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The Fragile Tradition: The German Cultural Imagination since 1500
Cambridge, October 2002

Call for Papers

The Fragile Tradition: The German Cultural Imagination since 1500

University of Cambridge, 1-3 October 2002

The research group 'Cultural History and Literary Imagination' is based in the
German Department of the University of Cambridge, and is primarily concerned with
the relationship between literary texts and their cultural and historical
contexts, whether these are conceived in social, political or intellectual terms.
The planned conference 'The Fragile Tradition' is intended to provide an
opportunity to investigate the forms and functions of the cultural imagination,
and the way it is reflected in literary und discursive texts, in the German
language area since 1500. Contributions which focus either on moments of radical
change in German culture or on the continuities which lie behind the apparent
discontinuities would be welcome. Furthermore, we would welcome contributions
dealing with the reception of the German cultural imagination abroad.

The organisers would particularly welcome contributions germane to the issues
which the research group has identified for its longer-term programme. With the
conference theme in mind, these issues might be defined as follows:

a) Changes in the material culture of the German-speaking world and their
reflection in literature, including the impact of scientific and technological
developments and changes of cultural paradigm (e.g. literary responses to
scientific thinking and scientific views of the world, the materiality of
knowledge and its representation in literary and discursive texts, the impact of
industrialisation, social change, the influence of new media and their
anthropological dimension).

b) The construction of cultural meaning through literary texts, models of
historical explanation, forms of historiographical representation, and media
systems, particularly with reference to continuities and discontinuities of
cultural and political identity, or of national consciousness, and with reference
to the canonisation (or subversion) of lines of tradition.

c) The status and the forms of historical and cultural memory, particularly the
cultural constitution of tradition and memory, and the spatial and visual
expression of cultural memories ('lieux de mémoire' in the sense promoted by
Pierre Nora), the dynamic metaphors by which cultural memory is transmitted, and
its representation in literary and discursive texts and visual media. In this
respect, comparative approaches would be particularly welcome.

d) Questions of the methodology of a trans-disciplinary and historically
orientated investigation of cultural thinking and its representation in the medium
of text, image, film, etc. Of particular interest here is the question of how to
deal with diverse media when constructing and interpreting cultural developments
historically. This methodological topic is not restricted to approaches from
Germany and German speaking countries, but we would welcome wider theoretical
contextualisations. Furthermore, the reception of German cultural studies/theory
abroad would be of particular interest.

Contributions may be in either English or German. The organisers expect to be able
to publish a selection of the papers in a volume designed to provide orientation
among the fundamental issues of the historical interpretation of cultural
phenomena, and to serve as a showcase of the interaction of English and German
scholarship in this area.

Please send your proposal (title and short summary of content) by 1 May 2002 to
one of the following:

Dr David Midgley
St John¹s College
Cambridge CB2 1TP
United Kingdom


Dr Christian Emden
Sidney Sussex College
Cambridge CB2 3HU
United Kingdom