Call for Papers

“Realism and Romanticism in German Literature”

International Conference
at the Institute of Germanic and Romance Studies, London
1-3 December 2011

When writers and critics such as Gustav Freytag, Julian Schmidt or Berthold Auerbach established a new literary movement under the name of ‘Realism’ in response to the 1848 revolution and its defeat, the term ‘Romanticism’, including the perceived ‘Romanticism’ of  Vormärz aesthetics, acted as a critical foil for the new departure, which combined an idealist conception of literary realism with bourgeois self-assertion in the face of the combined threats of reactionary politics and the social and cultural upheaval of accelerating modernisation, mass culture and industrialisation. This historical origin of received literary terminology has survived in the orthodox notion that Realism and Romanticism mark not just two distinct periods in literary history, but are also radically opposed in their understanding of literature and in their literary practice. 

While there are good reasons for such mapping of nineteenth-century German literature, there are today also significant complications which encourage caution against easy oppositions of Realism and Romanticism. There is, for example, the fascination of Realist writers like Stifter, Storm and Fontane by the uncanny and the supernatural; the legacy of Romantic motifs, characters, themes, narrative devices and even arguments in Realism; there are the legacies of idealist aesthetics in theories of “bürgerlicher / poetischer Realismus”, continuities in genre histories, intertextual references, transitions between both paradigms in the Nachmärz period, and post-Romantic counterstrands even after the Realist agenda became fully established by the 1860s  – to name but a few instances. Finally, there is the still-unresolved, overarching question of German Realism’s position in the development of European literature(s) from Romanticism to Modernism.

This conference aims to reassess German Realism’s relationship with Romanticism and to explore the multiple ways in which writers from Stifter and Keller to Ebner-Eschenbach, Raabe, and Fontane engaged with aspects of Romanticism or with individual Romantic authors and theorists. The conference will consider realist writing from the 1840s to around 1900. The conference programme will combine theoretical approaches and overviews with a range of case studies and comparative investigations. Publication of the conference proceedings is envisaged.

We herewith invite proposals for conference papers (in English or in German), which may address, but need not be limited to, the following areas:

-        Realist writers reading and writing Romanticism: case studies and comparative studies in both critical and literary responses to Romanticism as a movement or to individual Romantic authors and texts; intertextual links between Realist texts and Romanticism;
-        Realism and Romanticism in historical perspective: continuities and shifts in aesthetics, poetics, genre tradition and literary style; from “Biedermeierlicher Frührealismus” (Sengle) to post-1848 Realism; the role of Romanticism in nineteenth-century theories of Realism (Vischer, Schmidt, Freytag, Ludwig, Spielhagen, etc.) and in current academic debate about conceptualising Realism in its various phases and strands; German Realism and the European trajectory from Romanticism to Modernism;
-        transitions from Romanticism to Realism, Romantic legacies in the age of Realism: “schwarze Romantik”, nihilism and pessimism, Wagner and Schopenhauer receptions, Realism and Décadence, “Neuromantik”;
-        Romantic legacies in cultural and academic debates during the second half of the nineteenth century: philosophy, anthropology and psychology; Heimat; philosophy of nature and the sciences; historical experience, historicism and philosophy of history; concepts of Romanticism in emergent ‘Germanistik’;
-        media history and cultural history: Realism and Romanticism in the book market of the period and in journalism (‘Familienzeitschriften’); Romantic legacies in book and journal illustrations; Romanticism, Realism and the impact of photography.

Keynote speakers:
Professor Christian Begemann (Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München)
Professor Russell Berman (Stanford University)
Professor Ralf Simon (Universität Basel)
Professor Martin Swales (University College London)

Proposals of no more than 300 words should kindly be sent by email to both conference organisers:

Professor Dirk Göttsche, Department of German Studies, School of Modern Languages and Cultures, University of Nottingham, University Park, GB-Nottingham NG7 2RD, email: [log in to unmask]<mailto:[log in to unmask]>

Professor Nicholas Saul, Department of German, School of Modern Languages and Cultures, University of Durham, New Elvet, Elvet Riverside, GB-Durham DH1 3JT, e-mail: [log in to unmask]

Deadline for submission of exposés: 30 November 2010.

Professor Dr. Dirk Göttsche
Department of German Studies
School of Modern Languages and Cultures
University of Nottingham
University Park
Nottingham NG7 2RD
Tel. 0044-115-8466297

The German Studies Call for Papers List
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