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Here you can find all the keynote lecture videos since 2011.

Strange Narratives in Rhetorical Discourse

11 November 2017

During the last decade, narrative theory has seen a burst of interest in what has been called the nexus of mind and narrative (Herman 2013), carried forth by ideas of the similarities between understanding real life and understanding fiction (Zunshine 2007; Palmer 2010). This interest has been accompanied, and at times directly challenged, by an equally energetic interest in how experimental and strange narratives found in literature, film and other media may obstruct, subvert, or deconstruct real-world protocols for sense making by presenting readers with “strange” (Caracciolo 2016), “unreadable” (Abbott 2014), or “unnatural” phenomena (Richardson 2015; Alber 2016; Iversen 2013). The starting point for this talk is the observation that storytelling constellations that defy, test or mock everyday processes of sense-making also exist outside of the realms of generic fiction. Elaborating on a rhetorical reading of the concept of defamiliarization, the aim of the talk is to show that not only do experimental, strange and unnatural narratives materialize across contemporary public discourses; they also come to serve communicative functions. This will be shown trough readings of cases from a range of traditionally nonfictive rhetorical genres such as the discourse of humanitarianism, NGO-branding, protest movements and present-day political rhetoric.


Stefan Iversen

Main Research Interests

  • Narrativity and storytellingstefaniversen
  • Text theory and analysis
  • Rhetorical analysis

Publications (selected)

  • Interrogating Caribbean Masculinities: Theoretical and Empirical Analyses. St. Augustine: University of

    With Mikka Lene Pers-Højholt: Interlocking Narratives: The Personal Story and the Masterplot in Political Rhetoric. In: Narrativity, Fictionality and Factuality and the Staging of Identity. Berlin: Walter de Gruyter, 2016.

  • Narrative. In: Mads Rosendahl Thomsen, Dan Ringgaard: Literature: An Introduction to Theory and Analysis. London: Bloomsbury, 2016

  • With Henrik Skov Nielsen: The Politics of Fictionality in The Act of Killing and The Ambassador. In: European Journal of English Studies, 2016.


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In Praise of Infrastructure

27 June 2017

“Infrastructure,” as comedian John Oliver points out, “is not sexy.” Only when infrastructures malfunction, when a bridge collapses, when a nuclear reactor melts down, or when a denial-of-service attack shuts down half the Internet, do these crucial everyday services receive any public attention.

The emerging field of “infrastructure studies” seeks to remedy this blind spot. At the nexus of urban planning, public policy, media studies, and the history of technology, the study of infrastructure addresses problems of scale, draws attention to the materiality of technology, and shifts the locus of critique from the nodes in a network to the connections between them. While recent studies have tended to focus on contemporary concerns, the field itself arguably has deeper roots in the venerable sciences of Verkehrswissenschaften, which studied the movements of people, goods, and messages in tandem.

After providing a comparative overview of these academic fields, the focus of this lecture will be on representations of infrastructure in modern German literature, especially the lyric genre. In contrast to the current inconspicuousness of infrastructure in the public sphere, the celebration of infrastructure in German modernity took the form of songs in praise of actual inventions, comic blame of impossible ones, and, above all, affirmations of the newly ascendant class of engineers. At the same time, the celebration of infrastructure may have amounted to little more than “700 intellectuals pray[ing] to an oil tanker,” as Bertolt Brecht cynically put it.

Ultimately, the aim of this lecture, in historicizing both infrastructure studies and the fascination with infrastructure, is to address a larger question: To what extent is cultural studies itself a form of infrastructure, an often inconspicuous but always vital means of connecting, and, even more importantly, maintaining the connections between different concerns?

Erik Borngcsc-anniversary-lectures.text.image10

Main Research Interests

  • The emergence of wireless technologies around 1900
  • Relations between old media and new media
  • The history of mysticism, interface design, and digital textbooks

Publications (selected)

  • Co-editor of Neighbors and Neighborhoods: Living Together in the German-Speaking World. United Kingdom: Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2012.
  • Author of articles on early avant-garde films and medieval media theory.


