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CfP: Reconsidering the Media Histories of Girls in Uniform

Seminar. A Journal of Germanic Studies is looking for submissions to the Special Issue on Reconsidering the Media Histories of Girls in Uniform. Guest editors are Ilinca Iurascu (University of British Columbia), Gaby Pailer (University of British Columbia), and Franziska Schößler (Universität Trier).

Among the highlights of the Outfest Los Angeles LGBT film festival this year (July, 2017) was the first public North American screening of Muchachas de uniforme (Mexico, 1951), Alfredo Crevenna’s adaptation of Leontine Sagan’s 1931 classic Mädchen in Uniform. The work of exiled artists who had fled fascist Germany, Muchachas de uniforme transposes the text of Christa Winsloe’s play Gestern und heute (1931) to a different cultural and historical setting. Unlike Géza von Radványi’s cult cinematic adaptation from 1958, however, the film has hardly received any attention from critics so far.

The exceptional character of the 2017 screening is a telling illustration of the current limitations facing both critics and publics when engaging with the media history of the Girls in Uniform material. Since its rediscovery by feminist critics in the 1970s, Sagan’s Mädchen has definitely been the main point of (critical) attention within a complex media network that involves multiple creators and several textual, theatrical and filmic renditions. But despite the popularity of the two German-language films, and their visibility in academic scholarship and popular culture, much more remains to be said about the broader contexts of the material. Indeed, few are the texts that specifically examine its non-cinematic dimensions, particularly Winsloe’s novel Das Mädchen Manuela (1933), the stage versions and performance history of her play Gestern und heuteRitter Nérestan (1931), and its first authorized English translation, Children in Uniform (1932).  Even fewer are the discussions of the material in the context of contemporary cultures of fandom, or critical responses to recent adaptations such as René Pollesch’s production Mädchen in Uniform – Wege aus der Selbstverwirklichung at the Schauspielhaus Hamburg (2010).

Furthermore, while the 1931 cinematic rendition has “never been an obscure film,” (Dyer 1990) it has hardly been embraced from the start as a radical lesbian film. One can therefore read its interpretive history, from Siegfried Kracauer and Lotte Eisner to Ruby Rich, Richard Dyer and Richard McCormick, as an exemplary theoretical casebook, tracing a continuous and necessary process of critical rediscovery. How would then a broader perspective on the many facets of the material further contribute to that process? How would a conversation between the many theatrical, cinematic and fictional ‘lives’ of Girls in Uniform further help queer the German studies canon?

Such questions are particularly relevant when considering the broader implications for the discipline: for two decades now, Sagan’s film has been a staple in cinema and cultural studies courses and one of the curricular classics across German departments in North America. Given its pedagogical theme and direct commentary on ideology and education, it functions, in many ways, as a disciplinary meta-object. Even more important, then, becomes the need to reassess and re-evaluate the lessons of Girls in Uniform in this expanded media context.

The editors of this special issue of Seminar invite contributions on these and other related aspects of Girls in Uniform, with particular attention to rarely discussed historiographic questions on and new theoretical and methodological approaches to the material. We especially welcome critical discussions of various narrative and theatrical incarnationsas well as rarely discussed cinematic productions which build on Winsloe’s (screen)play and Leontine Sagan’s film.

Please send in an 250-500 word-abstract ( by Nov. 30, 2017. The editors will notify contributors by Dec. 20, 2017Essays (5000- 9000 words) will be due no later than April 30, 2018. Please note that Seminar uses a double-blind peer review process and that submissions are considered regardless of the author’s professional status or rank, institutional affiliation, or nationality–quality of the scholarship alone is the decisive factor.

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