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TitelMLA-Panel: New German Discourses About Conservatism: Forms and Expressions in Contemporary German Literature
Beschreibung129th Annual Convention of the Modern Language Association, Chicago, IL, January 9-12, 2014.

In the last two decades a renewal of discourses about conservatism has taken place in Germany. Because of their heterogeneous forms these discourses can be difficult to map politically. This is additionally complicated by the fact that, on the one hand, they consist of conservative discourses and, on the other hand, of discourses about alleged conservatisms.

For example, since Botho Strauß’s controversial essay “Anschwellender Bocksgesang” from 1993, this novelist and playwright has been known as an outspoken proponent of an idiosyncratic cultural conservatism. In an interview with Die Zeit he referred to this conservatism as “aesthetic fundamentalism,” a term coined by sociologist Stefan Breuer.

In contrast, the author Christian Kracht received significant attention when his 2012 novel Imperium generated a controversy ignited by Der Spiegel journalist Georg Diez’s accusations that Kracht’s novel promoted right-wing propaganda and a racist worldview. However unfounded such accusations may be, the debate shows that Kracht’s fiction offers useful points of entry into discourses about conservatism.

Extremely polarizing have been the xenophobic messages of Thilo Sarrazin’s bestselling books. This triggered an increase in scholarship on right-wing theories, most notably Volker Weiß’s monograph Deutschlands neue Rechte: Angriff der Eliten von Spengler bis Sarrazin (2011). Other recent developments that are noteworthy in the context of new German discourses about conservatism include the October 2012 launch of the lifestyle magazine The Germans and the opening of the Bibliothek des Konservatismus in Berlin in November 2012.

In 2011, the topic of conservatism in German literature was addressed at an international conference held by the Christian-Albrechts-Universität in Kiel. The distinguished conference participants discussed Strauß, Kracht and other authors, such as Uwe Tellkamp (Der Turm). Additional topics of discussion included the revived scholarly interest in the circle around Stefan George.

However, the amount of literary scholarship on the recent renewal of discourses about conservatism in Germany is still very limited. Furthermore, systematic approaches that analyse this vast and complex discursive field from a literary perspective are scarce. This panel seeks to make a contribution towards filling this gap by critically exploring discourses about conservatism in contemporary German literature, both in terms of its production and reception.

Questions leading to possible paper topics may include, but are not limited to:

• What are some of the literary forms and expressions of discourses about conservatism in contemporary Germany?
• Which literary texts or authors are conservative and how can this be assessed?
• Which forms of conservatism are discernible?
• What are some of the relevant debates concerning conservatism in the German feuilletons and how have they directed the reception of certain literary texts/authors?
• Can overviews of the topic be given? Which case studies are instructive?
• What are the socio-political, cultural, or theoretical backgrounds?
• What are related phenomena?
• Which diachronic or comparative approaches to the topic can be offered?

Please email proposals (250 words) to Arnim Alex Seelig ( by March 15, 2013.

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