the narrative strategies of these novels and the figures of their narrators. In various consequential ways, each novel employs melancholy language and imagery alongside a figure of a narrator who is arguably cosmopolitan. I suggest that this ‘melancholy cosmopolitanism’ constitutes a genre of Western European memory fiction, whose subsequent influence on the circulation, translation, and canonicity of these novels my thesis aims to investigate, particularly in light of current debates on world literature and world literary value.

Ian Ellison is a second-year PhD student in comparative literature at the University of Leeds. His research examines melancholy aesthetics and cosmopolitan narrators in European memory fiction in terms of literary genre, investigating how this influences novels' canonicity, translation, and circulation. Having taught Modern Foreign Languages at secondary school level for several years, Ian completed his MPhil in European Literature at Bristol University in 2015. He also holds a BA in Modern European Languages from the University of Liverpool. He has been a member of the organisational committee for the National Postgraduate Colloquium for German Studies since 2015 and at the University of Leeds he teaches undergraduate modules German culture and comparative literature.