German Studies Association Convention
October 7-10, 2010
Born, Again?: Birth as Origin, Sequence, and Rupture
Rhetorical uses of "birth" have long served as a key resource for discussions of order and origination in German religion, philosophy, and poetics. The language of birth, however, is always ambiguous, vacillating between a grounding lineage and a radically disjunctive force. Even the first born would always seem to originate in second place, as the next link in a signifying chain. At the same time, epigenetic theories of birth that gained credence at the turn of the nineteenth century transformed birth into an origin at once materially absolute and ex nihilo, and yet conditioned by the complex combinatorics of double parentage. On the one hand, therefore, the fact of birth confronts systems of position with endless transformations. On the other, it appears that at the heart of the logic of birth there lies an appeal to a singular conception of organic connection fundamentally at odds with iteration.
Critical work in the fields of poetics, psychoanalysis, and philosophy has begun to consider this uneasy tension inherent in the concept of birth as a potential resource of great hermeneutic significance. Elisabeth Bronfen emphasizes birth as a loss of physical connection that opens one to a symbolic inscription fiercely debated in psychoanalytic scholarship. In her late writings, Hannah Arendt emphasizes natality as the "fact of birth" that challenges an idealist --- and idealizing -- tradition from Hegel to Marx to Sartre that emphasizes self-creation. More recently, Artur R. Boelderl has articulated a vision of humanity oriented by birth into a community, while David Wellbery and Christian Bergemann’s edited collection has brought out the productive tension between birth as natural event and as artistic metaphor in authors from Winckelmann to Kafka.
This panel invites papers in which the complex nature of birth compels a reconsideration of the texts in which figures of generation play a central role.
Topics might include but are certainly not limited to:
self-production in German Idealism (Fichte, Schelling, Hegel)
sibling rivalry and the first born
representations of birth in literary works (Günter Grass)
natality as socio-linguistic concept (Arendt)
birth and biography (Kristeva)
feminist re-appropriations of traditional birth rhetoric
birth and theories of vitalism and its relation to re-conceptions of "life"
Please send a 300-word abstract to Stefani Engelstein ([log in to unmask]) and Jeffrey Champlin ([log in to unmask]) by February 5st.
Director, Life Sciences & Society Program
Associate Professor of German
University of Missouri
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T: (573) 882-9450 and (573) 884-6883
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The German Studies Call for Papers List
Editor: Stefani Engelstein
Acting Assistant Editor: Olaf Schmidt
Sponsored by the University of Missouri
Info available at: http://www.missouri.edu/~graswww/resources/gerlistserv.html