Call for Abstracts
German Studies Association Conference 2019 (Portland, Oregon, October 3-6, 2019)
The Nations of Philology

The intellectual goal of this seminar is to conduct a systematic and historical self-reflection of German Studies in its relationship to the idea of the German nation. More specifically, we seek to explore critically the intricate entanglement of philology, literature, and the idea of a German nation, with an emphasis on the so-called Sattelzeit (1750 – 1850), but also with a look on what we generally call German studies or Germanistik today.

The seminar focuses on two significant moves: the transfer of value from the classical languages to the vernacular as a medium for literature, and the framing of literature as a semiotic system that allows for the articulation and discernment of distinctions that can be understood as national-cultural differences. National philology played a pivotal role in this process, as it amplified and rendered “wissenschaftlich” national differentiation. Philologists even advanced themselves as the primary interpreters of the national spirit, the “Volksgeist,” thereby advancing the conception of a self-replicating, monolingual, and territorially rooted German people.

At the same time, however, philological scrutiny, as performed by for example the Brothers Grimm, was completely dependent on comparative analyses of multiple languages, and furthermore discovered and explored the inherent multilingualism of the German (and any other) language, and thereby subtly subverted the national paradigm. For the philologist, there were always several languages, and hence several nations, and continual and uncontainable traffic among them. Philologists themselves, some concluded, were not even fully embedded members of their own nations, since they by definition always read, understood, analyzed, and urgently needed more than one language.

The seminar will pay attention to both the literary and the academic-philological contributors to the processes of nationalization and de-nationalization (e.g. Herder, Goethe, the Grimms, Heine, and others). It addresses anyone concerned with the constitution of German Studies as a nation-building project, including historians, and particularly invites colleagues interested in paradigms of monolingualism/multilingualism, and in theories of nationhood, gender and race. Critical investigations of race and gender are indeed crucial to this project. First, academic philology was an all-male discipline premised on the idea of the mother tongue; the mother-child bond allowed for the transmission of the national language. Second, as a discipline focused on the origin, descent, and differentiation of language groups, philology intersected and entwined with racial theories of human populations.

Please submit a 250-word abstract of your seminar contribution as well as a brief bio. Seminar enrollment opens on 5 January 2019, and applications are due by 26 January 2019. Responses will be sent out on 31 January. Please visit the GSA website and submit electronically at<>.

Please contact conveners, Till Dembeck ([log in to unmask]<mailto:[log in to unmask]>), Jakob Norberg ([log in to unmask]<mailto:[log in to unmask]>), or Christopher Busch ([log in to unmask]<mailto:[log in to unmask]>), with any questions. For more information about the 2019 German Studies Association Conference, see here:<>.

Prof. Dr. Till DEMBECK
Institut für deutsche Sprache und Literatur und für Interkulturalität
Maison des Sciences Humaines
11, Porte des Sciences
L-4366 Esch-Belval
Tel.: +352-466644-9606
Fax: +352-466644-6348
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