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47th Annual WiG Conference
The 2022 conference will take place in Portland, OR, November 10–13. More information about how to register to be posted soon.
You can email the organizers with questions at: email@example.com.
Panels at the 2022 WiG Conference
The sessions for the 2022 conference are currently seeking proposals. Submissions for the panels are due by February 15, 2021 to their respective organizers. Accepted panelists will be notified by March 1.
All presentations must accord with the WiG Mission Statement:
The Coalition of Women in German (WiG) provides a democratic forum for all people interested in feminist approaches to German literature and culture or in the intersection of gender with other categories of analysis such as sexuality, class, race, and ethnicity. Through its annual conference, panels at national professional meetings, and through the publication of the Feminist German Studies, the organization promotes feminist scholarship of outstanding quality. Women in German is committed to making school and college curricula inclusive and seeks to create bridges, cross boundaries, nurture aspiration, and challenge assumptions while exercising critical self-awareness. Women in German is dedicated to eradicating discrimination in the classroom and in the teaching profession at all levels.
Note: Given the volatile situation presented by the pandemic, we are not certain what the WiG conference will look like next year. At the moment, we are planning for an in-person conference in Portland, Oregon for 2022. We will revisit this discussion at our spring leadership meeting and will notify the membership at that point as to whether any changes are necessary and forthcoming. Membership to the Coalition of Women in German will be required to present on this panel but is not required to submit an abstract.
Thursday Night Session: Feminist Approaches to Decolonizing / Hospicing Higher Education
Vanessa de Oliveira Andreotti, Sharon Stein, Cash Ahenakew, and Dallas Hunt, in an article mapping possible approaches to decolonizing higher education, also point out that it may be impossible to decolonize institutions formed by the violence of modernity and its norms. They suggest the possibility of hospicing, which “would entail sitting with a system in decline, learning from its history, offering palliative care, seeing oneself in that which is dying, attending to the integrity of the process, dealing with tantrums, incontinence, anger and hopelessness, ‘cleaning up’, and clearing the space for something new. This is unlikely to be a glamorous process; it will entail many frustrations, an uncertain timeline, and unforeseeable outcomes without guarantees.”
For this session, we consider feminist approaches to opening possibilities for decolonial futures for higher education. In particular, “hospicing” could draw on the long history of feminist politics of care, which in turn derive from and are inspired by Black feminist theory, Indigenous studies, and Disability and Ageism studies. We envision moving from these models to collaboratively engage a set of questions in small groups, beginning or continuing our work to imagine other futures for higher education (for example through our approaches to curriculum, expressions of research, creation of public scholarship, new pedagogies, work in professional organizations, and more).
We invite proposals for brief presentations that provide possible models for this hospicing, for transformative changes happening now while making openings for uncertain futures, even futures which may usher entirely different approaches to higher education. To apply to participate, please write a brief response to the question (no more than 250 words): what might you hope to present on in a brief 5-minute presentation as a roundtable to kick off the session? Presenters will also participate in organizing the final session.
Send proposals to Emily Frazier-Rath (firstname.lastname@example.org), Rosemarie Peña (email@example.com), and Beverly Weber (firstname.lastname@example.org) by February 15.
Please consider these texts as you plan your proposal:
Andreotti, Vanessa de Oliveira, et al. “Mapping Interpretations of Decolonization in the Context of Higher Education.” Decolonization: Indigeneity, Education Society 4, no. 1, 1, May 2015. jps.library.utoronto.ca, https://jps.library.utoronto.ca/index.php/des/article/view/22168
Gesturing Towards Decolonial Futures (decolonialfutures.net)
Gesturing to Decolonial Futures Workbook https://decolonialfuturesnet.files.wordpress.com/2021/03/decolonizing-he-workbook-draft-march2021-2.pd
Mirza, Heidi S. 2018. "Decolonizing Higher Education: Black Feminism and the Intersectionality of Race and Gender. Journal of Feminist Scholarship 7 (Fall): 1-12. https://digitalcommons.uri.edu/jfs/vol7/iss7/3
Praxis/Pedagogy/Professional Session: Teaching Interdisciplinarily
Following our experience co-teaching an interdisciplinary course about the Holocaust, we want to engage in a discussion of interdisciplinary pedagogy and how disciplines throughout the university can work together, rather than against one another. We are seeking people or groups to share their experiences collaborating across disciplines, who would then help us lead small group discussions about ideas for our own campuses.
This panel represents a larger effort on the part of WiG to welcome participants from other fields and disciplines beyond German literary studies and so please share this CFP widely. We are eager to see a wide array of proposals. Possible questions to consider include:
What are some of the pitfalls you have encountered when attempting to teach interdisciplinarily? Differing student expectations or faculty expectations? Co-teaching or other models of interdisciplinarity (modules or guest speakers)?
What does interdisciplinary cooperation mean for the future of our various fields of study and academia more broadly, especially in light of inequities that disproportionately affect historically-marginalized groups?
What does interdisciplinarity mean at various institutions? In particular, how are interdisciplinary (and especially co- or team-taught classes) counted towards people’s teaching responsibilities, their tenure and pre-tenure reviews, and other institutional ways that “value” is assigned to interdisciplinary teaching. Another
aspect might be departmental culture and how it supports faculty interest in interdisciplinary teaching or not (even on the same campus, different departments may “allow” their faculty to teach outside of the department or not).
How can we more effectively model the critical thinking and group work skills that we hope our students will use in their interactions with course materials and each other?
How are aspects of universal design, diversity, equity and inclusion compatible (or not) with interdisciplinarity? What are some pedagogical strategies that you use to address these topics?
Please submit an abstract (aprox. 300 words) and a short bio (aprox. 100 words) to the organizers (email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org) by February 15th, 2022.
