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2012 – History in the Making: Auditory, Visual, and Textual Representations of Germany’s Past

Gallery 1: March 17, 2012


Gallery 2: March 18, 2012


March 17-18, 2012
Vanderbilt University, Nashville
Hosted by the German Graduate Student Association in conjunction with graduate students of the History Department

Keynote Speaker: George S. Williamson (Department of History at the Florida State University, Tallahassee)

Just as the past informs the present, the present is in turn the elusive ‘time-space’ where history is written. Cultural artifacts representing events, periods, or figures important to the history of a nation may contribute in many ways to a collective culture of memory and identity. These artifacts, or representations, may take the form of visual art, film, literature, poetry, oral history, or written history, among other media.

History is a formative component of culture; at the same time, many see the very representation of history as problematic and consciously draw attention to its nature as a construction, shaking up the assurance that often accompanies canonizations of historical knowledge. While history determines the subject matter for many media, these media in turn shape our understanding of history. In the U.S., for example, filmmakers have frequently drawn on a particularly dark chapter in German history, namely the Nazi period, as if to create a sense of American national identity by contrast against the German. Film often rewrites history, from the extreme caricatures depicted in Spielberg’s Indiana Jones to the conscious awareness of history as a representation in Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds. Literature and art shape our perceptions of history in both problematic (Kleist’s Hermannsschlacht; Fallersleben’s Lied der Deutschen) and less problematic ways (Schiller’s Wallenstein). But in all cases, the relationship of aesthetic forms of representation to actual events remains a provocative and open question. From the Nibelungen saga to Wagner’s Ring des Nibelungen; from the initial heyday of the historical novel during the Weimar Republic to the recent architectural transformation of parts of Berlin to resemble its pre-Weimar appearance, the means by which history is represented have been an issue at every point in Germany’s past.

This interdisciplinary conference will seek to explore ways in which German history has been represented in former as well as more recent times. To what ends are representations of history made? What defines the transition from the present to the past? How do cultural artifacts serve as ways of defining Germany or German-ness? What is a historical event and how is that determined? What is the relationship of history as a crafted, man-made thing to history as nature? How does a particular ‘phase’ in history inscribe itself on our cultural productions? (e.g. Why are certain types of movies made or books written during a war, an economic boom, or a period of reconstruction?) How and to what ends do other nationalities write the history of Germany in varying ways?

Unless otherwise noted all events will take place in Buttrick Hall 206.

March 17, 2012

4:10 p.m.
Keynote Lecture
“Theogony as Ethnogeny: Race and Religion in Friedrich Schelling’s Philosophy of Mythology”
George S. Williamson (Department of History at the Florida State University, Tallahassee)

6:00 p.m.
Welcome and Keynote Reception, Buttrick Hall Atrium

March 18, 2012

9.00 a.m.
Breakfast, Buttrick Hall Atrium

9:30 a.m.
Opening Remarks

9:45-11:15 a.m.

Panel 1
Revolution: Forming and Reforming a Society

Respondent and Moderator: Kaleigh Bangor

“The Myth of the Primal Horde and the Fate of Post-Revolutionary Politics: Freud as Materialist Dialectician”
Lara Giordano (Philosophy Department at Vanderbilt University, Nashville)

“God’s Kingdom on Earth: The Connection of Prussian Religion and Politics from 1815 to 1848”
Travis Eakin (History Department at the University of Mississippi, Oxford)

“Challenging Heroics of the Hermann Dramas: Kleist’s Deconstruction of Klopstock’s Thusnelda”
Lauren Nossett (Department of German at the University of California, Davis)

11:15-11:30 a.m.
Coffee Break, Buttrick Hall Atrium

11:30-12:30 p.m.

Panel 2
Nietzsche, the Weimar Era, Modern Pathologies

Respondent and Moderator: Alexandra Campana

“Joy in Spite of History in Nietzsche’s Zarathustra”
Garrett Zantow Bredeson (Department of Philosophy at Vanderbilt University, Nashville)

“The Problem of Excessive Historical Culture in Post-Nietzsche German Identity”
Stephen Jones (German Department at the University of Tennessee-Knoxville)

12:30-1:30 p.m.
Lunch Break, Buttrick Hall Atrium

1:30-3:30 p.m.

Panel 3
Writing and Re-Writing the History of World War II

Respondent and Moderator: Wesley Lim

“Die Problematik von Spielfilmen als Vermittler von Geschichte”
Raphaela Tkotzyk (Department of German languages and literatures at the Ruhr-University Bochum)

“Dialectical Juxtapositions: W. G. Sebald’s De-mythologized Histories and the Literary Imagination”
Naomi Beeman (Department of Comparative Literature at Emory University, Atlanta)

“’False Leads and Cold Cases’: The Insolubility of History in Michael Chabon’s The Final Solution”
Stacy Hartman (Department of German Studies at Stanford University)

“Rewriting Un-erasable Pasts: Contemporary Trends at Three Former National Socialist Sites in Berlin and Poznań”
Stephen P. Naumann (Department of Linguistics and Germanic, Slavic, Asian & African Languages at the Michigan State University, East Lansing)

3:30-4:00 p.m.
Coffee Break, Buttrick Hall Atrium

4:00-5:30 p.m.

Panel 4
The GDR: Its Beginnings, its Aftermath

Respondent and Moderator: Lisa Beesley

“Jazz in the German Democratic Republic, 1949-1989”
Helma Kaldewey (Department of History at Tulane University, New Orleans)

“Creating Socialist Perspectives: The Wild West in the East German Imagination”
Matthew Scully (Department of History at Tulane University, New Orleans)

“Behind the scenes of history: Staging the Fall of the Wall in Material by Thomas Heise”
Gudrun Lena Stölzl (Department of Theater, Film and Media Studies at the University of Vienna)

5:30 p.m.
Closing Remarks

Closing Reception at the home of Prof. Barbara Hahn
(Directions will be announced.)