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Ergebnisanzeige "GSA 2016 panel: “Life is moving toward utopias” - Utopia and the Sciences in German Literature, 1871–1945"
RessourcentypCall for Papers
TitelGSA 2016 panel: “Life is moving toward utopias” - Utopia and the Sciences in German Literature, 1871–1945
BeschreibungCall for Papers: GSA-Panel
40th Annual Conference of the German Studies Association (GSA)
September 29–October 2, 2016, San Diego, CA
Conveners: Caspar Battegay (Lausanne), Robert Leucht (Zurich)

“Life is moving toward utopias” - Utopia and the Sciences in German Literature, 1871–1945

In Die Entwicklung des Sozialismus von der Utopie zur Wissenschaft (1880), Friedrich Engels notes that, since historical materialism has developed the scientific tools to create a better society, utopias are no longer necessary. Around the same time as the publication of this treatise we may observe how literary utopias, a genre that dates back to the Renaissance develop a very close relationship to scientific discourses and practices, among them Darwinism, technology, and economics. On the one hand, this shift of literary utopias towards science can be seen as a strategy to convince readers that the society evoked by literary means is not merely a utopian dream but a political possibility. On the other hand, dystopian tendencies emerge that transform the utopian genre into a critique of scientific progress and technology. The very close relationship maintained by so many utopias of the late 19th and early 20th centuries to scientific discourse can be observed on various levels: most prominently in explicit references, for example to the Darwinian idea of evolution, technological concepts, or economic calculations, in metaphors that make use of scientific ideas, and on the level of character – the protagonists of these stories are no longer only travelers observing a utopian society, but more often their creators, scientists, engineers, or architects.
Nevertheless, by emphasizing their scientific quality, utopias of these decades do more than suggest that they could become reality. Indeed, they were used more than once as blueprints for political projects. One thinks here about the settlements established in Africa following Theodor Hertzka’s Freiland (1889), the numerous colonies associated with the “Lebensreformbewegung” around 1900, or projects in urban planning inspired by Paul Scheerbart’s Glasarchitektur (1914). If it is certainly correct to describe literary utopias as reacting to historical events, as Wilhelm Voßkamp has done (“Utopie als Antwort auf Geschichte”, 1990), this view has led to a disregard for utopia’s potential to become reality, and thereby to actively intervene in history. In other cases, however, for example in Franz Werfel’s Stern der Ungeborenen (1945) or other literary utopias written in exile, we can observe how these texts explore the relation between political or scientific possibilities and a literary “Möglichkeitssinn” (Robert Musil). Such utopias, in contrast, may be read as a meta-fictional play with the genre under the conditions of political powerlessness.

In this panel, we want to take a closer look at the various ‘faces of utopia’ in German literature in the period from 1871 to 1945. We wish to examine in particular (1) the alliance between utopia and the sciences and its numerous consequences, and (2) how utopias during these decades function as both a genre to ‘merely’ virtually experiment with historical alternatives as well as a powerful instrument to intervene in history and affect its course. Our focus will be on the most renowned authors of the time, such as Alfred Döblin, Gerhart Hauptmann, Paul Scheerbart, Frank Wedekind, and Franz Werfel, as well as on such little-known writers as Theodor Hertzka, Werner Illing, Otto Neurath, and Jakob Vetsch.

We are looking for papers that examine:

– How the genre is transformed by the incorporation of scientific discourse;
– Specific types of utopias, such as Darwinian or technical;
– How the use of scientific discourse leads not only to utopian but also to dystopian scenarios, years before Huxley and Orwell wrote what are considered the “classical dystopias”;
– How the social impact of utopias can be adequately described by literary scholarship, and what theoretical approaches may help to sharpen the analytical instruments to characterize the social impact of literary means such as narration, rhetoric, and fictionalization;
– How the fact that utopias often fail in reality affects the history of the genre (modifications of specific utopian models, immanent critique of utopian literature, or the conceptualization of a literary sense of possibility that refrains from agency);
– Finally, the impact of non-German utopias (e.g. by Edward Bellamy, William Morris, Jules Verne, H. G. Wells) on the development of the genre within the German-speaking world.

A final issue about this panel: we consider Southern California among the best places for such a discussion. Not only have many utopias been tested here, it was also an important place of exile for many German-speaking authors, such as Alfred Döblin and Franz Werfel, who themselves made use of the utopian tradition.

Please submit a 250-word abstract and a brief CV by February 8, 2016, to the following email addresses:, Interested presenters are encouraged to contact the organizers with any questions.

Note: one must be a member of the GSA by February 15, 2016, to submit a proposal for the annual conference. All applicants will be notified by February 10, 2016, about the status of their proposals.
Quelle der BeschreibungInformation des Anbieters
VeranstaltungsortSan Diego
PersonName: Battegay, Caspar 
Funktion: Convener 
Name: Leucht, Robert 
Funktion: Convener 
KontaktdatenName/Institution: German Studies Association, Johns Hopkins University Press Customer Service Department 
Strasse/Postfach: P.O. Box 19966 
Postleitzahl: MD 21211-0966 
Stadt: Baltimore 
Telefon: 001 410 516 6987 
Fax: 001 410 516 3866 
LandVereinigte Staaten von Amerika
SchlüsselbegriffeLiteraturwissenschaft; Komparatistik (Kulturvergleich, Interkulturelle Literaturwissenschaft); Literatur 1880 - 1945
Zusätzliches SuchwortUtopie; Literatur und Wissenschaft; Politische Imagination
Ediert von  H-Germanistik
Ein Angebot vonGermanistik im Netz
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