Colloquium 2012-2013

Melanie Kage and Becky Reed, Colloquium Co-Organizers

Anja Nowak kicked off the 201 3 series with a launch of her book Elemente einer Ästhetik des Theatralen in Adornos Ästhetischer Theorie (201 2, Köningshausen & Neumann). Adapted from her master’s thesis in Comparative Literature and Theatre, Film and Media Studies at the Goethe University in Frankfurt am Main, this work analyzes the German philosopher’s aesthetic theory from the perspective of Theatre Studies and provides an innovative interpretation of his discussion of the playwrights Samuel Beckett and Bertolt Brecht.

Tim Höllering’s talk titled “Silence is Golden – Literature and the Limits of Language” looked at the boundaries of expressiveness with the help of philosophy. Tim found that Schopenhauer, Freud, Nietzsche and Derrida all try to overcome the limits of words – with wordiness. Using examples by von Horváth, Gomringer and Rilke, Tim demonstrated how literature resorts to the exact opposite of wordiness, that is to say silence. Tim concluded that these authors’ words frame silence in an interpretative scope, which not only creates but also provides meaning.

In her presentation “Of Statues, Steps, and Leaps: Kafka’s Covert Evolutionism,” Andrea Dahlmann-Resing refined the common portrayals of the author as a son, a Jew and an amateur artist by examining the footprint that natural sciences, in particular the evolutionary discourse of the period, left in Kafka’s life and stories. She goes beyond the so-called animal stories, uncovering the deployment of statues in the novel fragment Der Verschollene, which leads to the examination of principles of pace and footing (saltation vs. gradation) as well as guiding evolutionary metaphors (tree vs. coral).

Melanie Kage’s presentation, “(Hu)Man-Made poetry – Thoughts on Aura and (Female) Authenticity ofthe Blog Gedankenbühne,” analyzed the blog poetry of amateur writer Isabelle Küster, using Walter Benjamin’s and Simone de Beauvoir’s critical theories. Their notions of aura and authenticity, female authorship and representation help interpret form, content and especially the production process of this example of online literature. Melanie evaluated the problematic aspects of creating literary art on the Internet, a genre that has been rather neglected by much academic research.

In her presentation, “Eine Frau in Berlin: Strategies of Resistance and Reception,” Becky Reed analyzed how the author of a diary describing the Battle of Berlin in 1945 fights against being a mere “victim” of war by actively engaging the narrow frames of her historical situation. Becky examined how the diarist employs coerced prostitution to survive along with the collective engagement of traumatic events, gallows humor and diary writing to overcome the trauma of rape. Becky also evaluated how the reviews of the 1 959 and 2003 German editions of the diary indicate a shift in cultural attitudes towards rape victims and a move towards a climate open to exploring personal stories of German wartime suffering.

In her talk, “Contemporary Ways of Thinking Power Relations in Socio-Philosophy and Video Art – A Juxtaposition of Judith Butler’s Gender Trouble and Francis Alÿs’ Symbolic Actions,” Carolina Franzen juxtaposed some videos of Francis Alÿs with the way Judith Butler interprets a drag queen in Gender Trouble. This reveals how thinking about power relations in contemporary socio-philosophy and video art can be called similar. Carolina argued that Butler’s model of identity re-iteration by human beings is aligned with a re-definition of art as something that always means in opposition to Minimalism in Alÿs’ Paradox of Praxis 1. In this way creation as well as interpretation are possibilities to detect limits of thought and to claim changes in politics.