Pre-20th Century Panel: Cultural Transfer, Inbound and/or Outbound: Bonding across Borders
In the domains of literature, of women’s rights and women’s education, German women engaged with pivotal works from other cultural zones. Many were reading fiction, essays, treatises, and letters in the original English, French, and other languages. Many were reading in German translations. And others, importantly, were themselves translating works into German. Similarly readers in other cultural zones were engaging with the works of German women writers.
As Michel Espagne notes, “cultural transfer” reaches beyond the notion of ideas from one culture influencing another. Instead, “In the process of transfer and the migration from one cultural situation to another, any object falls into a new context and takes on a new meaning. Cultural exchange is not the circulation of objects and ideas as they already are, but their relentless reinterpretation, rethinking and re-signification.”
We invite papers that discuss German women writers, translators, activists, educators, who interfaced, imaginatively or in actuality with those from other cultural zones, with a view to the ways ideas, rhetorical strategies, or activities were appropriated, received, re-interpreted, and transformed in that very process. Additionally we invite the inverse, the “outbound;” that is, papers that discuss writers from other cultural zones who interfaced with German women writers. We encourage papers from medieval studies through the nineteenth century.
Thoughts to consider:
· Translators as purveyors of cultural transfer, from the Middle Ages through Afrikanistik of the colonial era
· Women-authored works made rapidly available in German translation (Mme de Lafayette, Sarah Scott, Frances Burney, Mary Wollstonecraft, and others!)
· This topic segment (“Inbound”) may include male writers from other cultural zones and their German women readers (e.g., JJ Rousseau, among others!)
· Authors and translators of German women-authored works (e.g., the popularity in the US of late nineteenth-century works by E. Werner, E. Marlitt, Luise Mûhlbach, W. Heimburg, etc; in England of eighteenth-century works by Sophie von La Roche, etc)
· American Transcendentalists’ engagement with German women writers (e.g., Bettina von Arnim)
· Cultural colonialism pertaining to German women writers and their readers (e.g., M. von Eckenbrecher)
Please submit 250-word abstracts by February 15 to Anne Wooten, email@example.com, Carol Strauss Sotiropoulos, firstname.lastname@example.org and Denise Della Rossa, email@example.com
Open Session I: Resisting the Canonization of Racialized Subdisciplines
It appears that Germany is defined by what is best described as a single story, but the fallacy lies in that it is not the entire story. The cultural and sociological history that Germany has perpetuated is a homogeneous society composed of persons of white German descent instead of a multicultural civilization/nation. It is this single-story concept that the Nigerian writer, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, first discussed in her famous TED talk. During the conversation, Adichie realized that the danger with each individual story is that it is only part of the whole story; it is not the entire story.
The goal of this panel is to invite the exploration of voices we do not typically hear from. Who are the artists working in the margins who have had to self-publish, or put their film on YouTube or put their comics on Instagram? What texts and films have we not heard about because they are lost or inaccessible?
We invite presentations on films and texts by Black Germans, Turkish Germans, Vietnamese Germans and other racialized authors and directors in Germany. Topics may include but are not limited to the following:
Texts created in response to the German colonial period, in any language, from any time period
Representations of foreign students and guest workers in both Germanies, in any language
Films created by racialized directors who studied at a German film school
Texts and films created in any language with German funding or in collaboration with a German organization
“Graue literatur,” self-published literature and literature that is out-of-print and texts that have been lost
Essays problematizing the politics of the archive; who has access and who curates?
Please send abstracts no later than February 15, 2022 to Priscilla Layne at firstname.lastname@example.org and Nikki Fogle at email@example.com.
Open Session II: The Gendered and Racialized Politics of Reception: Intersectional Aesthetic
‘When I write, I am neither man nor woman, nor dog nor cat, I am not me, I am no longer anything’, Nathalie Sarraute said in a 1984 interview: ‘There is no such thing as écriture féminine, I have never seen it’.
Sarraute, Nathalie (1984) ‘Interview: With Sonia Rykiel’, Les Nouvelles 9–15 February, pp. 39–41
This panel suggests that feminist theory should begin to concern itself again with the aesthetics of writing and with literary reception, and that it should do so with a focus on theories of intersectionality, gender, sexuality, age, ability, and the pervasive racism that has marginalized or pigeonholed minorities in the literary market. In the Oxford Handbook of Gender and Politics (2013), Patricia Hill Collins and Valerie Chepp indicated that intersectionality consists of a number of ideas and practices that maintain that gender and race are only two of many social constructs that are impacted by an intersecting network of oppressive forces which cannot be understood in isolation from one another. One’s economic class, sexuality, age, ethnicity, ability, etc. also signal an intersecting constellation of power relationships that depend upon the ways physical bodies, distinctive social experiences, and group identity are positioned over time in a society (58 – 59).
As obvious in such terms as the “Literarisches Fräuleinwunder,” applied to texts by women in the German-speaking world of the 1990s, gender still matters in how literary texts were and are marketed and received.
Academics, critics, and the public continue to approach texts with certain gendered and also racialized expectations and pre-formed value judgements. In an open letter, scholars and activists have pointed out that the nominations for the Leipziger Buchmesse Preis in 2021 did not contain a single author of color, criticizing the still prominent one-dimensional concept of how literature and culture are defined in Germany. The authors of the open letter state that rather than pointing fingers or launching attacks, they wan t to take these nominations as a starting point “eine Diskussion zu führen, die in unseren Augen längst überfällig ist: Über institutionelle Strukturen innerhalb der deutschen Gesellschaft, die nicht immer für alle wahrnehmbar sind, aber dennoch immer wirken. Auch im Literaturbetrieb.”
Panelists will join author Tanja Dückers, the Max Kade writer in residence at the University of Wisconsin–Madison in 2022, in speaking about the disparagement and discrimination of female writers, non-binary, and/or queer authors, and authors of Color in the publishing world. From the Fräuleinwunder of the late 1990s—a term that was applied to Dückers at one time as well—to the fact that female authors still are not paid the same honorarium for the same lecture as their male peers, Dückers provides insight into the (at times disparaging) experience of being a contemporary woman writer.
