UW Germanics Graduate Student Conference (April 7-8, 2005)
"Magic, Mystery and Metaphysics: Ghostly Knowledge
and the Discourses of Rational Thought"


Habe nun, ach! Philosophie,
Juristerei und Medizin,
Und leider auch Theologie
Durchaus studiert, mit heissem Bemuehn.
Da steh ich nun, ich armer Tor!
Und bin so klug als wie zuvor [...]  (I.i.1-6)

In the famous opening lines of Goethe's Faust, Act I, the protagonist expresses
his frustration with traditional sources of knowledge: he is unsatisfied with
what science and scholarship can give him.  Famously, he makes a pact with the
devil in order to achieve a very different kind of knowledge.  Others have
looked for less diabolical ways to achieve a knowledge not provided by
scientific observation or rational analysis: they consulted the stars to see
into the future, they sought out the advice of wise men and women, or they
interpreted omens and signs.  This conference will look at the various
metaphysical, magical or mystical sources of knowledge that human beings have
turned to through the centuries because Western rationalism did not satisfy
their curiosity, or because they were looking for alternative or even
supplemental modes of thinking.

Looking primarily at literary texts, some of the key questions that this
conference aims to address are: Who is regarded as "knowledgeable" or as "wise"
- and what kind of knowledge does he/she have?  What does the fact that
femininity is often associated with irrationality, with a greater sense of
intuition imply - for women, for men, and for the conception of knowledge in
general?  How can this "other," non-rationalistic knowledge be accessed?  Do
you have to make a pact with the devil, drink a magic potion, read the stars,
or travel to a magic place?  How do the metaphysical, the magical and the
mystical manifest themselves?  What is their relation to the "real" world?  How
is this "other" knowledge regarded within the text?  Is it portrayed as some
kind of madness, or is it privileged over a knowledge derived through
rationalism and science? Is there a hierarchy of different kinds of
"knowledges"?  What role do class, gender and ethnicity play for this
hierarchization?  How is the relationship between the rational and the mystical
theorized at different times or by different figures?  How does this "other"
knowledge relate to discourses of rational thought?

Possible topics include, but are not limited to:

- prophetic figures: soothsayers, wise men and wise women
- superstitions, prophetic dreams, visions, seances, signs and omens
- historical movements like Mesmerismus, Spiritismus, etc.
- magic, the occult, the supernatural and the paranormal, ghosts
- the devilish and the demonic
- female intuition; gender and knowledge
- magical places; magical times

Monika Fick (RWTH Aachen)
"Die andere Wahrnehmung. Sinnesphysiologie, Spiritismus und Moderne - am
Beispiel von Przybyszewski, Rilke und Benn"

Please submit an abstract proposal of not more than 250 words for a 15-20
minute presentation, with a separate cover sheet indicating your name, your
contact information, your home institution, your area of study, and the title
of your paper by JANUARY 18, 2005 to the following address:

Graduate Conference
Department of Germanics
340-C Denny Hall
University of Washington
Seattle, WA 98115

Or send it as an email-attachment to Heidi R. Tilghman:
[log in to unmask]

For more information, go to the conference website:

If you have any other questions, email Amy Emm: [log in to unmask]

Organized by Amy Emm, Dacia Christin, Geoff Cox, Ileana Irimescu, and Viktoria

The German Studies Call for Papers List
Editor: Stefani Engelstein
Assistant Editor:  Meghan McKinstry
Sponsored by the University of Missouri
Info available at: