The End: Theories and Practices of narrative endings

Graduate Student Conference

Department of German Studies

Cornell University, Ithaca, NY

November 11-12, 2016

Keynote Speaker: Fritz Breithaupt, Indiana University Bloomington

“A whole is that which has a beginning and middle and end.” (Aristotle,

The graduate students in German Studies at Cornell University invite
contributions to this year’s conference on endings and ends. The conference
aims to bring together scholars working on the concept of the end and on
related questions, and to explore the aesthetics and politics of endings in
literature, film, and music.

Whenever we speak of the end, it has either already occurred or is yet to
come, and as such is always part of a narrative. We can refer to it by
figures of speech or by visual means, but the end itself remains
intangible, thereby doubling the familiar semiotic problem of
representation. On the one hand, talking about the end and even telling the
end is in vogue, and has been since the beginnings of literature. On the
other hand, we cannot conceive of the concept of an ending without also
returning to narratives. The end is always a part of a story, from the
tick-tock of the clock (Kermode) to Hamlet, from the end of history to the

Philosophical and theoretical approaches to the end of the world, the end
of art (Hegel, Danto), the end of history (Fukuyama), or the end of the
novel (Lukács, Benjamin), among others, guide our interest and shape our
questions. These influential narratives, however, are themselves more or
less grands récits and, consequently, ignorant to the ways in which endings
in literature, film, and music renegotiate their own roles over time. The
decline of the theoretical master narratives since the 1970s and 1980s has
made possible a more textured, media-specific understanding of what ‘end’
and ‘ending’ might mean.

This conference addresses precisely the question of endings in their
various manifestations: How do stories end? What can endings tell us about
concepts of the end?  Do specific semantic and conceptual articulations of
the idea of the ending affect our textual practices? What is the relation
between the ending and the rest of the story? Where does the ending begin,
and where does it end? Is our contemporary conception of endings unique as
compared to other periods of history?

We also encourage participants to engage with endings in regards to the
theoretical literature on the subject. For example, this discourse is
developed further in Frank Kermode’s Sense of an Ending, Hart
Nibbrig’s Ästhetik
der letzten Dinge, and the discussions in the “Poetik und Hermeneutik”
volume on Das Ende. Figuren einer Denkform.

We welcome suggestions for papers relating to concepts of the end,
including but not limited to the following topics:


   Types of endings (Happy Endings, Multiple Endings, False Endings, …)

   The relation between fragments and endings

   Endings and closure

   What comes after the end?

   Afterwords, epilogues, post scripta

   Suffixes: Endings of words

   Death, Afterlife

   Endings and teleology

   Hegel and the end of art

   Endings of fairy tales

   Metaphors of the end

   Last words

   The end as beginning / the beginning as end

   The Apocalypse and living in the end times

Abstracts for 20-minute presentations are due by July 15, 2016. Please send
your paper proposals (around 300 words) to Matthias Müller at
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For further details on the conference and for updates please see our conference
website <>.

The German Studies Call for Papers List
Editor: Sean Franzel
Assistant Editor:  Olaf Schmidt
Sponsored by the University of Missouri
Info available at: