Panel sponsored by the Lessing Society for the 2019 German Studies Association conference in Portland, OR (October 3-6, 2019).


Lessing’s Forms, Old and New


In response to recent discussions in literary studies about form (i.e. Caroline Levine’s Forms: Whole, Rhythm, Hierarchy, Network) that reconsider the ways in which analyses of form can provide unique insights into literary and social worlds, this panel will reexamine forms – aesthetic, social and political – in Lessing’s work. Heralded as a literary and philosophical figure of the “New” (the Enlightenment and all of its aesthetic, social and political ambitions), Lessing can nevertheless still be seen as a writer who borrows or retools older forms in order to shape his aesthetic and political project. Indeed, aesthetic, social and political forms travel in and through Lessing’s works. Some of Lessing’s experiments with form hearken back to older aesthetic, social and political systems, and some become usable forms for future iterations of literature and sociality.


How are Lessing’s particular contributions to the history of German literature and thought built on a sometimes progressive and sometimes backward looking or even nostalgic use of established aesthetic, social and political forms that carry residues of their connotations with them across temporal and geographic divides?


Relevant aesthetic forms could include allegory, the tableau, genres such as the bourgeois tragedy and comedy, blank verse and polemicism, to name a few. Social forms might include notions of the individual or subject, community, or the family. Political forms include, among others, economic systems (early capitalism, “Handelsgesellschaft,” for example) or the nation/state.


Please send a short (ca. 300-word) description of your proposed paper as well as a short CV or bio to Heidi Schlipphacke ([log in to unmask]) by February 7, 2019.



Heidi Schlipphacke

Associate Professor of Germanic Studies and Classics

Director, Graduate Studies

University of Illinois at Chicago

601 S. Morgan St., MC 315, UH 1722

Chicago, IL 60607

(312) 996-0965


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