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The IPP 20th Anniversary Celebration

IPP 20th Anniversary Keynote Lecture Series

New Conjunctures and Directions in Literary and Cultural Studies

IPP 20th Anniversary Introduction


It has been 20 years since the International PhD Programme "Literary and Cultural Studies" (IPP), a pioneer in structured graduate education in Germany, was founded. In celebration of this occasion, the keynote lecture series "New Conjunctures and Directions in Literary and Cultural Studies" will take place throughout the summer term with lectures on Wednesday afternoons (14:00), followed by coffee-and-cake receptions. The featured speakers are former coordinators of the IPP, all professors and postdocs working within Germany and internationally, who will give lectures on their current research projects. The series will kick off with a special guest lecture by Professor Andrew Johnston (Freie Universität Berlin), co-director of the Cluster of Excellence Temporal Communities: Doing Literature in a Global Perspective.

Summer Semester 2022

Summer Semester 2022

Note: Please, consider that at the university you have the obligation to wear medical masks (surgical or FFP2)

Prof. Dr. phil. Andrew James Johnston (Free University of Berlin)

The Temporalities of Global Literature: Multiple Modernities and Multiple Antiquities

13.04.2022, 14-16 (CEST), MFR

The first two decades of the twenty-first century have seen a renewed interest in the concept of 'world literature'. But even as the idea of world literature began to gain traction in literary studies, the fundamental problems associated with this concept immediately attracted criticism. One problem, for instance, is the very notion of the global inherent in 'world literature', another is the notion of literature itself. This paper seeks to address some of the issues involved when we attempt to think literature in global terms and will focus especially on the temporality/temporalities of world literature.


Bio: Andrew James Johnston is a professor of Medieval and Renaissance English Literature at the Freie Universität Berlin. He is the author of Performing the Middle Ages from Beowulf to Othello (Brepols, 2008), Robin Hood: Geschichte einer Legende (C.H. Beck, 2013) and Beowulf global: Konstruktionen historisch-kultureller Verflechtungen im altenglischen Epos (Chronos, 2022). His co-edited collections include The Medieval Motion Picture (Palgrave Macmillan, 2014, with Margitta Rouse and Philipp Hinz), The Art of Vision: Ekphrasis in Medieval Literature and Culture (Ohio State University Press, 2015, with Ethan Knapp and Margitta Rouse), Love, History and Emotion in Chaucer and Shakespeare (Manchester University Press, 2016, with Russell West-Pavlov and Elisabeth Kempf) and Material Remains: Reading the Past in Medieval and Early Modern British Literature (Ohio State University Press, 2021, with Jan-Peer Hartmann). One of his latest articles is entitled "The Aesthetics of 'Wawes Grene': Planets, Paintings and Politics in Chaucer's Knight's Tale," in Helen Fulton (ed.): Chaucer and Italian Culture (University of Wales Press, 2021). He is deputy director of the Friedrich Schlegel Graduate School of Literary Studies at the Freie Universität Berlin, deputy speaker of the Collaborative Research Centre 980 Episteme in Motion and also one of the two directors of the Cluster of Excellence 2020 "Temporal Communities: Doing Literature in a Global Perspective". In January 2022 he became one of the editors of Anglia.


Please, register here for Prof. Dr. phil. Andrew James Johnston's Keynote Lecture (in person or online)

Prof. Dr. Christine Schwanecke (University of Graz)

Historicizing Generic Norms and Exploring the Performative Power of Narrative in Drama: Epic Structures in Shakespeare's Pericles (1619)

20.04.2022, 14-16 (CEST), MFR

In his historical sketch of modern genre theory, David Duff (2000) discusses the implicit ideologies of genre criticism, which seems, depending on respective schools and times, to display distinct forms of generic preferences (generic homogeneity). These preferences have often been communicated as 'norms' and 'laws' in the history of genre criticism.

In its first part, the keynote seeks to explore, with the help of Jacques Derrida's "The Law of Genre," the implicit power mechanisms of critical preference and the hidden ideologies of modern genre history, which, with the rise of the novel in the eighteenth century, has often attributed narrativity and the existence of diegetic elements exclusively to the novel. This has, until this very day, led to anachronisms in literary history, the misrepresentation of historical aesthetics, and a marginalization of genres and works that did not match the hegemonic critical taste. A case in point is Shakespeare's Pericles, a narrative play, which was – despite its generic hybridity, or, maybe even because of it – extremely popular with early modern audiences, but has come to be artistically and critically neglected because of its perceived quality of being 'undramatic.'