For this panel, we seek papers that expose the politics of these mechanisms and propose a feminist, anti-racist approach to aesthetics, theory, and the literary market. We invite discussions of the status, self-understanding, and reception of women writers, non-binary, and/or queer authors ,Black writers, and writers of Color in the German-speaking world today. Papers may address:
1. New approaches to teaching
2. New approaches to aesthetics analyses
3. New approaches to publishing
4. Concepts of voice, agency, and authorship
5. The introduction of new literary forms, hybrid forms, and aesthetic innovations by women, non-binary, and/or queer authors, by Black authors and authors of Color who push the boundaries of literary and cultural landscapes.
We welcome all papers addressing one or several of the aforementioned points of interest. Abstracts (250-300 words) for papers and a brief bio are due by February 15, 2022, and should be emailed to both panel organizers: Julia K. Gruber (firstname.lastname@example.org ) and Brandy E. Wilcox (email@example.com).
There will not be a guest-related panel at WiG 2022.
The poster session allows scholars to employ audiovisual forms to initiate conversations about intersectional feminist issues in their research, teaching, and activism. Submissions have taken the form of traditional posters, PowerPoint presentations, short films, websites, dioramas, installations, interactive experiences, etc. “Posters” can address a variety of topics, such as pedagogy, literature, film, cultural studies, history, and politics. Be creative, discover a new approach to your work, and gain valuable feedback in real time. To ensure that your information is available to members throughout the conference, all presentations must be accompanied by a simple explanatory handout.
Please email an abstract of 300-400 words describing the project’s content, thesis, and form (a description of the layout, design, and materials/technology) and a short biography to firstname.lastname@example.org. Presenters must provide their own materials, equipment, and technology (including computers, headphones, extension cords, etc.); please consider these logistics for your proposal. Membership to the Coalition of Women in German will be required to present in this session but is not required to submit an abstract. Deadline for proposal submissions is March 8, 2022.
Please contact the poster session organizers Amber Finnegan & Nicole Grewling at the address above with submissions or any questions you may have.
WiG-Sponsored Panels at other Conferences, 2022-2023
More information soon.
German Studies Association 2022
Relationality and Intimacy in Contemporary German-Language Texts
The pervasive notion of the autonomous, self-optimized, neoliberal individual has been critiqued widely from a variety of perspectives, including queer, feminist, and gender studies, critical race studies, disability studies, and Indigenous studies among others, through calls for a consideration of relational bonds as alternatives to the sovereign self (Dean Spade, Qwo-Li Driskill, Mel Chen, Marquis Bey, and Jodi Byrd). The project of (radical) self-realization and individual authenticity as desirable modes of self-expression and existence has championed and legitimized the growth of inequality in the global North, rendering illegible or impossible relational configurations that foster solidarity and community.
This panel aims to explore contemporary texts that depict precarious life and underscore the need for alternative networks and models of intimacy, solidarity, and care. Such texts shift away from the fantasy of sovereignty to consider instead modes of relationality that arise from nonnormative or non-traditional expressions of intimacy and interdependency. The objective is to identify literary and visual articulations of relationality, which are not limited to dystopian representations and times of crisis but also evoke alternative forms of relational agency beyond white, settler, cis, heterosexual, and ableist hegemonic frameworks of power.
Please submit your proposal (no more than 350 words) and a short bio to Hester Baer (email@example.com) and Simone Pfleger (firstname.lastname@example.org) by February 15, 2022.
Modern Language Association Convention 2023
Gender-neutral and Gender-Diverse Language in the German Classroom
In an October 2021 piece in The Guardian, Judith Butler noted the increasing right-wing authoritarian backlash against the idea of “gender” that casts it as “a dangerous, if not diabolical, ideology threatening to destroy families, local cultures, civilization, and even ‘man’ himself.” This international backlash against gender
studies, feminist theory, and the rights of LGBTQI and trans people has taken many forms, not the least of which is in the debates about gender-neutral and gender-inclusive language in France, Germany, and elsewhere. For the modern languages, this is particularly pressing, as nonbinary and gender-diverse students seek out linguistic structures beyond the gender binary to express themselves and describe their experiences.
As Molly Lipson noted in a September 2021 column in the New York Times, language teachers are at the forefront of linguistic innovation in the area of breaking down the gender binary. In a column about language for the Goethe Institute, multilingual author Sharon Dodua Otoo similarly tackles the question of gender-neutral pronouns in the very gendered German language, noting there are two options for handling the issue: “Option one would be to negate the existence of nonbinary people – or at a minimum, deny them the right to express their gender identity adequately within the German language. I find this option unacceptable, if not to say in breach of human rights. Option two would be to welcome the use of neo-pronouns.” Otoo’s clear outlining of the stakes involved prompts the question of how different modern language disciplines have confronted the issue of neopronouns and alternative language and linguistic structures. Additionally, language instructors face the question of which neopronouns to suggest and use in the foreign language classroom, particularly when there is no clear standard in the target language. This panel seeks submissions that address gender-neutral and gender-inclusive language in the modern languages. What impact do alternative language and linguistic structures that move beyond the binary, hetero- and cis-normative structures have in our present reality? How do we minimize linguistic erasure and linguistic violence in our classrooms and our disciplines? Given the prevalence of the English “they” in other languages, how can we translate the use of non-binary pronouns for our students in ways that are supportive and inclusive, but also reflective of the reality of the country/countries where the language is spoken?
We welcome submissions on research, case studies, and teaching strategies relating to the use of gender-neutral, gender-inclusive, and gender-diverse language in modern languages such as Arabic, German, French, Italian, and Spanish. Interested panelists should submit a 300-word abstract to all three panel organizers (email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org; and email@example.com) by February 4, 2022.
Congress of the Humanities and Social Sciences/CAUTG Annual Meeting 2022
More information soon.
WiG Annual Conference: History
2021 Conference: Nov. 4-6, 2021, held as a virtual meeting
2020 Conference: Oct. 15-18, 2020, at The Sewanee Inn, Sewanee, Tennessee
2019 Conference: Oct. 17-20, 2019, at The Sewanee Inn, Sewanee, Tennessee
2018 Conference: Oct. 18-21, 2018, at The Sewanee Inn, Sewanee, Tennessee
2017 Conference: Oct. 26-29, 2017, at the Banff Centre, Banff, Alberta
2016 Conference: Oct. 13-16, 2016, at the Banff Centre, Banff, Alberta
2015 Conference: Oct. 22-25, 2015, at the Banff Centre, Banff, Alberta
2014 Conference: Oct. 23-26, 2014, at Shawnee Inn and Golf Resort, Shawnee on Delaware, PA
2013 Conference: Oct. 24-27, 2013, at Shawnee Inn and Golf Resort, Shawnee on Delaware, PA
2012 Conference: Oct. 25-28, 2012, at Shawnee Inn and Golf Resort, Shawnee on Delaware, PA
2011 Conference: Oct. 20-23, 2011, at Yarrow Golf and Conference Center, Augusta, MI
2010 Conference: Oct. 21-24, 2010, at Yarrow Golf and Conference Center, Augusta, MI
2009 Conference: Oct. 22-25, 2009, at Brook Lodge, Augusta, MI
2008 Conference: Oct. 23-26, 2008, at Snowbird Resort, Snowbird, UT
2007 Conference: Oct. 18-21, 2007, at Snowbird Resort, Snowbird, UT
2006 Conference: Oct. 19-22, 2006, at Snowbird Resort, Snowbird, UT
2005 Conference: Oct. 16-19, 2003, at General Butler State Resort Park, Carrollton, KY
2004 Conference: Oct. 16-19, 2003, at General Butler State Resort Park, Carrollton, KY
2003 Conference: Oct. 16-19, 2003, at General Butler State Resort Park, Carrollton, KY
2002 Conference: Oct. 17-20, 2002, at Rio Rico Resort, Rio Rico, AZ
2001 Conference: Oct. 18-21, 2001, at Rio Rico Resort, Rio Rico, AZ
2000 Conference: Oct. 19-22, 2000, at Rio Rico Resort, Rio Rico, AZ
1999 Conference: Oct. 28-31, 1999, at Monte Toyon Retreat, Aptos, CA
1998 Conference: Oct. 29-Nov. 1, 1998, at Monte Toyon Retreat, Aptos, CA
1997 Conference: Oct. 30-Nov. 1, 1997, at Monte Toyon Retreat, Aptos, CA
1996 Conference: Oct. 31-Nov. 3, 1996, in St. Augustine, FL
1995 Conference: Oct. 19-22, 1995, in St. Augustine, FL
1994 Conference: St. Augustine, FL
1991-1993 Conferences: Great Barrington, MA
1988-1990 Conferences: St. Croix, MN
1985-1987 Conferences: Portland, OR
1982-1984 Conferences: Thompson’s Island, Boston Harbor, MA
1979-1981 Conferences: Racine, WI
1976-1978 Conferences: Miami University, Oxford, OH
WiG 2021 Thursday Night Session: “’Laziness’ and Non-Production as a Radical Form of Political Resistance”
Speakers: Angineh Djavadghazaryans (Oakland University); David Loner, Maggie Rosenau
Our session brought into action the subject of an article co-written by David Loner and Maggie Rosenau, accepted for the special issue of Feminist Formations: “Time, Urgency, and Collaboration in the Corporate University”. Their research examines how resistance toward capitalism’s temporal bullying is performed in contemporary art and activism. The piece addresses the relationship between creativity, institutions, and empowerment, and explores aesthetic presentations of resistive temporalities they identify as non-production. The case studies of non-production offered affirm a cosmopolitan performance of resistance that centers discussion of radicality in interdependent care networks, available to all disabled and non-disabled individuals. (Specifically, the work of Eva Egerman, Kenny Fries, Romily Alice Walden, Tricia Hersey, Nap Ministry, and Taraneh Fazeli.) It highlights a care ethic that claps back at the idea of self-optimization and fiduciary endurance amidst economic regimes of exploitation. In place of the culture industry of ‘wellness,’ their work boosts new directions in care and mutual aid, as premised on queer, crip and feminist portrayals of disability praxis and social justice pedagogy.
- Connect this research with just action that aims to meet individual, environmental, and social needs. By workshopping the ways non-production might creatively be brought into our own lives, as well as our professional roles and spaces, we aim to further crip time as a valuable way of knowing and being.
- Disability justice, as so defined throughout this research, will provide a nuanced point of departure for WiG’s continued conversations around anti-capitalism, now amidst the ongoing turmoil and debility we face due to the global COVID-19 pandemic.
We started the session by exploring ways we might engage in non-production as a means toward 1) self-care; 2) political resistance; and 3) sustainability—especially in terms of refraining from activities or behaviors that hold negative consequences for our lives, the lives of others, and the environment.
Cultivating and nurturing the practice of ‘less’ is a political and feminist act of resistance to the capitalization of ‘self-care.’
The corporatization of the University has quickened the pace of life in academia—a trend of hyper-accelerated pace and expectation of production. This exists (and continues) in tandem with the social and temporal shifts brought about by the pandemic, especially last year, when a large percentage of the world shifted from in-person to remote in a matter of days. Disability advocates and scholars describe this as an event that universalized crip time.
- Vent. Go ahead. What exhausts you? What are the biggest barriers to rest/healthy work/leisure balance? (E-mail, contingency status, poverty, disability, racism, precarity, etc.) This question aims to invite a space of pain-sharing and commiseration, mentoring up, etc.
- What unnecessary practices do you take part in that perpetuate debilitating conditions? Consider your own life, and also how your actions affect others.
