CFP: Aura Today: Explorations of Corporeality and Materiality on the Modern Stage (GSA 2014 Deadline: February 7, 2014)

full name / name of organization: 
Martin Sheehan, Tennessee Technological University
contact email: 

CFP: Aura Today: Explorations of Corporeality and Materiality on the Modern Stage

German Studies Association 38th Annual Meeting (GSA)
Kansas City, Missouri, September 18-21, 2014
Deadline for Submissions: February 7 (Panel Submissions Due February 17)

Panel organizers:
Martin P. Sheehan (Assistant Professor of German, Tennessee Technological
Gerrit Roessler (Program Director, German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD);

Walter Benjamin describes the dramatic stage as one of the few remaining spaces in which audiences can experience the aura of the work of art. While the means of reproduction eradicate this sense of presence and immediacy in most other forms of art, aura remains an integral part of theatrical performance, because "the artistic performance of a stage actor is directly presented to the public by the actor in person" as Benjamin observes in his famous essay The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction (1936).

However, we might argue that the modern stage challenges the very notion of presence and corporeality, opting instead for dramatic figures like Goethe's Homunculus or Büchner's Valerio who seem designed to displace the immediacy of the object on stage and frame it in terms of the audience's imaginary. The dramatic stage is populated by objects and bodies that have no immediate material presence. We could say that they lack precisely what Benjamin calls "the here and now of the work of art."

Given the tension that these and other figures create between performance, stage, and audience, this panel seeks to explore how dramas frame corporeality and its intersection with the alleged opposition of real and imagined bodies. How do dramatic texts portray objects that are sensually experienced, but not necessarily haptic, and vice versa? Particular attention will be paid to how bodies, products, or corporeal realities are culturally constructed, performed, or razed in the process of listening, viewing – and reading, during the course of performance.

In addition to the interplay of corporeality and identity, we want to explore how "real" and "imagined" corporeality comes into being. We are particularly interested in the close examination of how different texts and textualities employ the notion of what is abstract and concrete, seen and not seen, or heard and not heard in their construction and deconstruction of corporeality. Furthermore, the interplay of presence and absence, distance and closeness, immediacy and mediation, is of special interest.

Possible topics may include but are not limited to:
Appearance and Disappearance
Aura and Authenticity
Seeing Is Believing
The Aural and the Actual
Sacred and Profane
Imagined Communities
Icon(ic), Indexical constructions
Benjaminian Aura as Asset: its Construction or Destruction
The Significance of Photographs as Real or Theoretical Objects on Stage
(Un)Real Places or Properties and Their Qualities

Please send proposals (200-300 words) and a brief CV via email to both Martin Sheehan ( and Gerrit Roessler ( ) by February 7th. Final approval lies with the GSA Programming Committee.