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Dear colleagues,

We would be pleased to receive offers for papers for the conference below.

With best wishes,

Prof. Ricarda Schmidt
Director of Postgraduate Research in ML
Department of Modern Languages (German)
College of Humanities
University of Exeter
Queen's Building, room 301
Exeter EX4 4QH
UK
E-mail: [log in to unmask]
Tel. (0044)-01392-26 4224


Constructive and Destructive Functions of Violence in the Work of Heinrich von Kleist

Call for papers for an international conference organised by Ricarda Schmidt (Exeter), Seán Allan (Warwick) and Steven Howe (Exeter),
supported by the AHRC as part of the AHRC-funded project
'Kleist, Education and Violence. The Transformation of Ethics and Aesthetics'

University of Exeter, 18-20 July 2011

2011 marks the bicentenary of the death of Heinrich von Kleist. Kleist's work has provoked a huge range of often diametrically opposed  interpretations, and throughout history Kleist scholars have tried to appropriate the writer for the most diverse of causes: nationalist - even national-socialist - critics staked a claim to his work, as did critics working in existentialist, Marxist, psychoanalytic, feminist, and deconstructionist schools of criticism. In an article written for the Königsberger Hartungsche Zeitung to mark the first centenary of Kleist's death, the critic Jakob Minor wrote that, despite everything that had been written about Kleist's work, it remained an unsolved problem - possibly the greatest problem in literary history. Now, with the bicentenary of Kleist's death approaching, it is appropriate to ask what literary criticism has added to our understanding of this writer over the last century, and how his oeuvre is viewed today.

Our collective experience over the past hundred years - an experience that includes two world wars, terrorist attacks on a worldwide scale, the relentless struggle for dominance in the sphere of political ideology, and the dramatic rise of domestic violence - has made us especially attuned to one particular aspect of Kleist's work: the presentation of violence. Forms of violence in Kleist's work range from rape, infanticide, murder, suicide, lynching at one end of the spectrum, to terrorism, rebellion, guerrilla warfare, military conflict and to state executions at the other.

We propose to devote the Exeter conference marking the bicentenary of Kleist's death to an investigation of both the destructive and constructive aspects of violence in Kleist's oeuvre. Some of Kleist's works seem to offer a justification of violence as a means to a higher end, although today these ends often appear increasingly questionable. In other texts the representation of violence has been read as a critique of draconian social structures, oppressive ideological beliefs, ill-conceived anthropological assumptions, and patriarchal concepts of gender - that is to say as a form of constructive criticism designed to promote social structures of a more liberal kind. How are such mutually antagonistic points of view embedded in Kleist's individual works and in his oeuvre as a whole? Does the representation of violence in his work point to a position of nihilism or humanism, to a pessimistic view of history or to an idealistic attempt to influence the course of history for the better? How are we to evaluate Kleist's representation of violence in its historical and literary context - and from a distance of 200 years? What roles do language and narrative structure play in the representation of violence in his texts? What does the presentation of violence in his work tell us about Kleist's relationship to the philosophy of the Enlightenment? What insights can we draw from Kleist's texts about forms of violence - both individual and collective - and about the inter-relationship between love, power and violence today?

Confirmed speakers include: Günter Blamberger, Matthew Bell, Hilda Brown, Bernd Fischer, Marjorie Gelus, Rüdiger Görner, Bernhard Greiner, Elystan Griffiths, Lothar Jordan, Wolf Kittler, Christine Künzel, Hans Joachim Kreutzer, Peter Philipp Riedl.

We would like to invite further contributions addressing the following areas in Kleist's texts:

1. Violence and the state
.       Representations of sovereign power and violence
.       Discursive strategies for the legitimation/critique of sovereign violence
.       Philosophical legitimations for the use of state violence/ of violence against the state
.       The role of historical grievances in motivating violent action
.       Legal forms of state violence against individuals: punishment and torture

 2. Violence in war
.       The ethics of warfare
.       Military justice
.       Military atrocities
.       Military codes
.       The ritual character of warfare
.       The mental world of soldiers

3. Violence and revolution
.       The psychology of revolutionary violence
.       Strategies employed by revolutionaries
.       Motivation and tactics of legitimation for revolutionary violence
.       Responses to revolutionary violence
.       Terrorists or revolutionaries

4. Violence and the body
.       The role of the body and body parts in violent action
.       The function of animal bodies in violent conflict
.       Torture
.       Representations of the suffering body
.       The body as text

5. Violence and the imaginary/symbolic
.       The joy of violence
.       Violence and sexual pleasure
.       Staging of violence
.       Imagined vs. experienced violence
.       Symbolic violence
.       (Physical) fighting for (symbolic) representation
.       Religiously motivated violence
.       Motivation and practices of mobs
.       Violent conflicts between Kleist critics

6. Violence and literature/art
.       Literary and artistic models for the presentation of violence in Kleist
.       The effect of Kleist's paradigms of violence on literature, art, music and film
.       Historical fact and artistic fiction in Kleist's portrayal of violence
.       Violence and the supernatural
.       Violence and genre
.       Literary strategies for the legitimation/critique of violence

7. Violence and language
.       Language as battleground
.       Violent rhetoric and a rhetoric of violence
.       Contrast, contiguity or causal relations between the clash of words and the clash of swords
.       The function of metaphor in legitimating violence
.       metaphysical violence ensuing from the clash of discursive systems

8. Violence and gender
.       Gender relations between victims and perpetrators
.       Women as agents of violence
.       Sadomasochism
.       Violence as an effect of patriarchal structures
.       The undermining of the moral legitimation of patriarchal structures as a side effect of violence

9. Violence and identity
.       The function of violence in the construction of personal (gendered) identity
.       The function of violence in the construction of  national identity
.       Violence and revenge
.       Violence and education

10. Violence and philosophy/philosophy of law
.       The origin of evil in philosophical systems and in Kleist's writing
.       Definitions of violent crime in Prussia and in Europe in the legal systems around 1800
.       Violence in the legal treatment of criminals around 1800 in Prussia and in Europe
.       Historical changes in the perception of the portrayal of violence and its causes in Kleist's writing

Please send a proposed title and a 200-word abstract to [log in to unmask], [log in to unmask], [log in to unmask] by 27 October 2010.

To enable young scholars (PhD students and young postdoctoral researchers) to participate in the conference, we will be offering two bursaries of up to £275 each. To be considered for a bursary you must submit an abstract together with a brief CV.

Selected papers will be included in a volume published by Königshausen and Neumann.

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