In the second part, I will focus on the above Romance and illustrate to what extent the politics of modern critical norms have failed to capture or have misrepresented the actual generic conventions of their historical study objects. I will analyse and interpret Pericles' rich variety of epic structures and delineate their potential functions, both intratextual and cultural. I will assess their dynamics and performative power – all of which would simply go unnoticed and unexplored if it was solely for traditional genre theory and not for the persistent efforts of a generically broad-minded, historically conscious literary criticism of IPP and GCSC provenience.


Bio: Christine Schwanecke is a Professor of English Literature and Culture at Graz University. She studied English, German, and History in Heidelberg and London and earned her PhD from the University of Heidelberg in 2012 with a thesis on intermedial storytelling (literature and photography).


Please, register here for Prof. Dr. Christine Schwanecke's Keynote Lecture (in person or online)



Prof. Dr. Dorothee Birke (University of Innsbruck)

Transformations of Literary Reading Culture in the Age of Social Media

27.04.2022, 14-16 (CEST), MFR

Transformations in media cultures tend to be perceived with high hopes as well as deep anxieties. This is patently true of the current rise of social media, which has been both hailed and reviled as fundamentally changing the ways in which we relate to ourselves and each other. From the vantage point of literary studies, these developments have often been regarded as a threat to literary culture as we know it – or conversely, as an exciting way of extending the possibilities of literature by new digital affordances.


This talk sketches out some alternative paths literary studies can take to explore the status of literature in the contemporary new media ecology. The first part will examine the genre of the novel as a lens through which changing media habits are reflected and evaluated, taking as examples Julian Gough's Connect (2018), Olivia Sudjic's Sympathy (2017) and Patricia Lockwood's Nobody Is Talking About This (2021). The second part will train attention on real-life practitioners of 'bookish' social media (such as BookTube, Bookstagram and BookTok) and show how they project and negotiate the same ideas about media hierarchies and the status of literary reading in a digital environment that can be found in the novels.


Bio: Dorothee Birke is professor of Anglophone literatures at the University of Innsbruck. She received her PhD in English literature from the Justus Liebig University Giessen and was manager of the GGK/GCSC from 2005 to 2007. She has held research fellowships at the Freiburg Institute of Advanced Studies and the Aarhus Institute of Advanced Studies.


Please, register here for Prof. Dr. Dorothee Birke's Keynote Lecture (in person or online)



Prof. Dr. Marion Gymnich (University of Bonn)

Just like Downton Abbey? The Literary Figure of the Domestic Servant in British Novels from the Nineteenth Century

04.05.2022, 14-16 (CEST), MFR

Since the last decades of the twentieth century, a considerable number of historical novels, including Kazuo Ishiguro’s The Remains of the Day (1989) and Sarah Waters’s Fingersmith (2002), as well as television series like Upstairs, Downstairs (1971-1975) and Downton Abbey (2010-2015) have presented domestic servants as highly individualised main characters. In nineteenth-century literature, the situation is quite different. Many nineteenth-century classics depict everyday life in the kind of affluent household where many domestic servants were employed. For the most part, however, servants are hardly visible, let alone individualised in novels by Jane Austen, Charlotte Brontë, Anne Brontë or Charles Dickens. Somewhat paradoxically, domestic servants are nevertheless sometimes shown to have a remarkable impact on the plot, primarily by using strategies that range from gossiping about their employers to blackmailing them. In this way, they have ascribed an agency that becomes increasingly prominent in sensation fiction from the 1860s, for instance in Mary Elizabeth Braddon’s Lady Audley’s Secret (1862). The lecture will argue that interesting insights into attitudes, concerns and conflicts of the time can be gained by focusing on the marginalised figure of the domestic servant in approaches to nineteenth-century novels, especially if these novels are juxtaposed to the reality of servants’ lives in nineteenth-century Britain.


Bio: Marion Gymnich is a professor of English Literature and Culture at the University of Bonn. Since 2019, she has been principal investigator (PI) and co-speaker of the Cluster of Excellence “Beyond Slavery and Freedom” at the same university. She studied English Studies, German Studies and Slavic Studies at the University of Cologne and holds a PhD in English Literary Studies from the University of Cologne. From 2002 to 2006, she was the coordinator of the IPP at the Justus Liebig University Giessen.


