Poem Unlimited: New Perspectives on Poetry and Genre (Augsburg, Germany, Oct 1-3, 2015)

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University of Augsburg, Germany

Poem Unlimited: New Perspectives on Poetry and Genre
International Conference, Augsburg, October 1-3, 2015

When Polonius, in the second act of Hamlet, announces the theater company as the "best actors in the world, either for tragedy, comedy, history, pastoral, pastoral-comical, historical-pastoral, tragical-historical, tragical-comical-historical-pastoral, scene individable, or poem unlimited," he points to several problems that have pervaded scholarship on poetry and genre.

While we continue to speak of poems and poetry, we have more or less deposed of the question of how poetry as a genre is defined. What definitions there are have continually been questioned by the literary experiments of the twentieth century and the new media of the twenty-first. Confronted with a vast corpus of poetry that has become un-limited in more ways than one, some scholars have developed ever more refined typologies while most have opted for another of Polonius's strategies: an abrupt exit to escape unnerving questions. Citing poststructuralist relativism or the nominalism of the Croce school, they have rejected genre as an artificial construct that unnecessarily deters from the uniqueness of the individual text. Nonetheless generic categories remain in wide use in literary studies, as even a cursory glance at university course lists or publishers' catalogues attests. By our very dismissal of genre as a subject of analysis we allow the same old generic categories to persist unchallenged, and almost unchanged, in academic discourse.

Interest in questions of genre has never really flagged in continental European scholarship, however, and it is reviving in anglophone scholarship as well. Germany has retained a particularly lively interest in genre theory through all the theoretical "turns" of the late twentieth century. Our conference aims to add to these efforts and draw renewed attention to conceptions of genre and their role in poetry studies. These conceptions may be normative or descriptive; they may question or endorse the value of genre as a category of analysis; they may sustain or dismiss the notion that a genre describable as "poetry" exists. Potential areas of analysis include but are not limited to:

  • poetry as genre: definitions, approaches, critiques
  • genre/s in poetry: boundaries, evolution, innovation
  • poetry and genre theory: Bakhtin, Frye, Genette, Derrida, etc.
  • new approaches to poetry and genre : reader response, cognitive, space, trauma, cultural memory, linguistics, etc.
  • the cultural politics of genre and/in poetry: nation, colonialism, race, gender, etc.
  • the ethics of genre and/in poetry
  • intermedial poetry: rap, slam, spoken word, etc.
  • the institutional politics of genre and/in poetry

The conference will take place at the University of Augsburg, Germany, from October 1-3, 2015. Keynote speakers will include Rainer Emig (Hanover) and Christopher Stokes (Exeter). If you are interested in giving a presentation (15-20 minutes) at the conference, please send a 250-word abstract including your name and institutional affiliation to both organizers by October 12, 2014.

David Kerler

Timo Mueller