Realisms in Contemporary Culture

full name / name of organization: 
Dorothee Birke / FRIAS, Freiburg University

Realisms in Contemporary Culture:
Theories, Politics and Medial Configurations
23. Sept. – 25. Sept. 2010 / FRIAS (Freiburg University), Germany

In the context of structuralist and poststructuralist theory, realism, with its implication of a transparent representation of reality, was deemed at best out-moded and at worst ideologically insidious. Recent years, however, have seen a revival of the term in analyses of contemporary developments in literature and film, at times even as a yardstick for measuring the quality of individual works. A closer look shows that in critical debates widely differing concepts of realism are used, often connected with explicit or implicit ideological positions. The question of what may be understood by realism is thus still very much open to debate and, what is more, highly charged.
The aim of this conference is, firstly, to chart the territory of the usages of the term 'realism' in contemporary theory. Secondly, we want to discuss the validity and usefulness of the 'realisms' posited for describing and analyzing trends in contemporary literature and film. How does the debate on realism tie in with the ongoing controversies regarding the connections between ethics or politics and form? In what ways do 'realist' contemporary works relate to socio-cultural developments?

In order to foster an interdisciplinary discussion, we invite papers from a range of different disciplines (e.g. literary studies, media and digital studies, art history) on topics such as
• Concepts of realism in contemporary critical debate
• Formal realism and reception aesthetics
• Medial developments and realism
• Transmedial comparison of the 'reality effect'
• Case studies of realism in contemporary culture
• Ethics / Politics and realism
• …

Contributors are strongly encouraged to make explicit their own usage of 'realism' by reflecting on the question of what they see as realism and how they would distinguish it from other modes of representation.

Please send your one-page abstract for a 30-minute presentation to Submission deadline is 31st January 2010.

Organizing Institution
The Freiburg Institute for Advanced Studies (FRIAS) is the University of Freiburg's international research college. It was established after Freiburg's success in the Federal Excellence Initiative in October 2007. As a centre-piece of the Albert-Ludwigs-University's institutional strategy, FRIAS pursues three main objectives: to promote top level research, to develop new interdisciplinary areas of competence and knowledge, and to foster the advancement of outstanding junior scholars.

For further information, please contact Dr. Dorothee Birke ( or Dr. Stella Butter (