Call for Papers


Modern Language Association Convention


January 8-11, 2015, Vancouver, Canada


Sessions arranged by the Division Executive Committee for “Nineteenth and Twentieth-Century German Literature”


Out of the Moment: Modalities of Non-Presence


The long nineteenth century witnessed the remaking of the world on an unprecedented scale and at unparalleled speed. Around 1900, the factors relentlessly driving change seemed to multiply again and the pace appeared to accelerate. The MLA’s Division for “Nineteenth-and-Early-Twentieth-Century German Literature” is interested in such cultural responses to these processes that seek to diminish, even devalue the presence. What does it mean to continually miss the moment, to long for the future or take refuge in the past? Take, for instance, Heine’s world-weary struggle, political as well as poetical, between a fading past and unattained future; realism’s fascination with early childhood’s imprint on later life; or, following on the heels of Nietzsche, the fashion of being untimely; historicism’s fixation on the idiosyncrasy of past epochs; Dilthey’s mind-melting Einfühlung; Kafka’s desire to escape the murderous sequence of ‘action’ – ‘observation;’ aestheticism’s irresistible urge to experience life and simultaneously psychologize it; modernism’s “cult of distraction;” Benjamin’s preoccupation with Messianic time. How to account for the striking proliferation of non-presence before and around 1900? And, more specifically but also more broadly: what does it mean to be out of the moment, not in sync, to inhabit non-presence? Do literature and criticism develop specific phenomenological models to capture this curious mode of temporal-spatial distance? Which forces cause disruption, dislodgement, and displacement? Who precisely gets affected and why? What seeks to take the place of presence: another time, a different place, an unmarked zone? Is the presence emphatically left behind, disinterestedly vacated, or mournfully abandoned?


The Division for “Nineteenth-and-Early-Twentieth-Century German Literature” invites proposals that investigate theoretical, disciplinary, or literary aspects of non-presence in the decades before and after 1900. Abstract of 300 words to Anna Guillemin ([log in to unmask]) by March 15, 2014.    

Anna Guillemin
Visiting Assistant Professor
University of Illinois at Chicago
Germanic Studies Department
1514 University Hall
601 South Morgan Street (MC 315) 
Chicago, IL 60607

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