When Kazuo Ishiguro was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 2017, the committee explained the prize motivation by stating that Ishiguro has, “in novels of great emotional force, […] uncovered the abyss beneath our illusory sense of connection with the world.” Ever since his debut novel A Pale View of Hills (1982), Ishiguro’s works have foregrounded characters struggling between the repression of painful memories and a process of remembering, between ignorance and the belief that they understand the world and know their place in it. Their illusion of connection with the world can often be traced back to narratives and convictions that they mistake for knowledge and that thus stand in for real understanding and knowing.

In this sense, different aspects of memory and the process of remembering are deeply entwined with Ishiguro's characters' sense of self and relation to the world. The theme of memory hence is an integral aspect of Ishiguro's oeuvre. His more recent novels shift the focus towards the acceptance and deliberate production of non-knowledge through state and social practices, placing particular emphasis on ethical questions of remembering and the ethics of (non-)knowledge. Ishiguro’s marginalised or subordinate characters thus struggle to find their place in a world they try to make sense of by constructing and interpreting their own life stories and surroundings.

In this course, we will take the committee’s slightly cryptic but well-phrased explanation as our point of departure for an exploration of Ishiguro’s powerful and complex novels. We are going to read, analyse and discuss his first novel A Pale View of Hills, Never Let Me Go and either The Buried Giant or Klara and the Sun. The final selection of texts will be announced in October. Together, we are going to explore these novels through the lenses of narrative ethics, the ethics of (non-)knowledge and reader-response theory, for instance. We will take into account concepts and themes such as memory and identity, genre and unreliability. Students are invited to suggest further topics and are expected to eventually construct their own approaches during the project phase towards the end of the semester.