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CFP: Haunting Memories: German-language literature from and about Eastern and Southeastern Europe

We are inviting proposals for a special panel at the 2019 Meeting of the Canadian Association of University of Teachers at the University of British Columbia. Our panel is dedicated to the study of German-language literature from Eastern and Southeastern Europe written in the 20th and 21stcentury. Our interest lies in reflections on the co-existence of cultures in this area, past and present, with a focus on the position of germanophone traditions. 

These intercultural relationships varied not just diachronically – the most momentous shift occurring in 1945 – but also synchronically, depending on historical, social and political factors. At the beginning of the century, for example, germanophone culture could present itself as colonial power (Poland), as part of a multicultural matrix (Bukovina) or as cornerstone for a small but vital minority (Romania). Key figures in this tradition are writers such as Karl Emil Franzos, Arnold Zweig, Agnes Miegel, Joseph Roth, and Johannes Bobrowski.

In more recent decades, a new type of writer has added another dimension to this discourse. Immigrants and refugees from Central, Eastern and Southeast-European countries such as Hungary, Romania and former Yugoslavia have emerged as some of the most laureated writers within the German-speaking literary scene. Authors such as Terésia Mora, Herta Müller, Ilja Trojanow and Saša Stanišić are central figures in what Brigid Haines has termed the “Eastern Turn” in contemporary German literature. In their narratives, these writers often tackle the force of haunting memories brought with them from behind the Iron Curtain. But the 1990s and 2000s also saw many significant contributions to this discourse by writers who remained ‘Auslanddeutsche,’ for example Eginald Schlattner and Lenka Reinerová. Whether through older or more recent historical perspectives, the main intention of this panel is to present snapshots that capture the complexity of intercultural relationships in Eastern and Southeastern Europe, as well as their development over the past century from a German perspective. Its focus, therefore, lies in the discussion of texts, films and other cultural artifacts that highlight the conflict potential contained in the memories of germanophone cultures in Eastern and Southeastern Europe. As Joachim Rogall writes in Deutsche Geschichten im Osten Europas: One can only hope that the study of this history will not give rise to revisionism or territorial claims, ambitions that would threaten the hard-won peace in Central Europe (1990). With this approach in mind, the panel organizers especially encourage contributions that engage with this conflict potential, be it by critically reviewing revisionist accounts or by analysing efforts to craft an inclusive narrative of Eastern and Southeastern Europe and its peoples.

Possible paper themes include, but are not limited to:

  • Which genres do German-speaking authors from the East select to discuss their bedrohliche Erinnerungen (wars, exile, deportation, etc.) and why?
  • What role do issues of age, ethnicity, gender and religion play in these texts?
  • Which theoretical approaches to memory, trauma and nostalgia are most productive in teasing out these complex intersections of identity in texts by authors who are considered belonging to the “Eastern Turn”?
  • What role does the country of migration play in these texts? Do the migrants and exiles manage to arrive and settle in the new country successfully in the texts, and what is the aftermath of the Ankunft in the new country?
  • Is a specific form of nostalgia associated with the East, such as “Ostalgie” or “Yugo-nostalgia” important in these works? And if so, how is it represented? Do writers reject or otherwise respond to the discourse of nostalgia in their work?
  • What is the function of the German and native language in these texts? When and is the native language used and to what purpose?
  • How do writers from Eastern and Southeastern Europe respond to the German discourse of Heimat in their work? How can Heimat theory and German discourses of home and homeland assist us in understanding the issues at stake when dealing with various forms of memory and trauma – bedrohliche Erinnerungen?

Interested colleagues are invited to submit a proposal containing approximately 300 words by 23 November 2018. We particularly encourage proposals from graduate students whose research is situated in this field.  Please submit your abstracts to Michel Mallet ( and Florian Gassner (

Please note that presenters must be paid-up CAUTG members by 15 March 2019. The CAUTG meets as part of the annual Congress of the Humanities and Social Sciences of Canada, organized by the Canadian Federation for the Humanities and Social Sciences.

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