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Call For Papers
Graduate Student Conference at the University of Washington
Department of Germanics
May 17-18, 2013

Claims to Fame: Celebrity in German Literature, Film, and Culture
Keynote: Gertrud Rösch (Universität Heidelberg)

In their critique of the culture industry, Horkheimer and Adorno
identify a contradiction in Hollywood’s production of celebrities. On
the one hand, film stars are crafted to appeal to the widest audience,
thereby inviting identification with those figures on screen. The
female starlet—Horkheimer and Adorno’s primary example—lulls female
spectators into the false belief that such fame is attainable by all.
On the other hand, celebrities remind spectators how minimal the
chances of attaining fame truly are. Faced with this contradiction
between identification and distance, filmgoers resign themselves to
believing in the potential of such an ascent without seeking to
realize it. Ultimately, Horkheimer and Adorno insist, celebrities
further the culture industry’s manipulation of the masses.

But as the growth of celebrity studies in the last decades has shown,
fame is more complex than Horkheimer and Adorno contend. More than
pawns in a system of manipulation, celebrities serve as sites where
power relations are open to constant re-negotiation. In other words,
stars not only reinforce given social structures; they can also
encourage an interaction between cultural artifacts and the public,
thus opening up the potential for other forms of empowerment.

One might consider, for example, how the myths of Icarus, Prometheus,
or Rumor have shaped contemporary understandings of celebrity, or how
authors and their literary figures have negotiated fame. Here one
thinks of Goethe’s Werther, Rilke’s Malte Laurids Brigge, or Thomas
Mann’s Felix Krull. Investigations could range from conceptions of
heroism in Wolfram’s Parzival to Sophie von La Roche’s achieved fame
through Die Geschichte des Fräuleins von Sternheim to the phenomenon
of the Fräuleinwunder surrounding Judith Hermann, Julia Franck, and
Charlotte Roche. Discussions in the field of media studies might
include Richard Dyer's definition of the star in Heavenly Bodies, Andy
Warhol’s statement that "In the future, everyone will be world-famous
for 15 minutes,” or the filmic adaptation of Daniel Kehlmann’s Ruhm.

This year’s conference welcomes papers that examine how celebrity is
produced, represented, and consumed in German literature, film, and
culture. We look forward to contributions that claim fame as an
insightful category of inquiry in German Studies, a category that
sheds light on how individual and social identities are generated and
transformed. Defining celebrity broadly, we welcome papers that
investigate the phenomenon of fame in German-language texts in all
historical periods and forms of media.

Possible topics could include:

Public enemies, infamy
Celebrity biography, journalism
Obscurity and comebacks
Rumors, gossip, scandal
Authorship/Auteurism
Celebrity, gender, race, sexuality
Pop/cult stardom
National, transnational celebrities
Literary celebrity, awards
Charisma, heroism, glory
Fan groups, idolization, stalking
Disease, death and the construction of celebrity


Please send all abstracts (250-300 words) for a 20-minute presentation
along with a short biography (100 words) to [log in to unmask] by
February 10, 2013.
Papers may be presented in German or English.
Let us know if you require assistance with accommodation.

Conference organizers: Olivia Albiero, Lena Heilmann, Verena Kick,
Jasmin Krakenberg, and Nathan Magnusson

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