CFP: Alfred Döblin Conference (London) (8/31/06; 3/21-22/0

From:         Jane Lewin <[log in to unmask]>
Subject: CFP: Alfred Döblin Conference (London: 21-22 March  2007)

Alfred Döblin (1878-1957): Beyond the Alexanderplatz
A Conference at the
School of Advanced Study, University of London
21 - 22 March 2007

Confirmed keynote speakers: David Midgley (Cambridge), Helmuth Kiesel (Heidelberg)

Call for Papers
Alfred Döblin is one of the most famous, imaginative and prolific German authors of the first half of the twentieth century, and one of the most challenging. His place in the literary canon is assured by Berlin Alexanderplatz, itself a dense composite of wide-ranging allusions and technical innovation, but to base his fame on Alexanderplatz alone does little justice to his significance as a literary figure or to his work as a whole. His works engage with the decisive experiences of a turbulent era: the Kaiserreich, the First World War, Weimar politics and culture, and the problems of exile and return. His themes are the major themes of his times: war and revolution, technological progress, authority, the city, travel, dislocation, mythology, German-Jewish identity. He was at the forefront of literary innovation in the Weimar Republic: Die drei Sprünge des Wang-lun, published in 1915, was a landmark in Expressionist fiction. Most famously, his theory of epic in the novel anticipated and influenced the theatrical principles of Brecht. Although left-leaning politically, he stood at the centre of a remarkably broad network of Weimar authors, notably through his membership of the Literary Section of the Prussian Academy of Arts.
Interest in Döblin arises as much from his complexity as from his importance. In common with many avant-garde writers, his relationship with tradition was contradictory: a strong desire to conform counterbalanced his position as a trendsetter. On the one hand he introduced a global dimension into German literature with works set in China, India, Babylon and South America; on the other hand he wrote about Berlin, and about two of the major traumas of German history, the 1918 Revolutions and the Thirty Years War. Personally he struggled to find a settled political position in the Weimar years; his attitude towards his Judaism was ambiguous. He was intensely ambitious to gain an established place in tradition: on close inspection, his novels are not such arbitrary and accidental constructs as his theory might sometimes suggest, but complex realisations of his underlying conception of epic fiction, and no less deliberately structured than the Realist texts he claimed to oppose.
The popular reception of Döblin and his works during his lifetime and since has arguably not lived up to their importance. Many know (or know of) Berlin Alexanderplatz; few could name another of his texts. In academic circles, work on Döblin, although substantial, has lagged behind that on other Weimar 'greats', such as Thomas Mann, Brecht, Robert Musil and Joseph Roth. Fifty years after his death, this international conference aims to bring together a broad range of perspectives on Döblin's writings and to provide a showcase for new research on them.
We invite contributions in English or German on all aspects of Döblin's work, including, but not limited to, the following themes:
Please email abstracts of no more than 300 words for papers of 30 minutes to reach both conference organisers by 31st August 2006:
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Abstracts may also be sent by post to Jane Lewin (Döblin Conference), at the address below.
University of London School of Advanced Study
Room ST282, Senate House, Malet Street, London WC1E 7HU
Telephone: +44 (0)20-7862 8966 Fax: +44 (0)20-7862 8970
E-mail: jane.lewin

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