Interview: What is literature? Author Ulrike Draesner on Literature and Writing

German Studies department chair, Klaus Mladek, interviews Max Kade Distinguished Visiting Professor Ulrike Draesner. The conversation offers a glimpse into the author's thoughts on the world of writing. 

As we celebrated the achievements of the German Studies community at the End of Year Party, we were sad to say goodbye to Max Kade Distinguished Visiting Professor Ulrike Draesner. Klaus Mladek's interview with Ulrike Draesner offers a glimpse into the author's thoughts on the world of writing. 

Read an excerpt of the interview below or listen to the entire conversation in our Podcast series German Beats.

What is literature?

Wow, such a small question to begin with! But, for me, literature is not black and white. Rather, literature is the individuality of a person. It is a place where one's unique and individual thoughts are formed, built, and put together.

Why do you write?

At the end of the day, I write because it is what I am able to do best. Writing is a place where I am able to bring my empathy and basic curiosity together. Writing brings together one's body and mind in the form of words. It is nourishment for the body and mind.

What is, for you, the relation between literature and the political?

In my opinion, I don't think any type of language is non-political. Every word has a history. Therefore, every word is political. Because an individual learns from the history behind every word, I think that literature is a rich source of knowledge on how people's bodies and minds interact.

What do you enjoy most about writing?

I enjoy the craftiness of literary invention. I feel I broaden my perception of the world through literature. The most beautiful aspect of writing is when a voice, a character, a poem comes to you. When this happens, I feel as if I am dissolved by what I am writing while at the same time, my writing is holding such an intense presence in my life. In these moments, I feel entirely present in my writing and with my mind and body, just without my ego. Reality and everything almost goes through me. My entire being and history is feeling this sensation. I get goosebumps.