- What gives you life? What recharges you?
- What models guide you? (The Slow Professor, Piepzna-Samarasinha, Nap Ministry, Black Power Naps, Artists, Curators, Activists, Mentors, Scholars, Mutual Aid groups, etc.?)
- What slow practices have you integrated (or want to) into your personal life this past year? How has this worked/not worked? How has this benefited you/and others?
- What slow practices have you integrated (or want to) into your professional life (as a student, instructor, mentor, manager, admin, editor, chair, advisor, etc.)?
- Slowing down often means giving something up. Within the neoliberal order, this is often understood as loss. What are you willing to give up (in a consciously empowering way) in order to benefit yourself, your loved ones, communities, the environment, etc.?
- What do healthy, equitable futurities look like and how/where can we invest in these today/now?
WiG 2021 Praxis/ Pedagogy Panel: “’In the Foreground’: Using Graphic Novels, Comics, and Visual Art to Teach in the German Classroom”
Panel Organizers: Gabrielle E. Taylor (University of Alabama at Birmingham); Elizabeth Bridges
Presenter: Elizabeth Mittman (Michigan State University)
Presentation: “Placing the Gendered Subject in the Foreground: Image-Text Relations in the Third-Year Classroom”
My presentation shares some teaching materials developed for a thematically oriented third-year course entitled “German Genders: Grammatik, Geschlechter, Gesellschaft.” The course describes an arc linking German language, culture, and society through the exploration of grammatical gender, social roles and societal structures over the centuries. Because the range of linguistic abilities is predictably unpredictable in courses at this level, particularly at a large public institution like MSU, it is imperative that students are able to find on-ramps for their own learning, regardless of background.
One of the central tools that I use in “German Genders” to help facilitate this process is a focus on the visual in a wide variety of image-text manifestations from diverse historical moments and cultural perspectives. For the purposes of this presentation, I am focusing on the examples of the richly illustrated Lutherbibel (where we compare two competing creation stories and their divergent imaginings of a gendered world) and Charlotte von Mahlsdorf’s memoir about growing up trans in Nazi Germany and contributing to the growth and vibrancy of the East German LGBTQ community (Ich bin meine eigene Frau, 1992). I outline the specific shape of two particular class sessions at different points in the semester, in which the pairing of image and text supports structured language practice and creates a mediated experience in which all students can participate readily and productively, regardless of their linguistic skills.
In the first instance, images are introduced following students’ initial engagement with the text. The biblical illustrations by Luther’s friend and collaborator, Lucas Cranach, function to orient students’ perceptions around the cosmological implications of that text and its internal contradictions; they also enable a broader conversation about the interplay of image and text in early modern media culture. In the case of von Mahlsdorf’s memoir, we start from the visual input alone: a poignant photo essay that includes family photos from the author’s own archive as well as staged photos of Charlotte in her home (and Gründerzeitmuseum), which both elucidate and frame the first-person narrative of a repeatedly imperiled life that runs a plumb line through and across political regimes. This framing prepares students for a linguistic focus on creating, recognizing, and analyzing relative clauses, as well as for a later conversation about the evolution of a public persona in multiple media realizations. It also serves as the stepping stone to a final term project in which they prepare their own personal life narrative integrating visual and textual elements.
Presenter: Tiarra Cooper (University of Massachusetts Amherst)
Presentation: “Gender in the Gutter: Trans* Narratives in German-Language Graphic Novels”
As a subset of the adaptable, engaging, and flexible medium of comics, graphic novels
possess a multitude of benefits for classroom use: They accommodate various learning styles and
learning networks, present opportunities to refine multimodal literacy, and even create space for
students to reimagine timespaces. For language learning in particular, graphic novels yield the
power to inform students of language, culture, and history simultaneously. Moreover, one of the most
powerful opportunities they create is for self-reflection, empathy, and connection. Given their capacity to generate understanding across differences, graphic novels lend themselves especially
well to LGBTQ+ diverse instruction. In my presentation, I highlight narrative and illustrative
depictions of, and provide classroom exercises for, two German-language graphic novels centering
on trans* identities: Hexenblut by Suskas Lötzerich (2014) and Nenn mich Kai by Sara Barczyk
In my presentation, I demonstrate how the trans* narratives and representations in these two
graphic novels can be integrated into foreign language instruction. Firstly, I provide exercises that
draw connections between comic terminology and social concepts. For instance, the ‘gutter’–or
space between frames–can be examined in tandem with social dynamics; spilling into the gutter can
represent a rejection of social confines, uneven gutters can represent a lack of social cohesion, and
distance between frames and individuals can create a sense of emotional distance from others.
Secondly, I demonstrate exercises that can be utilized as entry points into empathy building and
understanding. When protagonists make illustrative ‘eye contact,’ for instance, how is this
experienced by the reader? How does the placement of speech balloons speak to the interpersonal
spaces–or lack thereof–between characters?
With the aim of classroom use, I draw on visual excerpts from both graphic novels in order to
highlight the narratives and illustrations that prove subversive to binarized gender and cisgender
Presenter: Hillary Herzog (University of Kentucky)
Presentation: “’There’s no place like home:’ Teaching Nora Krug’s Heimat: Ein deutsches Familienalbum in a Third-year German Course”
In preparation for class I asked my students to consider one of the most instantly-recognizable lines from American cinema: “There’s no place like home.” As we discussed this phrase, it became clear to them—and to me—how ubiquitous the word home is in common idioms and expressions: “Home sweet home.” “Bring home the bacon.” “Home is where the heart is.” The more we thought about these phrases that we typically don’t think about, the more complex and unique we understood the concepts of space and place to be in the American psyche.