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Being and Time-Management: Fictions of Opportunity Cost in the Long Age of Amazon

20 June 2017

To speak of literature in the Age of Amazon is perforce to speak of it in relation to consumerism and the consumer economy, these things, dating by most accounts to middle of the 18th century and exploding at the end of the 19th, of which is in some obvious ways the 21st  century apogee. While some very fine scholarly work has been done on the so-called culture of consumption, surprisingly little has been made of the revolution in economic theory it carried in train, the so-called neoclassical or Austrian or marginal revolution. It is in this body of thought, I will argue, that we encounter a concept crucial for illuminating both the reflexive self-construction of narrative fiction as a certain kind of consumer good, offering certain kinds of satisfaction, and the absolute limit to that self-construction owing to the nature of time. This is the concept of opportunity cost, and by showing its relevance both to 19th century psychological realism and early-20th century modernism, I hope in this lecture to lay the groundwork for a deeper understanding of the literature of the present.


Mark McGurl


Main Research Interests

  • American Literature
  • Modern and Postmodern literature
  • Literary Criticism/Theory

Publications (selected)

  • The Program Era: Postwar Fiction and the Rise of Creative Writing. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2009.
  • The Novel Art: Elevations of American Fiction after Henry James. New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 2001.
  • Social Geometries: Taking Place in Henry James. California: University of California Press, 1999.


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How AIDS Changed American Culture

06 June 2017

What happens to Barthes' celebrated notion of "the death of the author" when it ceases as metaphor and turns horrifyingly literal? AIDS first emerged into public consciousness at roughly the same time that the death of the author became a critical mantra in American cultural studies.  In this talk, Katz investigates the ugly convergence of  postmodernism's denigration of authoriality and expressivity with the advent of the 20th century's deadliest plague. He will illustrate how and why a new AIDS art learned to camouflage its critical investments, performing a fidelity to postmodernist precepts of anti-expressivity even as it worked to seed complex social,  political and even autobiographical meanings. That these works  have rarely if ever been understood as socially engaged is in fact precisely the point, proof  positive of their critical success. Ironically, a critical theory that was centered on the proliferation of readerly meanings was called upon to both police and contain individual expression. More than simply decoding the social resonance of works never previously understood in an AIDS context, Katz will  underscore how and why the rapid ascendance of postmodernist thought in America was in fact keyed to the most noxious forms of homophobia and AIDSphobia.


Jonathan David Katz


Main Research Interests

  • The arts of the Cold War era
  • The question of why the American avant-garde came to be dominated and defined by queer artists during what was perhaps the single most homophobic decade (the Cold War era) in this nation’s history

Publications (selected)

  • Performative Silence and the Politics of Passivity. In: Making a Scene, ed. Henry Rogers. London: Birmingham University Press, 1999. John Cage's Queer Silence or How to Avoid Making Matters Worse. In: GLQ, Duke University Press, 1999. Reprinted in Here Comes Everybody: The Music Poetry and Art of John Cage, ed. David Bernstein, Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1999.
  • Lovers and Divers: Picturing a Partnership in Rauschenberg and Johns. In: Frauen/Kunst/Wissenschaft, 1998


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Sylvia Wynter’s Black Metamorphosis and the Emergence of African Diaspora Studies in the Caribbean

09 May 2017

In my lecture, I discuss the path-breaking importance of Sylvia Wynter’s Black Metamorphosis: New Natives in a New World, an unpublished 900-page manuscript written by her in the 1970s. Black Metamorphosis is a remarkable manuscript, and deserves close study for a number of reasons. It is arguably the most important unpublished non-fiction work by an Anglophone Caribbean intellectual, and the major guide to the transition in Wynter’s thought between her work mainly on the Caribbean and Black America in the 1960s and 1970s, and her theory of the human from the early 1980s onwards. A close study of Black Metamorphosis also reveals that it is a crucial text for comprehending the emergence of African diaspora studies in the post-independence Anglophone Caribbean, and is in fact the most sustained, and compelling interpretations of the black experience in the Western hemisphere ever written by a Caribbean intellectual.


Aaron Kamugisha


Main Research Interests

  • Anti-colonial thought
  • Caribbean cultural studies
  • The coloniality of citizenship in the contemporary Anglophone Caribbean

Publications (selected)

  • With Yanique Hume, Caribbean Popular Culture: Power, Politics and Performance. Jamaika: Ian Randle Publishers, 2016.
  • With Yanique Hume, Caribbean Cultural Thought: From Plantation to Diaspora. Jamaika: Ian Randle Publishers, 2013.
  • Caribbean Political Thought: The Colonial State to Caribbean Internationalisms. Jamaika: Ian Randle Publishers, 2013.


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