Exploring Environments: Ecocritical Approaches to German Literature and Culture
Department of Germanic Languages and Literatures, Harvard University
Graduate Student Conference
November 5-7, 2010

Keynote Speakers:
Lawrence Buell, Department of English, Harvard University
Sabine Wilke, Department of Germanics, University of Washington

Though ecocriticism has only recently gained prominence in academic
circles, its concerns have enjoyed a longstanding presence in German
literature and culture.  Indeed, nature, ecological stewardship, and a
concern with environment and space figure strongly within the German
literary tradition.  Medieval writers such as Hildegard von Bingen
portrayed nature as evidence of divinity on earth.  The Aufklärung
celebrated human control over nature: in Kant’s notion of the sublime,
nature, at its vastest and most violent, affirms human freedom.  A
decade later, Schelling and the Frühromantiker would go on to question
such subjugation of nature to human will.  The twentieth century saw
the rise of a new metropolitan environment, leading artists to
thematize the Großstadt in literature and film; at the same time,
Heimat literature reacted against urbanization and championed an
unbesmirched and primordial countryside.  Nazism racialized nature
with its “Blut und Boden” ideology. Since World War II, German
literature has reflected on the variety of changes in the environment
resulting from, among other factors, redrawn political boundaries and
global environmental crises.

This conference welcomes papers that address works from all periods of
German literature and culture from an ecocritical standpoint. While we
focus on the German-speaking world, our perspective is informed by the
“environmental turn” in cultural and literary studies that has been
especially prominent in English and American literature. How might
German Studies benefit from the analysis of narrated environments?
What benefits might arise from a dialogue between the environmental
analysis of creative works and the environmental understandings of
other fields, such as science and politics? In addition to
environmentalist criticism, how might place-based theoretical models
such as Foucault’s heterotopias, Agamben’s description of the
concentration camp, and Augé’s discussion of “non-places” contribute
to an ecocritical approach to literature?

Possible topics include, but are not limited to:
·         Environmental and Political Boundaries
·         Wilderness and Society
·         The Sublime in Nature
·         Nature/Place and Memory
·         Colonial and Post-Colonial Representations of Nature
·         The Urban Environment
·         Literary and Cinematic Conceptions of Home
·         Gendered Spaces
·         Environmental Crisis and Activism in Literature
·         Landscape in Literary Theory
·         Landscape in Film (i.e. Bergfilm, Heimatfilm, Berliner
Schule, Landscapes of War)

Abstracts of no more than 500 words to be submitted by August 15, 2010
to [log in to unmask]

Conference Chairs:
Seth Peabody, [log in to unmask]
Emily Jones, [log in to unmask]

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