But the central term in this session and those that followed was not home, but Heimat, the famously untranslatable German word that has accrued complex histories and nuances over time and space. In this 300-level course, I had assigned the graphic memoir from Nora Krug, Heimat: Ein deutsches Familienalbum. I always assign visual texts in my courses at all levels, as I find that they are accessible to students, who are excited to read and discuss them, perhaps less aware that they are developing the skills they need for understanding and communicating in the German-speaking world than they are when reading, say a poem or a novella.
But at the same time I wanted to make the central concept of the text—Heimat—less immediately accessible. How does history (personal and national) impact the concept of what it means to be home, to have a home? How are our own concepts of home—seemingly so personal—actually shaped by cultural texts and historical turns? To what extent does a concept of home, which seems to be the ultimate inclusionary term, necessitate an exclusionary element?
My presentation provides a case study of how I use Krug’s graphic novel as a mechanism to draw students into a foreign world, to consider how it relates to concepts that they might have thought were universal, and to challenge the very notion of home that we are typically asked to take for granted.
WiG 2021 Pre-Twentieth Century Session: “Irenic Utopias: Non-Violent Women and Powerful Non-Places”
Session Organizers: Michelle James (Brigham Young University); Mari Jarris (Princeton University); Rob McFarland (Brigham Young University)
Mari Jarris, Introduction:
150 years after the birth of Rosa Luxemburg and over a century since the publication of her essay, “Friedensutopien,” condemning reformist visions of the peaceful transition to socialism as utopian, the term “utopia” is no less controversial. Within the Marxist tradition, utopia has long been associated with idealism and bourgeois reformism: a remnant of the eighteenth and early nineteenth-century utopian socialism that lacked the scientific rigor of historical materialism.
If utopianism has been recovered as form of critique within Marxism and Critical Theory, then it nevertheless retains its colloquial connotation as “impossible” or “naïve.” At the same time, utopia has not fully discarded its Cold War legacy as a stand in for totalitarianism and Stalinism outside of left-wing discourses.
The papers on this panel cover the range of overlapping approaches to utopia that utopian studies scholar Ruth Levitas has categorized in terms of function, form, and content. All of our speakers address the utopian function of critique, drawing out utopia’s polemics with the present, in particular, with norms of gender, sexuality, and militant nationalism. As Alexis Smith und Eva Hoffman demonstrate through their analysis of Elsa Asenijeff’s work, this function of utopia calls on readers to adopt a critical lens. Carol Strauss Sotiropoulos and Susanne Klimroth examine the epistolary form of the utopian novel, a strategy which, as Susanne points out, contributes to the sense of the story’s authenticity, drawing the readers directly into the dialogue. Finally, in her talk Carol offers us a definition of utopia in terms of content as “the vision of an ideal society,” manifest in everyday harmonious relations. Yet as Carol suggests in regard to settler colonialism, and Katharina Scheerer demonstrates in her discussion of the so-called “woman question” in early twentieth-century science fiction: defining utopia in terms of content, as a perfect society, leads to the normative dilemma of who is evaluating it. In other words, the genres of utopia and dystopia are revealed to be inseparable: one person’s feminist utopia may be another person’s dystopian nightmare.
Presenters: Alexis B. Smith (Hanover College) and Eva Hoffman (Whitman College)
Presentation: “’Menschin, steh auf:’ Women’s Writing, Maternity and Resistance in Elsa Asenijeff’s Work”
In this presentation, we illustrate how Elsa Asenijeff—who is today primarily remembered as
the lover and muse of sculptor Max Klinger, but who was widely read and well-regarded at her time—links her utopian visions of a more peaceful and civilized future to both a reimagination of gender relations and a revitalization of Romantic tropes and metaphors.
In 1922 Asenijeff composed her final publication, a collection of poems called “Aufschrei:
Gedichte in freien Rhythmen.” In “Aufschrei,” Asenijeff criticizes the brutality, violence and
destruction of war, which she explicitly links to masculinity. Her utopian vision of a peaceful and
more civilized future thus rests on a rigorous system of gender and sexual difference. Femininity,
and particularly maternity, features highly in Asenijeff’s utopia, for which she also draws on the
Romantic era by emphasizing the poet’s relationship to nature.
This entanglement of Romantic nature, poetry, and maternity also appears in Asenijeff’s 1901
collection of short stories Unschuld: ein modernes Mädchenbuch, in which she projects a more
peaceful and civilized future and emphasizes the role of mothers and poets for its emergence. As we
show in this presentation, Asenijeff employs prominent tropes of her time, such as the
notion of spiritual motherhood, along with rhetoric associated with Romanticism and Classicism, for her
visions of a utopian future. Ultimately, we understand her writing to be a precursor to
Écriture Feminine, in which her vision of societal change is intricately linked to innovative and gender- specific forms of literary production.
Presenter: Susanne Klimroth (Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin)
Presentation: “The Deconstruction of Bourgeois Norms through Exaggeration:
Franziska zu Reventlow’s Sex-positive Utopia”
This presentation emphasises the role of zu Reventlow’s unique literary style, which utilises ironic distance as a means of deconstructing gender and sexual norms, in her account of a sex-positive utopia. By analysing her novel Von Paul zu Pedro. Amouresken (1912) as utopian literature, I demonstrate how the text weaves together demands for independent, self-determined female sexuality,
sexual politics and economic independence in a humoristic manner. The presentation stresses this creation
of narrative distance as a necessary prerequisite for the imagination and realization of alternative
My reading of Von Paul zu Pedro, firstly, explores its utopian dimensions and elements
which formulate reimagined forms of sexual interaction, such as the narrator’s rethinking of sexuality,
the recurring motive of the idealized but not yet realized, and the novel’s open end in
which the narrator announces an escape to an island: »Sobald wir sie gefunden haben, schreibe ich
Ihnen – wir wissen ja selbst noch nicht, wo sie liegt […]«.