Please, register here for Prof. Dr. Marion Gymnich's Keynote Lecture (in person or online)



Dr. Elizabeth Kovach (JLU)

Writing Work: Ethics and Aesthetics of Work in U.S.-American Literature

18.05.2022, 14-16 (CEST), MFR

It does not make sense to speak of 'the' U.S.-American work ethic as if it were a uniform phenomenon. The history and legacy of slavery, the experiences of migrant laborers, the relegation of women to domestic and affective labor, and most generally the alienating effects of labor under capitalism are just some major facets of U.S. economic and social history out of which very different experiences of and attitudes towards work have grown. The new millennium has witnessed a surge in academic research, popular nonfiction, journalistic accounts, and manifesto-style social theory about the resistance to and the end of work in the face of precarious labor conditions, digitalization and automation, and the most recent changes to work that the COVID-19 pandemic has prompted. Literary expression has been largely overlooked within this discussion, even though it has continuously and in various ways contributed to moments of re-evaluation of the ethics of work over the course of capitalism's history. My contention is that literary ways of imagining, contesting, or codifying the ethics and aesthetics of work can help us rethink both historical and contemporary meanings and values surrounding work. After a general introduction to this topic and establishing a working definition of 'literary fictions of work,' this talk will focus on how to analyze literary fiction in terms of ethics and aesthetics of work, which are contextual categories as well as matters of content and form. It will end with a discussion of U.S.-American proletarian fiction of the 1930s, which challenged privileged articulations of 'the' U.S.-American work ethic, in which a tireless commitment to work that contributes to market growth, and a refusal of idleness, is seen as the right path in life – the key to security, social standing, mobility, and personal satisfaction. Such challenges to cultural values went hand in hand with challenges to the meaning, aims and aesthetics involved in the work of writing.


Bio: Elizabeth Kovach is the current Coordinator of the IPP and a postdoctoral researcher at the GCSC. Her field is U.S.-American literature and culture, and she completed her PhD at the JLU with a dissertation entitled Novel Ontologies after 9/11: The Politics of Being in Contemporary Theory and U.S.-American Narrative Fiction. She received an M.A. degree in Comparative Literature at the Ludwig Maximilians University Munich and a B.A. degree in English and Film Studies at Barnard College, Columbia University.


Please, register here for Prof. Dr. Elizabeth Kovach's Keynote Lecture (in person or online)



Prof. Dr. Jan Rupp (JLU)

Figurations of World Writing and Environmental Memory in Literatures of the Global South

25.05.2022, 14-16 (CEST), MFR

This lecture will explore figurations of environmental memory in literatures of the Global South for the particular insights they offer into today's global climate crisis. It will build on the intersection between cultural narratology and postcolonial ecocriticism, highlighted by recent work on the ecological and ethical dimensions of storyworlds, as well as on their potential for cross-cultural understanding. Works from the Global South frequently elaborate on distant spatiotemporal scales, allowing readers to gauge central long-term as well as world-encompassing developments of anthropogenic change. Emerging from climate zones in which the current environmental crisis is most keenly felt, these works retrieve fundamental ecological insights that may sensitize readers everywhere to the planet's precarious present, and thus help work towards ensuring a viable future. Their depiction of wide-ranging environmental memories can be seen to offer a blueprint against lingering amnesia, as issues of environmental justice and the challenge of generating a shared commitment to the world loom large.


Bio: Jan Rupp is currently the coordinator of the Research Centre for the Study of Culture (RCSC), Giessen, after having served as an interim professor at the universities of Frankfurt, Giessen, Heidelberg and Wuppertal. He is the author of Genre and Cultural Memory in Black British Literature (2010) and a second monograph on representations of ritual in modernist Pageant Fictions (2016). His research interests include the contemporary novel, cultural memory studies, narrative theory, intermediality, ritual in literature, and (neo-)Victorian studies. He has published widely on diasporic British as well as postcolonial Anglophone writing and theory, including on didactic perspectives of the literature classroom. Among his current work is a project on figurations of world writing and environmental memory in literatures of the Global South.


Please, register here for Dr. Jan Rupp's Keynote Lecture (in person or online)



Dr. habil. Michael Basseler (JLU)

Resilience as an Emerging Concept in Literary and Cultural Studies

01.06.2022, 14-16 (CEST), MFR

Over the past two decades, resilience has become a hotly debated concept in various disciplines, and it has also started to gain some traction in literary and cultural studies. In the first part of the lecture I will sketch out some of the scholarly positions that run the gamut from embracing resilience as a desirable goal in an age of risk and uncertainty to rejecting it as the ultimate expression of a neoliberal reduction and depoliticization of the subject. In the second part, I will provide some thoughts on how resilience can be conceptualized and operationalized within literary studies, and how it relates to more established concepts (e.g. trauma). This will also entail the discussion of some exemplary “fictions of resilience”, i.e. narrative texts that contribute to, renegotiate, and critique the cultural meanings of resilience.





