NeMLA CFP: The Aesthetics of Frechheit: Cynicism and Resistance in German Speaking Culture

deadline for submissions: 
September 30, 2018
full name / name of organization: 
Marc Cesar Rickenbach / Graduate Center, CUNY

NeMLA 2019 CFP

The Aesthetics of Frechheit: Cynicism and Resistance in German Speaking Culture

In the provocative Kritik der Zynischen Vernunft (1983), Peter Sloterdijk offers a sobering diagnosis of the post-1968 Zeitgeist that saw the rise of neoliberal conservatism and the return of far-right ideology. Despite inheriting from enlightenment the tools necessary to unveil the repressive nature of various institutions, Sloterdijk believed meaningful action had been stalled by a stubborn apathy, a diffuse cynicism couched in self-preservation that left critics of ideology bound within the arena of abstract discourses. One problem, he claims, is that critique has distanced itself from the ‘holy non-seriousness’ of laughter, satire, and irreverence so central to figures such as Heine and Nietzsche, opting instead for the well-dressed air of academic, bourgeois respectability. Against this, Sloterdijk proposed a return to the original kynic, Diogenes of Sinope, that frech or cheeky outsider whose brand of cynicism mobilizes his own body and its excreta to counter the impotence of contemporary critique.

Taking as its subject the various forms of cynicism tied to the development of fascism in the 20th century, and especially its reemergence in the 21st, this panel invites papers that explore contemporary iterations and alternatives to such Diogenesean figures. We are interested in papers that explore the theme of cynicism and frechheit in a broad range of media, and ask how cynicism is understood, treated and countered aesthetically. Consequently we ask what linguistic or aesthetic modes of representation are deployed as critiques of cynicisms? What satirical strategies remain available for critique today? And to what extent does somatic or physiognomic thought play a role? How might we conceive of a Diogenes figure in the context of Anti-Fascist movements? And what sort of Gegenöffentlichkeit, or counter-public sphere (invoking Negt & Kluge’s intervention) can be imagined?

We welcome proposals exploring various interdisciplinary strategies that address problems of critical impotence, including interventions by sound studies, religious studies, queer studies, etc.

Some keywords and things to consider:

• How is cynicism understood and treated aesthetically?• Linguistic and aesthetic modes of representation• State and use of contemporary satire, humor, laughter• Somatic / physiognomic critique• Anti-Fascist aesthetics• Possibilities of counter-public spheres• Secularism and post-secularism• Post-1968 critique (post-Adorno Frankfurt School, Dionysian Materialism, Deconstruction, etc.)• Peter Weiß, Elfriede Jelinek, Urs Allemann, R.W. Fassbinder, etc.

Please submit a 300 word abstract by September 30 by following this link: 

If you have any questions, please email Marc Rickenbach at