Secondly, I argued that the novel, in line with some of zu Reventlow’s essays on sexuality, creates a sex-positive utopia in deconstructing bourgeois norms through irony and exaggeration. In doing so, it develops an ambivalent perspective on both the prevalent as well as the idealised. I ultimately argue that her work therefore creates an ‘utopian space’ located in the ‘no-where’ between a criticism of the
present and reimagined sexual relationships.
Presenter: Katharina Scheerer (Westfälische Wilhelms-Universität Münster)
Presentation: “Between Stove and Emancipation: Female Imaginations of the Utopic in Early German Science-Fiction”
From its beginnings in the late 19th century through the present, Science-Fiction has been a genre dominated by male producers and recipients. Nevertheless, right from the start, female authors have also been speculating about the future and/or developing alternative scenarios to the present state of the world through science-fiction texts. Most of these women authors are concerned with re-imaginations of gender relations and sexuality, and they address the so-called ‘Frauenfrage’ in one way or another. The spectrum of early female Science-Fiction ranges from antifeminist dystopias which reinforce existing stereotypes (e.g., Therese Haupt’s Die Frau nach Fünfhundert Jahren), to feminist utopias in which women peacefully rule society (e.g., Louise Schulze-Brück’s Die Frau der Zukunft).
My presentation analyzes how these texts respond to and adopt the ‘Frauenfrage’ (which is frequently tied to the ‘Soziale Frage’—e.g., Ellen Key’s Die Frau in 100 Jahren), and thereby undermine or reinforce ruling gender stereotypes. I put special emphasis on the scene of action, since some of the stories are set in secluded places on earth, while others are on other planets or in places that are not clearly specified. In my presentation, I thereby trace the link between Utopia and spatiality. Where needed, I include contemporary scientific contexts such as the discovery of the supposed ‘Mars Canals’ in 1877, which resulted in an increase in factual and fictional texts concerned with (human) life on the red planet.
Presenter: Carol Strauss Sotiropoulos (Northern Michigan University)
Presentation: “Irenic Utopia, Literary Dilemma: Henriette Frölich’s Virginia oder die Kolonie von Kentucky.“
My presentation centered on Virginia oder die Kolonie von Kentucky (1820), by early socialist Henriette Frölich. I am currently in the process of translating this epistolary novel, because it has “something for everyone!” As a transatlantic historical and political novel, a female Bildungsroman, and a utopian vision, it is simultaneously sentimental and thrilling. The heroic protagonist overcomes manifold political and patriarchal obstacles until she arrives in the (heterogeneous) utopian colony, where the unsettling shift in narrative voice, from the heroine’s “I” to the collective “we” of the women, invites further exploration into the intersection of utopian writing, female agency, and first-person plural narrative voice.
WiG 2021 Panel: “Trauma Beyond the Holocaust”
Panel Organizers: Shoshana Schwebel (University of British Columbia); and Nicole Coleman (Wayne State University)
Nicole and Shoshana introduced the panel. Nicole did a short mindfulness exercise, after which Shoshana briefly discussed the motivation for this topic, which is to broaden the focus of trauma studies within German studies, to topics beyond the Holocaust.
Presenter: Natalia Dudnik (George Mason University)
Presentation: “Witnessing Traumatic Migrant Memory: The Case of Nagorno-Karabakh”
My presentation on Olga Grjasnowa’s debut novel, Der Russe ist einer, der Birken liebt (2012), focuses on the narrative representation of traumatic migrant memory of the pogrom in Baku in January 1990, in the midst of the war over Nagorno-Karabakh, which broke out again on 27 September 2020. While some traumatic historical events have received considerable attention within moral communities throughout the world, other more recent occurrences, such as ethnic violence in the South Caucasus in the wake of the fall of the Soviet Union, have yet to be integrated into European and global consciousness. Drawing on transnational approaches within trauma and memory studies [Levy and Sznaider (2006); Rothberg (2009); Erll (2011); Koch and Weidinger von der Recke (2009)], interdisciplinary theories of witnessing [Laub (1992); Oliver (2000); Peters (2009); Ellis (2009); Frosch (2009)], as well as immigration policies in Germany in the 1990s, my analysis identifies a call for a holistic integration of traumatized migrants, both on the civic level as political, legal, and economic subjects, as well as on the level of memory through the medium of secondary witnessing. In particular, I analyze narrative devices employed by Grjasnowa to engage the reader as a respondent to the protagonist’s suffering during the conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan in the 1990s. I demonstrate how the novel’s stylistically diverse testimonies constructed on the level of dialogue and the level of narration offer the reader various modes of critical secondary witnessing: from a neutral observer to an empathetic listener and ultimately an ethical secondary witness.
Presenter: Jamele Watkins (University of Minnesota)
Presentation: “Lamenting Black Death: Also by Mail and We are Proud to Present…”
The stage has become a site of mourning for Black diasporic plays. In this presentation, I show how theater serves the role of an elegy to mourn and to remember Black death. Playwrights use the stage to grapple with unanswered questions and bring attention to the dead. Using the plays Also by Mail, by Olumide Popoola, and We are Proud to Present…, by Jackie Sibblies Drury, I show that the death of Black people will not be glossed over and forgotten; instead Black authors refuse to forget the ancestors. Popoola’s Also by Mail has shown how theater becomes elegy through voices present and past, here and beyond the veil (beyond the grave). Popoola theorizes death as unknown and revealing: cultural, and gendered. We are Proud to Present… is a play “in process” that focuses on the Namibian genocide and Jim Crow U.S. In both plays, the death is not intended as a sense of comparison, but to instead name traumas that hit the soul at multiple times. As elegies, these plays lament Black death. There is not enough coverage; there is not enough outrage. The stage allows for a space to mourn the lives taken at the hands of white violence. These deaths are a tragedy but the plays are not tragic. Instead, theater helps us remember. The plays function as a wake—to celebrate and mourn life. Trauma exists, but we (authors and audiences) can refuse to forget those who are gone.