Please, register here for Dr. habil. Michael Basseler's Keynote Lecture (in person or online)



Dr. habil. René Dietrich (Catholic University of Eichstätt-Ingolstadt)

Beyond Humanization: Decolonization, Relationality, and 21st Century Indigenous Literatures

08.06.2022, 14-16 (CEST), MFR

In many discourses of race and ethnicity, questions of the human, humanization as well as dehumanization are paramount. The status of the "human" being ascribed or denied to marginalized and racialized communities and bodies, for instance, contributes to determining to which degree they are exposed to violence by the state and other actors with impunity. In this sense, literature and other forms of representation are often approached as avenues of humanization that run counter to dominant discourses of the non-human, racialized other. For Indigenous peoples under the rule of settler-colonial states such as the U.S., though, this question of humanization runs a risk. First, it prioritizes the category of the "human" in distinction from other life forms in a way that collides with Indigenous epistemologies of relationality and kinship of all living beings as the determining factor for constituting sociality and political formations. Second, it appears to subsume Indigenous rights struggles under the rubric of human rights discourse, tending to eclipse the political struggle of peoples for sovereignty and self-determination in confrontation with imposing settler-colonial nation-states. In this sense, relationality and decolonization, rather than humanization, are at the horizon of Indigenous-centered discourses. As I want to show in this lecture, they also help to outline the path of a Native literary resurgence in the twentieth-first century, as well as mark the parameters of a literary analytic attendant to its forms, strategies, and innovations.


Bio: René Dietrich is the academic coordinator of the KU Center for Advanced Studies "Dialogical Cultures. Critical Reflections Spaces for Cultural Studies and Social Sciences" at KU Eichstätt-Ingolstadt. He holds a PhD from Justus Liebig University Giessen in 2010, completed his "Habilitation" at the Obama Institute of JGU Mainz in 2020 and was a visiting scholar at the American Indian Studies Center, UCLA. Upon receiving his PhD at the IPP, he coordinated the program from 2009 – 2011.


Please, register here for Dr. habil. René Dietrich's Keynote Lecture (in person or online)



Dr. Simon Cooke (University of Edinburgh)

Forms of Secrecy: Espionage and the Modernist Literary Imagination

15.06.2022, 10-12 (CEST), MFR

The emergence and development of modernism shares the day with the multinational establishment of intelligence agencies, the evolution of technologies of surveillance, and the rise of the figure of the spy as an emblematic popular hero. While spy fiction and the dialectic between fiction and history has been much explored – and will be partly in focus here – the relation of the politics of espionage with the literary imagination more widely, and with modernist aesthetics, in particular, remains intriguingly open to new approaches. Secrecy is pervasively and variously at issue in modernism, from the shades of spy fiction in Conrad's The Secret Agent and Under Western Eyes, to the secret self-divulged by what Milan Kundera calls the 'fantastic espionage' of interior monologue, to the hermeneutic 'code-breaking' sometimes associated with practices of reading modernism. And from Elizabeth Bowen to Samuel Beckett to Muriel Spark, many writers associated with modernist experimentation have been double agents in literature and espionage, as writers with experience in secret service. This lecture explores what is at stake in such double agency. Introducing 'the secret' as a key concept in literary and cultural studies, and the world of political intelligence as a significant context for the literary history of the long twentieth century, it explores the ways in which, for a range of modernist as well as popular writers, espionage can be read, formally and thematically, as a 'secret sharer' – both a double and an antagonist – of the literary imagination.


Bio: Simon Cooke is a lecturer in Modern and Contemporary Literature at the University of Edinburgh. He is the author of Travellers' Tales of Wonder: Chatwin, Naipaul, Sebald (EUP 2013), which emerged from his doctoral research as an IPPler at Justus Liebig University Giessen (2006-2010), where he was one of the IPP co-ordinators (2009-2010).


Please, register here for Dr. Simon Cooke's Keynote Lecture (in person or online)



Prof. Dr. Roy Sommer (University of Wuppertal)

The Slow Novel: Towards a New Cross-Disciplinary Conversation?

22.06.2022, 14-16 (CEST), MFR


Acceleration and slowness have recently received lots of attention. In literary studies, most studies have thus far focused on slow reading (as opposed to fast reading practices like skimming or scanning), or on the complex cognitive challenges posed by "mega-novels" in the digital age. This talk on the Slow Novel takes things one step further: it juxtaposes what I call Archimedean doubt, often exhibited by literary works, with the rhetoric of aggressive accelerationists like Ray Kurzweil and Peter Thiel on the one hand, and with ecological and humanitarian narratives of transformation on the other. Engaging with both sociological accounts of accelerated modernity and cognitivist accounts of slowness, the slow novel encourages us to explore the full potential of art in times of paradigmatic change. Could this be the beginning of a new cross-disciplinary conversation?



