Imaginary scenarios: Literature and Democracy in Europe


  • Odile Heynders Prof. Comparative Literature at Tilburg University, Netherlands
  • Sander Bax Assistant Prof.



The main focus in this paper is on the European public intellectual: literary writers presenting their critical ideas and imaginaries on society, and critiquing the (dis)function and (dis)agreement in politics. The concept ‘imaginary scenario’ will be implemented to investigate imaginative scripts and settings constructed by authors to visualize democratic structures, as such commenting on political and social events and ideas. Two European writers from different nation-states, the French M. Houellebecq (Submission) and the Portugese Gonçalo M. Tavares (Learning to pray in the age of technique) build their novels around a Vorstellung of how (future) individuals and people in power could act and speak. Similarities and differences in these author’s strategies and visionaries will be examined. The ‘imaginary scenario’ is based on Charles Taylor (2004) and Elena Esposito (2007), and as surreal-perspective evidently tells something about the experience of the present. Our claim is that these European writers have to be considered in a critical context beyond the save haven of autonomy: in their novels they address the reader as citizen and invite him to reflect on democratic practices. Thus, these European scenarists prompt us to reconsider what it means to live in the EU and to reflect on its political realities and perspectives. 


Adorno, Theodor W. Aesthetic Theory. Ed. Gretel Adorno and Rolf Tiedemann. London and New York: Continuum, 2002. Print.

Aubert, Jean-Louis. "Jean-Louis Aubert et Michel Houellebecq - Isolement [Clip Officiel]." Online video clip. YouTube. 19 Feb. 2014. Web. 5 June 2016.

Brunnée, Jutta. "International Law and Transnational Terrorism." Iacobucci and Toope 101-11.

Buruma, Ian. Murder in Amsterdam: The Death of Theo van Gogh and the Limits of Tolerance. New York: Penguin, 2007. Print.

Esposito, Elena. Die Fiktion der wahrscheinlichen Realität. Frankfurt: Suhrkamp, 2007. Print.

Esposito, Elena. "The Reality of the World and the Realism of Fiction." Manipulating Reality: How Images Redefine the World. Strozzina, n.d. Web. 5 June 2016.

Felski, Rita. Uses of Literature. Malden: Blackwell, 2008. Print.

Habermas, Jürgen. Europe: The Faltering Project. Trans. Ciaran Cronin. Cambridge: Polity, 2009. Print.

Hansen, Randall. "After Paris: Liberalism, Free Speech, Religion, and Immigration in Europe." Iacobucci and Toope 3-13.

Heynders, Odile. Writers as Public Intellectuals: Literature, Celebrity, Democracy. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2016. Print.

Houellebecq, Michel. "Der Tod ist nicht auszuhalten." Interview by Iris Radisch. Die Zeit 23 Jan. 2015. Web. 5 June 2016.

Houellebecq, Michel, Submission. Trans. Lorin Stein. London: William Heinemann, 2015. Print.

Huxley, Aldous. Brave New World. 1932. York: Chelsea House, 2011. Print.

Iacobucci, Edward M., and Stephen J. Toope, eds. After the Paris Attacks: Responses in Canada, Europe, and around the Globe. Toronto: U of Toronto P, 2015. Print.

Jeffery, Ben. Anti-Matter: Michel Houellebecq and Depressive Realism. Winchester: Zero, 2011. Print.

The Kidnapping of Michel Houellebecq [L'enlèvement de Michel Houellebecq]. Dir. Guillaume Nicloux. Worso, 2014.

Orwell, George. 1984. 1949. New York: Harcourt Brace, 1983. Print.

Preston, Alex. "Submission by Michel Houellebecq Review - Satire that's More Subtle than It Seems." Guardian 8 Sept. 2015. Web. 5 June 2016.

Sartre, Jean-Paul. What Is Literature? 1966. Trans. Bernard Frechtman. New York: Philosophical Library/Open Road, 2012. Print.

Scahill, Jeremy. "'Circus of Hypocrisy': Jeremy Scahill on How World Leaders at Paris March Oppose Press Freedom." Interview by Amy Goodman. Democracy Now! 12 Jan. 2015. Web. 5 June 2016.

Taylor, Charles. Modern Social Imaginaries. Durham: Duke UP, 2004. Print.

Tavares, Gonçalo M. Interview by Pedro Sena Nunes. Trans. Rachel Morgenstern-Clarren. Bomb - Artists in Conversation 125.3 (2013). Web. 5 June 2016.

Tavares, Gonçalo M. Learning to Pray in the Age of Technique. 2007. Champaign: Dalkey, 2011. Print.

Toope, Stephen J. "Postscript: The Paris Attacks as a Turning Point?" Iacobucci and Toope 211-19.

Varricchio, Mario. "Power of Images/Images of Power in Brave New World and Nineteen Eighty-Four." Huxley 53-73.

Wolf, Werner. "Illusion (Aesthetic)." The Living Handbook of Narratology. Ed. Peter Hühn. Hamburg: Hamburg UP, 2011. Web. 5 June 2016.

Worton, Michael. "A Dog's Life (Poodles Excepted)." Guardian 29 Oct. 2005. Web. 5 June 2016.


Additional Files



How to Cite

Heynders, O., & Bax, S. (2016). Imaginary scenarios: Literature and Democracy in Europe. Pivot: A Journal of Interdisciplinary Studies and Thought, 5(1).