Call for Papers: Examining the Avant Garde
A Graduate Conference
October 16 and 17, 2008
Department of Germanic Languages and Literatures
The University of Michigan, Ann Arbor

A Unique Form of Continuity in Space…
              Cut with the Kitchen Knife…
                            Stripped Bare by Its Bachelors, Even..?

What is the avant garde?  Does it have an expiration date?  Peter
Bürger and others have argued that avant garde movements such as
Dadaism, Futurism, Constructivism, and Surrealism responded to and
broke with what was deemed a socially and politically detached art
establishment.  According to the avant gardes themselves, both left
and right, this brief period in the early 20th century was marked by
its revolutionary potential.  Through the performative language of
the manifesto and the radical mixing of styles and media, the avant
gardes articulated their positions on political modernity and
aesthetic modernism as acts of rupture and renewal.  Detached from
these specific movements, though, the term avant garde stands not so
much for a particular aesthetic engagement as it does for an inquiry
into art’s social function and political potential, an
acknowledgement of art’s historicity, representational and medial
experimentation, and the possibility of renewal.  In this conference
we propose to explore this extremely rich terrain called “avant
garde” by examining the genealogy and construction of the historical
phenomena and considering the possibility of vanguardist positions
now in the European context, with particular attention to the
German-speaking countries.

We invite graduate students from all disciplines to submit proposals
for 20-minute papers exploring the meaning, origins, and afterlife of
the avant garde, as well as its epistemological and critical
potential.  Possible topics include:
• The history and meanings of “autonomous” and “engaged” art
• Proto-avant gardes
• Reconsiderations of the historical avant garde
• The relationship between the avant garde, modernism, and
• Contemporary concepts of the relation between the aesthetic and the
• Neo-avant garde and counter-avant garde forms • Recuperations of the 
avant garde in contemporary art and letters
• Avant garde/vanguardism through the lens of gender, race, sexuality
• Avant garde, art-historical knowledge, and the processes of

Forward abstracts of no more than 300 words in English to
[log in to unmask] by July 15th, 2008.

The German Studies Call for Papers List
Editor: Stefani Engelstein
Assistant Editor:  Megan McKinstry
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