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Call for Proposals

Recycling Brecht

15th Symposium of the International Brecht Society

25 – 29 June 2016
St Hugh’s College, University of Oxford

Deadline for proposals: Monday 1 June 2015

The International Brecht Society celebrates its first visit to the UK and commemorates the 60th anniversary of the death of Bertolt Brecht with its 15th International Symposium, ‘Recycling Brecht’. The Symposium combines keynote speakers, academic panels and a rich cultural programme.

In a poem written around 1933, Brecht proposed an epitaph, should one be required, talking of himself in the third person: ‘He made suggestions. We/Took them on’. The tension between the two simple lines is striking: suggestions are more open; yet taking them on is not. Brecht encourages ‘those who come after’ to take up a set of ideas, principles and values as points of departure, and act on them.

On the one hand, ‘Recycling Brecht’ takes Brecht’s contradictory formulation, an open imperative, and asks what his ‘suggestions’ might imply and how artists and thinkers have responded to them, in the period from Brecht’s lifetime to the present. Times have changed, but capitalism’s cycle of crisis and reconstitution has endured, as have, by extension, the issues with which Brecht engaged, be they the ever-expanding reach of capitalism and the commodification of human relations and sexuality, or the rise of the far right and the use of violence to achieve social ends. Brecht was also concerned throughout his career with the changing nature of modernity from the 16th century to the mid 20th century, reflecting on the new ways in which late modernity needs to be represented through variants of realism that engage with modernism. How are Brecht’s ideas and practices to be recycled, and how has this task been undertaken over the years? Have the attempts been successful, have there been Pyrrhic victories, crushing defeats, or are we simply left with a disconcerting sense of indifference?

On the other hand, ‘Recycling Brecht’ seeks to examine Brecht’s own penchant for revamping or recalibrating source material, be it a text, a practice, an idea or an institution, via myriad forms of adaptation, rewriting and reworking.  Sometimes this entails ‘refunctioning’, whereby the source is transformed into something different while retaining something of its former quality, sometimes his approach is more drastic, involving a cultural vandalism redolent of Dada and a focus on the ‘material value’ of the text or practice that is to be reconfigured. This is graphically exemplified in his rejection of the sterile reverence of conservative approaches to classical German drama and the cultural heritage in general, raising fundamental questions concerning the critical appropriation of Brecht’s own legacy.

‘Recycling Brecht’ thus has a dual focus, Brecht the recycler and the recycled.  Both these dimensions also provoke further meta-theoretical reflections relating to, for example, the nature of the artistic work – fixed or dynamic, organic or de-centred; intertextuality; the nature of authorship and the authority of the text; intellectual property and post/modern media; cultural transmission, whether via textual adaptation, theatrical production, or translation; reception theory; aesthetics, politics and the cultural heritage; and concepts of cultural value. The theme also invites consideration of the act of recycling, something that often involves the conversion of waste or useless material into some functional and vibrant.

Papers, manifestos or provocations lasting 20 minutes, workshops, panels or performances lasting up to 90 minutes, or research posters to be publicly displayed are invited on the following indicative, yet not exhaustive areas:

•       Brecht’s intellectual predilections/biography accessed, for example, via his annotated copies of books, journals, as well as notebooks, diaries, etc
•       Brecht the theorist (of adaptation, cultural appropriation, etc.)
•       Brecht and the sciences (natural and social)
•       Brecht and the early modern period/17th century in Germany/England/Europe
•       Brecht and (European) Modernism
•       The Regiebücher and/or Notate for Brecht’s productions
•       The production history of his major plays in the German-speaking world
•       The translation, adaptation and reception of Brecht’s plays outside the German-speaking world (including Asia, South Asia, Africa, and Latin America)
•       A Brechtian ‘tradition’ of theatre practice
•       The contemporary recycling of Brecht in Germany
•       Teaching Brecht
•       Cross-genre Brecht
•       Cross-cultural Brecht
•       Political theatre today – epic and/or postdramatic?
•       Translating Brecht’s poems and other works across languages and cultures
•       2016 also marks the four hundredth anniversary of Shakespeare’s death, and thus papers on Brecht as ‘Shakespeare recycler’ are also most welcome

The conference languages will be English and German. Please submit proposals in abstracts of 150-200 words to:

David Barnett   email: [log in to unmask] (preferred)
                        post: Arts B, University of Sussex, Brighton BN1 9QN, UK.

We very much welcome the participation of graduate students and early-career colleagues. Proposals should arrive by Monday, 1 June 2015. We expect to inform all presenters of the conference committee’s decisions by September 2015 at the latest. The conference fee will be £80 (£55 for students and the unwaged). We hope to attract funding to provide a limited number of travel bursaries for those who might otherwise not be able to attend. See also brecht.mml.ox.ac.uk/ibs-symposium for updates. Delegates will be expected to make their own arrangements for travel and accommodation. Details of special room rates at St. Hugh’s College will be published in due course. Membership of the IBS is not a pre-requisite for a proposal, although you may wish to join the Society, which publishes a Yearbook and an accompanying publication, Communications from the IBS, annually (membership details may be found at: www.oneeyedman.net/ibs/membership/membership.php; more on the Society at www.brechtsociety.org). A selection of proceedings from the Symposium will appear in the Brecht Yearbook.

We very much look forward to receiving your proposal.



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