“Imagology”? An Interdisciplinary Workshop at UC Berkeley

“Imagology” or “Image Studies” is the critical analysis of intercultural imagery, of ethnic stereotyping and of the discursive construct called “national identity”. It was developed in France after the Second World War as a sub-discipline of Comparative Literature. Rejected by aesthetically-oriented literary critics, mainly in the US, it received more attention by scholars of French and German Studies in the 1980s. The so-called “Aachen School” around the Belgian comparatist Hugo Dyserinck played a leading role in this. More recently, Image Studies have come to the fore again, as new publications from a range of disciplines and area studies testify.

“Imagology” as a critical approach in literary and cultural studies will be the topic of an interdisciplinary workshop hosted by the Department of German at the University of California, Berkeley, later this month:

‘Imagology’ as Critical Approach in Literary & Cultural Studies
Workshop | April 24 | 2-4 p.m. | 282 Dwinelle Hall

Clemens Ruthner (Trinity College Dublin / UC Berkeley) will give a brief theoretical and methodological sketch, followed by two project presentations. I will introduce my current research project on the negotiations of masculinities in Chinese and German-language literature and Josef Sveda (Charles University Prague / UC Berkeley) will talk about his project on images of the USA in Czech literature and culture. The workshop aims to raise and discuss theoretical as well as practical implications and controversies of Imagology as a research approach.

All welcome!

RESEARCH RESOURCES:

Clemens Ruthner. “Between Aachen and America: Bhabha, Kürnberger and the Ambivalence of Imagology”. In Imagology Today: Achievements, Challenges, Perspectives, edited by Davor Dukic, 137-160. Bonn: Bouvier, 2012. – a critical introduction to the history of Imagology

Imagology: The Cultural Construction and Literary Representation of National Characters, edited by Manfred Beller and Joep Leerssen. Amsterdam: Rodopi, 2007. – 500-pages encyclopedic compendium of Image Studies comprising more than 120 articles and entries by 75 contributors from 15 countries

IMAGES (www.imagologica.eu)an online platform dedicated to the critical study of national identity and national stereotype by Joep Leerssen, featuring introductions to Imagology, key texts and an interactive bibliographical database

CFP: Barriers — Confronting Obstacles in Language, Media, Politics and Culture (Berkeley, 28.2.-1.3.2015)

The Department of German at the University of California, Berkeley, welcomes submissions from all disciplinary backgrounds on the topic of barriers, their establishment, presentation, and utilization in the present, past and future.

UC Berkeley German Department’s Interdisciplinary German Studies Conference 2015:
BARRIERS: Confronting Obstacles in Language, Media, Politics and Culture (February 28th – March 1st 2015)

Barriers are an intrinsic element of society, and the ability to negotiate them forms the basis for progress, conflict or stagnation. In the German context, the barrier often evokes images of institutionalized violence: from the trenches of the First World War to the concentration camps of World War Two and the Iron Curtain which divided Europe in its wake. But barriers are more than politics, nationality or ideology. In contrast to borders which establish a fixed partition between two or more objects, the barrier exists in a state of multiplicity and flux: the negotiation of a single barrier simply reveals the existence of further barriers to come. The purpose of this conference is to reevaluate the barrier in its plurality, identify new and historical points of contention and question the traditional view that obstacles exist to be overcome. Rather than simply obstacles, barriers can be construed as catalysts, initiating a myriad of possible reactions and interactions. The barrier need not remain impregnable, but may function as a semi-permeable membrane: controlling the mobility of objects through diffusion and osmosis. How do we define barriers and what are their many purposes? How does the synergy of the barrier and its subjects shape our perception of barriers and their functions?

Deadline: 14 November 2014
Scholars wishing to participate should send an abstract in English or German, no longer than 300 words, and a CV or brief biographical statement to: berkeleygermanconference@gmail.com. Presentations should not exceed 20 minutes.

Find the full CFP here.

Manhood VS. Marriage: A Quick Film Tip

Yesterday The New York Review of Books published “Manhood Against Marriage” by Francine Prose, a review of Ruben Östlund’s new film Force Majeure, that I would like to share here as both, the film and the review, refer to an issue that I am intensely working on in my research at the moment: representations of masculinities in different forms of art and cultural contexts.

Force Majeure won the Jury Prize in the Un Certain Regard section at the Cannes Film Festival earlier this year and will be showing in different cinemas across the US later this month. The review certainly promises an exciting insight into contemporary Swedish cinema tackling issues of masculinities and their compatibility with modern middle-class expectations of marriage and fatherhood.

Beyond Gender: Current Activities and New Resources in the Field of Intersectionality Studies

I recently received a call for papers that caught my attention. eDhvani: UoH Journal of Comparative Literature is inviting papers that analyze the category of gender and its overlap with the institution of religion (deadline: 30 Nov 2014). This issue will therefore continue the topic of gender, which has also been the focus of its previous issue on the intersections of gender and travel.