WiG 2021 Session: “Twisting Tongues: Multilingual Literature, Anti-Racism, and Afrofuturism”
Session Organizers: Marisol Bayona Roman (The University of Texas at Austin); Nikki Fogle (University of Georgia); Claire Scott (Kenyon College)
In honor of Sharon Dodua Otoo’s participation as a guest at the WiG 2021 conference, and in celebration of her debut novel in German, Adas Raum (2021), we sought papers that highlight the potential for multilingual/polyvocal language to inspire different ways of thinking and being, both within and outside hegemonic modes of knowing and understanding. We hoped to continue conversations about what anti-racism means for us, specifically as feminist scholars of German studies. During the conference we heard two excellent papers which were followed by a group discussion that reminded us that our research and teaching should always be in dialogue with the actual members of any communities that we represent.
First, we heard from Faye Stewart (UNC-Greensboro), who described her experiences in bringing Otoo’s work into the classroom in a talk titled: “The Danger of a Single Story: Visibility and Multivocality in Sharon Otoo’s Fiction”
Stewart writes: “Many stories matter,” Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie asserts in her 2009 TED Talk “The Danger of a Single Story.” “Stories have been used to dispossess and malign, but stories can be used to empower, and to humanize.” Sharon Dodua Otoo’s award-winning 2016 short story “Herr Gröttrup Sits Down” resonates with Adichie’s claims by intertwining multiple perspectives and voices, past and present, making dispossession visible, and gesturing toward the possibility of a more just future. My paper reflects on my experiences teaching “Herr Gröttrup Sits Down” and inviting students to think about its portrayal of intersecting forms of privilege, power, and precarity. Otoo highlights connections among stereotypes, social hierarchies, and visibility, challenging readers to consider what remains unseen or unspoken – and adumbrating the dangers of not doing just that.
We then heard from Spencer Hadley (Cornell University) whose paper “Stimme beyond Stimmung: May Ayim’s Poetic Voice and the Aesthetic Concept of Stimmung” provided an enlightening reading of a May Ayim poem.
Hadley writes: Through close reading of May Ayim’s ‘waffenbrüder und schwertschwestern’— a poem from nachtgesang containing the sole occurrence of the word Stimmung in Ayim’s poetic oeuvre—this presentation argues that Ayim’s work ultimately exceeds the German-language aesthetic concept of Stimmung. Stimmung, a polysemic nexus of music, literature, and affect, cannot fully account for Ayim’s poetics, not least because of its history within majoritarian discourses. Via the readerly mode of “sound as cipher,” this presentation attends carefully to Ayim’s crescendoing, tongue-twister-esque usage of alliteration. Supplementing existing approaches to Ayim, this presentation offers further means of appreciating the multidimensionality of Ayim’s art.
WiG 2021 Community Hour: “Racial Justice in Feminist German Studies”
Discussion Group 1: Organizing Within and Beyond the Academy
Rosemarie Peña & Emily Frazier-Rath (Davidson College) with co-facilitator Maria Grewe (John Jay College CUNY)
- How do we re-imagine our institutions without being relegated to the positions our institutions give us? How do we re-imagine and re-structure programs so that they work for us?
- Whose voices do we bring into our teaching spaces?
- How do we re-conceptualize collaboration, within and across institutions and communities?
We can find ways to re-direct money, to re-allocate funds to those who may not have access to such funds. For example, some institutions have grant and speaker series money that is untapped. We can use that to collaborate with colleagues within and across institutions and communities to bring in speakers, artists, colleagues, and programming that center on marginalized voices.
Colleagues at institutions with research funds can collaborate with adjuncts, contingent faculty, and gig academics. The collaborators provide students and act as moderator. This creates more access and centers more voices.
“Bartering”: If there are no funds, there is also the “barter” system, where colleagues exchange labor and resources without using money.
“Hypo-cognition” (David Gramling): Things we can’t think of because the structure for it does not exist in our minds.
Whose voices do we bring into our spaces? Do we resort to teaching commonly taught texts because we are focused on our own research? How relevant is our own research to our students? We need to re-think “teaching”: We have the power to raise the voices that are not our own, to decenter some voices and center other voices.
The Black German Heritage and Research Association (BGHRA) has been doing a lot of this work for some time which has gone unacknowledged. BGHRA conferences feature multi-layered conversations with a variety of people, including those we are researching and writing about.
The BGHRA can help establish connections with people and across institutions:
Contact Emily Frazier-Rath, Exec. Director of The BGHRA Institute, firstname.lastname@example.org
Black German Heritage and Research Association: http://bghra.org/
2011 Conference Report (from BGHRA’s first conference): https://drive.google.com/file/d/1bO7i8PiXVpBHpDlY4xAYgBTGj27A8Faq/view?usp=sharing^
Opportunities for students to engage in research and support a nonprofit organization: https://drive.google.com/drive/folders/1JjPZYkfkEFj1v4NRtoPsOM7_jynKmu4O?usp=sharing
For more information contact email@example.com.
Discussion Group 2: Ethical, Non-Objectifying Research Practices
Jamele Watkins (University of Minnesota) with co-facilitator Jennifer Hosek (Queen’s University)
Concerns about being an imposter—not doing work that is seen as mattering.
Concerns about “taking up too much space” as an African-American in German Studies working on Black German Studies
When do our Connected Differences (Audre Lorde) get effaced? A source for this idea: https://www.themarginalian.org/2018/04/02/audre-lorde-burst-of-light-kinship-difference/
Attending to all persons’ vulnerabilities and not get too hung up on our own particular differences / intersectionalities?
“actionable” teaching ideas:
–writing “as themselves” rather than having them try to inhabit characters
–writing as non-native speakers – code-switching , “loaner” words
–being cast not according to normative type (example: when teaching Erlkönig, what prompts are useful)
Philosophically: (static) (individualistic) identity vs (shifting) (less individualistic) positionality – the benefits and limitations of each for furthering equity
Click here for more information about the conference site selection process.