Michel Houellebecqs Roman Soumission: (K)eine Legitimierung der Literaturwissenschaft
The present article examines Michel Houellebecq’s novel Soumission (Submission, 2015) with reference to the special role played by the study of literature in today’s society and the various tasks it needs to fulfill. The story reveals a crisis surrounding literary studies seen through the eyes of its protagonist François, himself a professor of literature at Paris III. The crisis becomes palpable through professors who are merely concerned with their own research projects while ignoring any political or social changes. With respect to the next presidential election in 2022, the academic elite is portrayed as idiosyncratic, isolated and indifferent. Thus Soumission can be regarded as an overall criticism of universities and a threatening future scenario of literary science. Nevertheless, beyond Houellebecq’s fictional world, the controversial response following the novel’s reception clearly demonstrates a need for this branch of science and may even be seen as an appeal for literary studies to become more involved in public discussion.