The journal, which is hosted by the Centre for Comparative Literature at the University of Hyderabad in India, was launched in July 2012 with the objective of “lending a new dimension to the area of research and studies of Comparative Literature in India and providing a new platform to the comparatists”. The format of the journal is certainly innovative. As in its previous issues, eDhvani is particularly encouraging alternative forms of writing to engage with the topic, such as interviews, translations of literature, creative writing and reviews.

Furthermore, with its focus on the contentious category of gender and its negotiations, contradictions and intersections with other categories, in this case concepts of travel and religion, the journal touches upon a new and intriguing field that will also play a role in my ongoing project on the mutual literary representations of masculinities in German and Chinese literatures: Intersectionality Studies.

This concept actually goes back to the 19th century but was first developed and named as a feminist sociological theory by Kimberlé W. Crenshaw in the 1980s. The theory suggests that various biological, social and cultural categories, such as gender, race, age, ability, religion, sexual orientation etc., cannot be studied in isolation from each other. Rather we must assume multiple levels of interaction and, consequently, intersections between different forms and systems of social injustice, inequality, discrimination, oppression and domination.

Intersectionality and its multidimensional approach has also become an increasingly important paradigm for a variety of disciplines, including cultural studies. This is showcased, for instance, by the impressive range of activities at the Center for Race and Gender (CRG) at the University of California, Berkeley. The interdisciplinary research center aims to bring together researchers and local communities in innovative research and creative projects. Upcoming events include talks on “Homosexual Mutants! Biases in the neurobiological study of sexual orientation” (6 Nov 2014), “Family Routes: Transnational Adoption & the Production of Nationhood” (6 Nov 2014) and regular activities of its many research working groups, such as the “The Color of New Media: Race, Ethnicity, and Digital Culture”, “Muslim Identities & Cultures” or “Race & Yoga”.

A rich and inspiring online resource for anyone interested in Intersectionality Studies is the Portal Intersektionalität. Forschungsplattform und Praxisforum für Intersektionalität und Interdependenzen. Founded in 2012 at the University of Wuppertal, the platform provides a substantial collection of downloadable key texts of the field, informs about and documents ongoing research projects and conferences and functions as an interactive and experimental forum for researchers as well as “practitioners” of intersectionality in different realms, such as politics, pedagogy, social work etc. So far this “pilot project” has limited its focus to the discipline of social sciences and the German-speaking countries (which is why it is, unfortunately, currently available in German only) but aims to significantly broaden its scope in the future, which would be very welcome.

Kicking off this year’s conference season: the GSA’s Annual Meeting, feat. Asian German Studies

The new academic year is fast approaching and, as every year, the conference season will be kicked off by one of the largest of its kind: the GSA’s annual meeting (18-21 September 2014). Members of the German Studies Association, which was founded in 1976 in the US as the Western Association for German Studies (WAGS) and re-named in 1984, will meet for the 38th time. This year Kansas City will have the honor to host the academic invasion of over 1,000 scholars from the US and, though in a much smaller proportion, other places around the globe (see an interesting article on this issue by Jochen Hung). Kansas City, sitting on the border between the two states of Kansas and Missouri, has given its name not only to a more “beboppy” kind of jazz and a more “jumpy” kind of blues but also a particular kind of slow smoked barbecue. Sadly, Missouri has recently been in the headlines for completely different reasons of course.

This year’s program, which is itself a book of 233 pages, promises a stunning number of 326 panel sessions and seminars in the course of four days. Thus, even the pickiest of all conference-goers might find their session of choice, in particular as the GSA is devoted to a broad understanding of German Studies, encompassing all areas of German history, literature, culture, politics and any other discipline relating to the German-speaking countries in any time period. For conference enthusiasts like me, on the other hand, this is conference paradise.

One of the highlights of this year’s program is certainly the “Asian German Studies” panel. This young field of studies is dedicated to the long history of encounters between the two contexts and has just recently become more accepted within German Studies. Its regular presence at the GSA’s meetings since 2009 is certainly an indicator of this, as are an increasing number of recently published volumes on different topics, see for example Beyond Alterity: German Encounters with Modern East Asia (Berghahn, 2014), Transcultural Encounters between Germany and India: Kindred Spirits in the 19th and 20th Centuries (Routledge, 2013) and Imagining Germany Imagining Asia. Essays in Asian-German Studies (Camden House, 2013). Asian German Studies will also be represented by two panels at the IVG‘s (International Association for German Studies)  conference “Germanistik zwischen Tradition und Innovation” in Shanghai next year: Tradition und Transformation. Der Ferne Osten in der deutschsprachigen Literatur and Begegnungen zwischen den deutschsprachigen Ländern und Asien.

The field of Asian German Studies advocates multi-perspectival and interdisciplinary approaches, which is also demonstrated by this year’s sessions of the panel at the GSA meeting. They will present a variety of topics ranging from German-Asian interactions during the era of the world wars, images of the Other in literature and film, peoples in motion between Asian and Germany, German visions of China in the 19th and 20th centuries, the origins of Orientalism as well as the challenges to studying the Orient in the Orient.  Another session is dedicated to gendered views on German-Asian interaction, where I will have the opportunity to present a part of my new postdoc project on the negotiation of German and Chinese masculinities. In my paper I will discuss the ambivalent reception of Goethe’s Werther in modern Chinese literature from the perspective of masculinities.