Please, register here for Prof. Dr. Roy Sommer's Keynote Lecture (in person or online)



Prof. Dr. Stella Butter (University of Koblenz and Landau)

Challenging Modernity: The Dis/Comforts of Home in Contemporary British and American Literature (virtual lecture)

29.06.2022, 14-16 (CEST), Online

Studies of home help grasp and critically engage with neuralgic points or upheavals in contemporary life, as well as the strategies subjects adopt to deal with these challenges. The importance of home quickly comes to the fore when reflecting on the recent Corona lockdowns or, to name another extreme example, instances of 'domicide' (Porteous & Smith 2001), i.e. the planned destruction of homes through e.g. military aggression or economic projects. One does not, however, have to resort to these extreme cases to reflect on the importance of home. As both a 'spatial imaginary' (Blunt/Dowling) and a set of everyday practices (e.g. family life, domestic consumption), 'doing home' intimately shapes our sense of self, of community, the nation, and the larger fabric of modernity. Drawing on recent developments in studies of home, this lecture will gauge how contemporary British and American literature critically engages with the value of home in its affective, ideological, socio-economic, and ecological dimensions. Given that 'home' is always also imaginary, special attention will be paid to the role that literature may play in the forging of dis/comforts of home.


Porteous, Douglas & Smith, Sandra E. (2001). Domicide. The Global Destruction Of Home. Montreal and Kingston: McGill-Queen's University Press.

Blunt, Alison & Dowling, Robyn. (2006). Home. London & New York: Routledge.


Bio: Stella Butter is a professor of English and American Literature at the University of Koblenz-Landau. She completed her PhD on Literature as medium of cultural self-reflexivity at Justus Liebig University Giessen (2007) and wrote her postdoctoral degree on contingency in the English novel (ninetieth and twentieth centuries) at Mannheim University (2012).

Please, register here for Prof. Dr. Stella Butter's Keynote Lecture (in person or online)

Dr. Alexandra Effe (University of Oslo)

Autofiction from a Cognitive Perspective: Hybrid Writing, Texts, and Reading from the 18th to the 21st century

06.07.2022, 14-16 (CEST), MFR

The lecture proposes a new approach to autofiction, a currently popular but also highly debated concept. The term's two components—auto and fiction—designate texts that have something to do with the self and something with fiction (a concept that already poses challenges when it comes to definitions). Purely on the basis of the terms' etymology, autofiction can arguably be applied to many works of literature, and there has been no shortage of criticism of the term, in part for its imprecision.


Despite clear terminological flaws, the lecture argues, the concept of autofiction continues to be productive in drawing out and allowing us to see specific phenomena surrounding specific texts. As a new conjuncture in literary and cultural studies, the lecture introduces a cognitive and holistic approach to autofictional texts, and modes of writing and reading, and illustrates how such an approach generates new insights, especially in a diachronic perspective.

Please, register here for Dr. Alexandra Effe's Keynote Lecture (in person or online)

Dr. Natalka Bekhta (University of Helsinki)

Narratology and the Current Theories of World Literature: An Interdisciplinary Dialogue

13.07.2022, 14-16 (CEST), MFR


This talk will link recent world-literary theories with theoretical apparatuses of contemporary narratology. Narratology is proficient at describing and analysing individual fictional and non-fictional narratives as well as offering generalized models of narrative as a symbolic form across periods and cultures. World literature, variously understood as a global variety of literary studies, as the texts of the world or as the world of literature itself (Habjan 2019), has ambitious aims of comparative description and analysis of literary forms and their mutations across time and space. Moving beyond the typical opposition of close and distant reading methods, this talk will argue that bridging narratology and world literature will prove beneficial for both fields.


Habjan, Jernej. (2019). "The global process of thinking global literature: from Marx's Weltliteratur to Sarkozy's littérature-monde". Journal of Global History, No. 19, pp. 395-412.


Bio: Natalya Bekhta is a core fellow at the Helsinki Collegium for Advanced Studies (Finland) where she works on a book project called "After Utopia: Menippean Satire and Critical Irrealism on the Semi-periphery of Europe". Her recent publications include a monograph on We-Narratives: Collective Storytelling in Contemporary Fiction (OSUP 2020) and a special issue on "We-narratives and We-discourses Across Genres" (Style 54.1, 2020).


Please, register here for Dr. Natalka Bekhta's Keynote Lecture (in person or online)