Call for papers (book publication): The poetics of Crisis: Crisis and Style in Interwar Germany and Austria

full name / name of organization: 
Stijn De Cauwer

Call for papers (book publication): The poetics of Crisis: Crisis and Style in Interwar Germany and Austria

Editors: Stijn De Cauwer (postdoctoral researcher University of Leuven), Sven Fabré (doctoral candidate University of Leuven) and Michiel Rys (doctoral candidate University of Leuven)

Many German or Austrian writers have formulated their analysis of the crisis which was raging in the period following the First World War. Politically, the frail democracy of the Weimar republic was constantly under threat from both the right and the left. The political landscape after the demise of the German and Austro-Hungarian Empires was ridden with attempted revolutions and putsches. Advocates of pan-European and internationalist views were in disagreement with nationalists. Moreover, the 1920's were ravished by hyperinflation and widespread unemployment. At the same time, comprehending society and its needs was complicated by the rapid developments of science and technology, along with the accelerated circulation of information. Literature itself, too, found itself in a crisis amidst the changing economic and social constellation. Adequately assessing and understanding this complex mixture of crises and experiences was then, as much as it is now, a challenging task.

For this book we would like to study from diverse angles the ways in which German or Austrian writers of this period have analyzed the prevailing crisis in Europe. Which specific concepts did they use? What did they consider to be the main causes of the crisis? What exactly constitutes a "crisis" in their view and how did it arise? At the same time, we would like to analyze how these writers attempted to describe or even counter the symptoms of the crisis in their writings. Whether the crisis was regarded as a political or economic crisis, a crisis of the image or of language, a crisis of values, a crisis of form or organization, a crisis in the sciences, or other areas of society, we can see authors developing literary tactics to describe or counter these phenomena. Certain techniques or styles (e.g. montage, the 'modernist miniature', epic theatre, expressionism…) can be regarded as reactions to a situation of crisis. A final point of interest are the various ways in which theorists have analyzed the relationship between literature and the prevailing crisis, whether theorists of the interwar period itself (Walter Benjamin, Ludwig Wittgenstein, Theodor Adorno…) or contemporary researchers of interwar literary dynamics.

Possible topics are:
- How have writers analyzed and depicted the crisis of Europe or Germany during the interwar period (in essays, public speeches, their literary production)? For example: the public speeches of Thomas Mann or Stefan Zweig, Hermann Broch's theory of the decline of values, the problem of Sprachkritik,…
- Did writers analyze this crisis situation in terms of historical analogy, necessity and/or continuity, or did they regard it as a singular event?
- How have writers analyzed Europe? Did they think of Europe as a symptom or a problem, or rather as an ideal or a solution for the crisis during the interwar period? How was the European myth constructed or, on the contrary, deconstructed?
- What is the connection between the specific stylistic and poetical development of certain writers and the way they have analyzed the prevailing crisis of Europe?
- In which way can certain techniques or formats (such as montage, the 'modernist miniature', reportage, epic theatre…) be regarded as a response to the crisis?
- How were specific problems such as inflation, unemployment, the crisis of democracy, or the crisis of law processed or represented in literary texts?
- How have theorists analyzed the relation between literature the prevailing crisis, such as the relation between literature and shock according to Walter Benjamin, Theodor Adorno's critique of commitment, Martin Heidegger's views on literature and being or the debates between Bertold Brecht and Georg Lukács about realism?

Researchers interested in writing a contribution should send a short abstract of maximum 300 words and a short biographical description of the author to before 15/09/2014 (extended deadline). We will make a selection of the abstracts and submit a book proposal to Rodopi Publishers. Contributions can be in English or German.