The Grand Budapest Hotel, Stefan Zweig and the Neglected Field of Adaptation Studies

As The Guardian announced two days ago, Wes Anderson’s The Grand Budapest Hotel has just become the filmmaker’s highest-grossing film (beating The Royal Tenenbaums at $71m in 2001 and Moonrise Kingdom at $68m in 2012) by breaking the $100m mark while global box office taking rising (interestingly with the most enthusiastic audiences in the UK and France).

Apart from its stellar cast and Anderson’s usual cinematographic playfulness, the film has received considerable attention due to its “inspiration” from the Austrian writer Stefan Zweig (1881-1942). Apart from the closing credits referring to Zweig, Wes Anderson has supported his claim in various interviews. Extracts of his conversation with George Prochnik, whose biography of Zweig with the title The Impossible Exile: Stefan Zweig at the End of the World will be published by Other Press in May this year, have been published by The Telegraph under the title “I stole from Stefan Zweig”. It has been included in full in The Society of the Crossed Keys, a new compilation of writings by Stefan Zweig, which takes its name from the fictional secret society of master concierges in Anderson’s film, published by Pushkin Press and selected by Wes Anderson according to their inspirational value.

The Grand Budapest Hotel has undoubtedly sparked the most recent re-discovery of Stefan Zweig among the British readership. It has also launched a true treasure hunt for allegedly Zweig-inspired elements in the film among Zweig enthusiasts, reaching from moustaches to experiences of war and exile, high society settings with Central European flair and pastry to sophisticated narrative techniques (mis en abyme). Furthermore, this successful case of what could be called “literary adaptation” in its wildest and widest sense beautifully showcases the interconnectedness of literature and film. The field of adaptation studies indeed represents an important genre in 20th-century cultural production but has received surprisingly little scholarly interest. It has rather been treated as an orphan trapped between literature and film studies. Throughout the century adaptations of Austrian literature, in particular, have generated outstanding success stories, ranging from Max Ophühls’ adaptation of Stefan Zweig’s most famous novella in Letter from an Unknown Woman (1948) and, more recently, Stanley Kubrick’s filmic version of Arthur Schnitzler’s Traumnovelle in Eyes Wide Shut (1999) to the very Grand Budapest Hotel.

One of the most recent and most fascinating scholarly contributions to the adaptation of Austrian literature is certainly Catriona Firth’s Modern Austrian Literature through the Lens of Adaptation. Analysing five canonical texts in post-war Austrian literature and their Austrian filmic counterparts, Firth proposes an innovative interdisciplinary approach which aims to move beyond a traditionally linear conception of the adaptation process in order to understand the relationship between the two media not as a unidirectional but a more complex reciprocal transaction. Drawing on an arsenal of theoretical concepts developed within the realm of psychoanalytic film theory, the five chapters discuss Gerhard Fritsch’s Moos auf den Steinen (1956) and its adaptation by Georg Lhotzky (1968), Franz Innerhofer’s Schöne Tage (1974) and its adaptation by Fritz Lehner (1981), Gerhard Roth’s Der Stille Ozean (1980) and its adaptation by Xaver Schwarzenberger (1983), Elfriede Jelinek’s Die Ausgesperrten (1981) and its adaptation by Franz Novotny (1982), and Robert Schindel’s Gebürtig (1990) and its adaptation by Lukas Stepanik (2002). The study provides inspiring new perspectives on the literary works, on the films, the history of Austria after 1945 and, most importantly, on the methodology of adaptation studies.

Read my review of Modern Austrian Literature through the Lens of Adaptation in the most recent issue of the Journal of Austrian Studies.

Sexuality, love, masculinities: an interdisciplinary conference in Stuttgart is pointing the way ahead

Despite the bourgeoning of gender studies in recent decades, the question of masculinities has been widely neglected. Gender studies have indeed often become synonymous with women studies, exclusively. For this reason, scholars of different disciplines decided in 1999 to found AIM Gender, an international working group for interdisciplinary men studies.

The working group’s 2013 Annual Conference took place in Stuttgart in December 2013, bringing together senior as well as junior researchers from a wide range of disciplines within cultural studies and social sciences. Under the conference’s topic “Sexuality, love, masculinities” sociological and historical studies were presented, elaborating on questions of masculinities in self-help books, television, cultural artefacts, sexual science, court trials and fitness studios, spanning a time period from early modern times until today.

Furthermore, literary representations of masculinities were discussed in detail, including papers on the figures of the pick-up artist, Don Juan and Dionysus, as well as papers focusing on sexuality that deviates from accepted norms and cross-cultural studies, such as my contribution on “Sexuality, Love and Power: Negotiating Masculinities in German and Chinese Literature”.

As a truly interdisciplinary event on a timely topic, this conference therefore certainly points into the direction of a desirably more collaborative way of studying complex phenomena across disciplines.

The conference papers can now be read online.