Call for Papers
Rethinking the Atlas

Papers are invited for the panel ‘Rethinking the Atlas,’ part of the international conference, Our Common Ground: Modern Languages and Cultures for the Twentieth Century, Durham University 16-18 April 2018

Associated with cartography as well as taxonomy, the atlas is a non-narrative form of representation that promises objectivity (Daston and Galison) and insists on clear boundaries. However, it has been used in both literature and visual culture precisely to challenge such territorial and taxonomic distinctions, to map flights of fantasy (Judith Schalansky), or to produce ‘anomic’ collections (Gerhard Richter). Spatial as much as temporal, atlases like those produced by Richter are mnemonic, recording and remapping history while drawing on earlier engagements with the form, like Aby Warburg’s Mnemosyne Atlas. Rather than draw geographical boundaries, Warburg operated in the mode of translatio, tracing the movement of the “Pathosformeln” found in Western art across time and space. Yet, according to Georges Didi-Huberman, in its global reach, the atlas also produces anxiety about the burden of knowledge, a burden visualized in the mythical Atlas, the Titan condemned by Zeus to carry the world on his shoulders. For Warburg, whose atlas was produced in response to the trauma of global warfare, this was the burden of human suffering, seen the world over and destined to repeat itself. Warburg’s response is a powerful legacy: his atlas – like all atlases – invites reconfiguration and redistribution, and in its distinctly visual mode, allows for re-envisioning of knowledge.

The aim of this panel is to consider the formal, aesthetic, and ethical possibilities of the atlas in literary, artistic and critical projects. Topics might include, but are not limited to:

•       the atlas and national/transnational/postnational narratives
•       the atlas and taxonomy
•       the atlas and mnemotechniques
•       the picture atlas/Bilderatlas
•       the atlas and architecture/structures of support
•       the mythical figure of Atlas
•       the atlas and fantasy
•       the atlas and history

Please send an abstract (c. 150 words) and a short bio to [log in to unmask] no later than 31 August 2017

The German Studies Call for Papers List
Editor: Sean Franzel
Assistant Editor: Olaf Schmidt
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