International Conference of the Goethe Society of India

18 – 20 February 2015
University of Delhi

The conference will be part of the “German week”, 16.02.- 20.02.2015

This conference of the Goethe Society of India will take forward the discussion initiated at the previous conference on the idea and function of genres by focusing specifically on what may be called the genres of modernity. It will explore the emergence and subsequent trajectories of specific genres in the historical context of modernity and the social, cultural, political, economic and technological changes that it involved. Its concern will therefore be less with the so-called natural forms or modes of literary expression and more with the historically contingent symbolic forms that grew out of and sought to capture and articulate the temporal and spatial disorientations of the modern age. This contingency is marked by the fundamental influence of modern technologies – print, photography, film, digital media, as well as the larger technological and societal transformations that they represent.

Modernity is conceived here as a phenomenon that increasingly and inexorably cast its net across the globe, driven by the forces of capitalism, colonialism and imperialism. The genres that it spawned were propelled by both local and global, national and transnational impulses. The novel as the quintessentially modern genre was itself a product of stimuli from multiple locations, even as it initially set out to articulate the intimate experiences and development of individual characters. The many sub-genres that it gave rise to – the Bildungsroman, the historical novel, adventure fiction, the romance, the detective story and the thriller, science fiction, fantasy and horror fiction – may be seen as allegories of specific experiences of the modern world, of the opportunities it seemed to open up and the horrors that it brought along as baggage, of its utopian promises and its dystopian disillusionments. In colonial and postcolonial conditions, the emerging generic forms are also marked by the specific experience of colonial subjection and its legacy in postcolonial times.

Modernity is also the context in which a divide is created between what are called literary fiction and genre fiction, such that literary fiction is defined as not belonging to any specific genre, whereas genre – popular/pulp – fiction is said to reproduce certain set formulaic conventions. Without going into the debates around this position, it could be said that the generic conventions of the latter provide a more stable ground against which apparently minor differences become more easily visible. Studies of such fiction have shown how these differences can illuminate locational divergences and historical transitions. Perhaps we might also see such differences as pointers to innovations and transformations in the more canonical literary forms.

Papers are invited to explore the formation and transformation of genres in the framework outlined above. The language of the conference will be both German and English. Please send your abstracts (200-300 words) by 30 December 2014 to Madhu Sahni, Secretary, Goethe Society of India:

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Accommodation for all outstation paper readers will be arranged at the University of Delhi. Selected papers will be published in the next Yearbook of the Goethe Society of India.

The German Studies Call for Papers List
Editor: Stefani Engelstein
Assistant Editor:  Olaf Schmidt
Sponsored by the University of Missouri
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