"Turns" of the Century: Remapping the Turning Points of Germany's Twentieth Century

German Studies Graduate Student Conference
Cornell University: March 28-29, 2008
Keynote Speaker: Lutz Koepnick, Washington University, St. Louis
Plenary Speaker: Patrizia McBride, Cornell University

To write twentieth century German history is often to locate a "pre" and a "post," a cause and an effect, in short: a turning point. But perhaps the topography of these particular moments has not been sufficiently charted. As Martin Heidegger once commented, "the turn [Kehre] essencing in the event is the hidden ground of all other subordinate turns, cycles, and circles—obscure in origin, unquestioned, readily taken as 'ultimate' in their own right…" If we are then to question the nature of the "turn" as a condition of radical change, what are we to make of the alleged turning points in twentieth century German life? Historically framed: Where do we locate these turns—1900, 1914, 1945, 1989? Does Germany's twentieth century begin before or behind these well-documented dates? When and why did its century end? Do residual narratives in German Studies provide us with an understanding of the significance of these turning points? As a question of hermeneutics, this discourse lends itself toward an investigation into the various turns in modern intellectual history, including those linguistic, ethical, theological, and psychoanalytic. And not to be overlooked are the turns toward new forms of mass media and technology which have had a profound effect on the individual's perception (and reception) of the events of this past century. How do we situate the relationship between these methodological and technological turns and the respective moments in time to which their points of origin correspond? To summarize: What exactly is turning in these turns? We invite varied responses to these questions, as well as further reflections on the nature of the "turn" as can be traced along fault lines of literature, philosophy, or historiography.

As possible points of departure, paper topics might include, but are not limited to:

- Narratives of "Fin-de-siécle" modernism
- World War I and/or the fall of the Austro-Hungarian Empire
- The aftermath of 1945
- Construction and destruction of the Berlin Wall
- Formation of the European Union
- The "Wende" of 1989 and the fall of communism
- End of the 20th century
- Hermeneutic turns or Kehre in twentieth century philosophy, psychology, and sociology ( e.g. Heidegger, Freud, Weber)
- Turns as "Events" in contemporary theory (Badiou, Deleuze, Derrida)
- Artistic transitions from Dadaism to Expressionism to Neue Sachlichkeit and everything in between, and before or after
- New approaches to feminism in the modern German canon
- The "Turkish turn" in contemporary German literature
- The 19th century's turning into the 20th century, e.g. Benjamin and his Passagen-Werk
- Media, young and old: film, radio, television, internet, and digital media
- Nazism's origins and legacies
- Turning toward the US: Americanization in German culture and politics
- Cycles and events in the life of the DDR
- The rise of critical theory: Frankfurt School, before and beyond
- Re-turns to Marxism

Please submit an abstract of 250 words or less no later than January 10, 2008 to Ari Linden at [log in to unmask]. Abstracts must include a cover letter with the author's name, title, affiliation, telephone number and email address. Presentations are to last 20 minutes and must be in English. Submissions are accepted from graduate students only.

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