Call for Papers: 

Graduate Student Conference at the Princeton German Department

Topologies of Reading 

     March 30, 2012 

Keynote Speaker: Helmut Müller - Sievers


We no longer read as we did 50 years ago. The landscape of reading is itself in flux. In recent years, historians, media theorists, philosophers, and neuroscientists among others have grappled with this shift in a variety of ways. One narrative involves the move from the unity of the book to its fragmentation and a corresponding extension of hermeneutic practices from the book to other media. Another narrative plots a movement from disparate national literatures to the promised unity of a Weltliteratur as imagined by Goethe and Marx. The architectonic spaces in which reading occurs – e.g. libraries, trains, auditoriums – are also taken into account in ‘charting’ the landscape of reading.

This conference will explore the implications of the ‘topological’ turns in the way we conceive of reading and literature. Given that the Greek term τόπος refers to both spatial and rhetorical phenomena, we understand topology as a study that unites space and language. The placement of reading in a topological framework forces us to contend simultaneously with rhetorical, media-historical, phenomenological, and architectural questions. Mathematical topology, which Michel Serres and others have extended to wider cultural discourse, defines relations between objects in space and time and describes those properties which remain constant under conditions of change. Finally, the history of reading in the German hermeneutical tradition itself comprises several interrelated topoi: Luther’s sola scriptura; the development of Romanticism in the works of Hölderlin, the Schlegels and Novalis; Nietzsche’s deconstructivist philology; Heidegger’s hermeneutics of facticity; and Blumenberg’s characterization of the world as a book (to name a few).

 A topological approach to these reading theories will consider both their rhetorical and their spatial dimensions. In order to create common ground for our discussion, a brief set of relevant texts by authors such as Luhmann, Blumenberg, Kittler, Flusser, Serres will be distributed via Dropbox before the conference. We strongly encourage interdisciplinary talks and would be delighted to receive papers from Language & Literature, Art History, Architecture, History of Science, Film Theory, History, Rhetoric, Sociology, Musicology, and Philosophy.


Paper topics may include but are certainly not limited to:

Please send abstracts (500 word maximum) by January 15, 2012 to Tanvi Solanki and Alice Christensen at [log in to unmask]. Abstracts must include a cover letter with the author's name, paper title, affiliation, telephone number and email address, and be in the form of *.doc or *.docx files.

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