Rosa Coppola

5A Literary Transcodifications/5
Session 5 – July 3, 11:00 – 13:00

Writing the Sound of Voices: On Hubert Fichte’s Poetical Ethnography

This paper aims to enlighten the ‘poetical ethnography’ experimented by Hubert Fichte (1935-1986) through a close reading of his intermedial works. Born in the former West-Germany, Fichte’s life is marked by the idea of the journey, both physical and spiritual, as evidenced by his reportage-cycle drawn up after his travels between South-America and Africa, where he interviewed people of liminal communities to discuss about everyday life, gender, sexuality, mental illness and ritual practices
The esthetical results of these journeys do not follow a single matrix; it crosses between science and art, ranging from the creation of literary reports to audio-visual materials. According to Fichte, transcoding means to stage the development of thought during the dialogue that is not only an exchange between two autonomous entities but also between different media. Following the motto «Schichten statt Geschichten» (Fichte 1974: 294) –
layers instead of stories –, during the interviews Fichte emphasizes the silences and ambiguities of other people’s thoughts, while during the rewriting process he works on an alienating montage that returns the spoken word in a form free from any hypostatization. Thus, in this sense the writing of orality becomes a poetical act.
Starting from these considerations, this paper will identify the individual stages of the research strategy developed by Fichte, i.e. the dialogue and the aesthetical rewriting of the experience, by analysing his most significant works, such as Die Palette (1968) and Psyche. Anmerkungen zur Psychiatrie in Senegal (1980), in
order to discuss how ethnology, meant as a discipline based on the writing of the spoken word (De Certeau
1980), can acquire a revolutionary value if carried out in the literary field.


Rosa Coppola graduated from the University of Naples “L’Orientale” in 2020 with the dissertation entitled “Der Elefant im Raum. Tensione politica e performance letteraria nella prosa di Kathrin Röggla”. Her research interests are in the field of German Studies, focusing on performativity and (inter)mediality in Contemporary Literature. In 2019 she was granted with a DAAD scholarship at the Institute for Theatre Studies of the Frei Universität Berlin. Since 2017 she has been curating translation and radio projects for the Goethe Institute Naples.