Call for Papers
Elective Affinities: Goethe, Literature, Science

Fifth Biennial Graduate Student Conference in German Studies
Department of German and Romance Languages and Literatures
Johns Hopkins University

December 5-6, 2008

"Es ist eine Gleichnisrede, die dich verführt und verwirrt hat…hier wird freilich nur von Erden und Mineralien gehandelt, aber der Mensch   ist ein wahrer Narziss: er bespiegelt sich überall gern selbst; er legt sich als Folie der ganzen Welt unter." (Die Wahlverwandtschaften)

Drawn from chemistry, the title of Goethe's 1809 novel Wahlverwandtschaften refers to the potential of unpredictable separations and realignments, the stability or fragility of both chemical bonds and human connections. The novel could be read as lab notes to an experiment in catalyzing interpersonal shifts which occur when new encounters disturb an equilibrium. This exploration of the realm of science and experimentation is evident throughout Goethe's oeuvre and becomes articulated in his literary writings. Conversely, in becoming text, these experiments develop significance well beyond the laboratory, and contribute to the continuing fascination and broad scholarly involvement with Goethe as recent works in the poetics of knowledge have shown.

By using a variety of approaches and sources, this conference seeks to investigate the perspectives and intersections of Goethe's entire literary and scientific oeuvre, as well as that of the era which came to be named after him. How is his universalizing approach relevant today, e.g. in contemporary scholarship or in educational debates? How do Goethe's experiments and scientific writings help us situate his work within the history of philosophical thought and literary practice? How are Goethe's own experiments reflected in his literary work and how do they inform his literary production? How do these experiments and connections gain new meaning through writing and being written?

Keynote Speakers: David E. Wellbery (University of Chicago) and Eckart Förster (Johns Hopkins University)

Possible paper topics could explore, but are not limited to, the following "elective affinities:"

-  Goethe on Bild, Bildung, Bildungsroman, Einbildungskraft, Nachbildung
Natur, Naturdichtung, Naturphilosophie, Naturwissenschaften in the Goethe Era
Goethe in relation to his contemporaries
Universalizing approaches (e.g. Nationalliteratur versus Weltliteratur, Bildung)                    
Symbol, metaphor, morphology
Idea, image, Urphänomen
Protoscience, pseudoscience, the future of science: Goethe as alchemist, magus, prophet
Narrative science, science of narrative – before, in, and after Goethe

Please send a one-page paper abstract in English or German by September 18th, 2008 to [log in to unmask].
For further information, refer to the conference webpage:
For any questions, please contact the organizers:
Doreen Densky ([log in to unmask]) and Tove Holmes ([log in to unmask]).

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