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Warwick Workshop for Interdisciplinary German Studies

Funded with the generous support of Warwick's Humanities Research Centre.

This is an interdiscplinary workshop series dedicated to all areas of German cultural studies. Meeting two to three times during term in the Department of German Studies, the workshop hosts presentations on a Wednesday afternoon by senior national and international scholars, Warwick colleagues and doctoral students. Presentations can be delivered both as finished conference-style papers, or more informally as work-in-progress. Please contact the workshop convenors, c dot e dot achinger at warwick dot ac dot uk and e dot oliver dot 1 at warwick dot ac dot uk, if you wish to offer or attend a presentation!

Coming up next:

Wednesday 21 November, 3-5pm, Humanities Building H0.51 (Please note different time and venue!)

Writer in residence Olga Grjasnowa reads from her novel Gott ist nicht schüchtern


Workshop Programme 2018-19


Term 1:

Wednesday 31 October 2018, 5-7pm, Humanities Building H2.44

Elisabeth Herrmann (Warwick): When Anti-World Literature Turns into World Literature: Franz Kafka’s Archives of Resistance

This paper investigates how Kafka developed a very distinct form of ‘anti-world literature’ through the fictional creation of different world systems. In most of his short stories as well as in the three novel fragments America. The Missing Person, The Trial, and The Castle the protagonists are exposed to abstract forms of social domination and a feeling of universal guilt, non-belonging and isolation. In many aspects, the social systems the protagonists encounter feature the alienating experience of living in a depersonalized modern (capitalist) world. In opposition to the established notion that Kafka’s protagonists suffer from the inability to act independently, not succeeding in pursuing their individual goals, this paper argues that there lies a subliminal, but very powerful social and political revolutionary potential in Kafka’s text. It is the unremitting search for a message that is yet to be conveyed and the refusal to integrate into a world in which the rules are not transparent, that create a symbolic repository and counter-archive to a world system in which indifference, impersonality and passivity are identified as the foundation of our ‘relationship to the world’ (Rosa 2016). There is no vision, no utopian world view, but a hidden message in Kafka’s texts, conveyed through an ever-resistant melancholy with which the individual fights the impersonal system he is exposed to without knowing its rules. The analysis of a sample of texts will show that Kafka’s literary examples of individual resistance have been able to circulate globally because they translate universally – that is across political systems.

Wednesday 14 November, 5-7pm, Humanities Building H2.44

Ina Linge (Exeter): The Potency of the Butterfly: Sexual Nature in German Sexology and Performance Art after 1900

This talk explores how ideas about ‘sexual nature’ were co-constructed by German sexological discourses and artistic productions after 1900. Drawing on literature and science studies and queer and feminist theoretical approaches to nature and non-human animals, the talk investigates the work of the German-Jewish sexologist Magnus Hirschfeld and his interest in butterflies, both as model organisms for scientific study and as artistic representations in the form of the Butterfly Dance, pioneered by the American dancer Loïe Fuller (1862 – 1928) and adapted by the Welsh aristocrat Henry Cyril Paget (1875 – 1905), the 5th Marquis of Anglesey. Following Fuller’s and Paget’s performances of the Butterfly Dance, this talk investigates how both performances explore concepts of sexual nature through the figure of the butterfly (or moth). I argue that both performances express a version of sexual nature that does not offer a pastoral vision of naturalised sexuality, but instead show an alternative vision of sexual nature, one that is transgressive, disturbing and perverse. Finally, I argue that this competing vision of sexual nature influences Magnus Hirschfeld’s sexological work, which turns towards butterfly experiment to understand natural sexual variation.

Wednesday 21 November, 3-5pm, Humanities Building H0.51 (Please note different time and venue!)

Writer in residence Olga Grjasnowa reads from her novel Gott ist nicht schüchtern


Wednesday 28 November, 5-7pm, Humanities Building H2.44

Chantal Wright (Warwick): Revisiting the re-translation hypothesis: Antoine Berman reading Walter Benjamin

The re-translation hypothesis – the idea that there is teleological improvement from one translation of a source text to the next – has been largely discredited since it was first put forward by Antoine Berman and Paul Bensimon in 1990. But Berman’s own translational practice and reflection in L’Âge de la Traduction, his 180-page commentary on Walter Benjamin’s ‘Die Aufgabe des Übersetzers’, may allow the hypothesis to be recast. Berman’s commentary reflects upon Benjamin’s German text and on Maurice de Gandillac’s French translation thereof. Berman thinks and re-translates Benjamin, to a significant degree, through Gandillac. He acknowledges longstanding criticisms of Gandillac’s translation (then the only existing translation) but argues that French readers should nonetheless acknowledge the ‘gift’ that Gandillac made them in the sixties when he introduced Benjamin’s texts into France. The many revisions to Gandillac’s translation that were made both by the translator himself and by subsequent editors point to the complexity of Benjamin’s text and the humility of the translator in the face of this complexity. It is against this background that Berman’s introduction of the concept of the translational défaillance should be understood, his rendering of the term Versagung, borrowed from Freud, a term that I will render as “default”. Defaults are not errors or failings but point to nodes of textual resistance; they are an inevitable part of the translation process. I will show, via my own English translation of L’Âge de la Traduction, how the concept of the “default”, coupled with Berman’s reflections on textual time and kairos, may help us re-think the re-translation hypothesis, situating re-translation as a dialogic, collaborative process of mothering – in the sense of birthing – a text.

Chantal Wright is Associate Professor of Translation as a Literary Practice in the Department of English and Comparative Literary Studies at Warwick. Her English translation of Antoine Berman’s The Age of Translation was published by Routledge in July.

Wednesday 5 December 2018, 5-7pm, Humanities Building H2.44
Susanne Luhmann (Alberta): Representing Familial Legacies of Nazi Perpetration: Postmemory and/or a ‘Move to Innocence’?


Term 2:

Wednesday 16 January 2019, 5-7pm, Humanities Building H2.44
Elizabeth Boa (Nottingham): Feminism, Ecocriticism, Identity Politics: Texts, Theories, and Historical Contexts

Tuesday 29 January, 5-7pm, Ramphal Building R3.41 - Please note different date and venue!
Holger Schulze (Copenhagen): What are Sound Studies? A Journey into Historical, Anthropological and Political Aspects of Listening and Sounding

Wednesday 20 February, 5-7pm, Humanities Building H2.44
Thomas Martinec (Regensburg): ‘Fümms bö wö tää zää Uu’. Poetischer Sinn als musikalisches Verfahren in Lautgedichten der Avantgarde

Term 3:

Wednesday 1 May, 5-7pm, Humanities Building H2.44
Kate Rigby (Bath Spa): Rereading Herder in the Horizon of the Environmental Humanities



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