2012 German Studies Conference, Mar 16-18

The World Elsewhere
20th Annual Interdisciplinary German Studies Conference

“For you the city, thus I turn my back: There is a world elsewhere.” – from Coriolanus, Shakespeare

Keynote speakers: Professor James A. Schultz (Chair, Department of Germanic Languages, UCLA) and Professor David Shneer (Department of History, University of Colorado)

The power of literature is to imagine worlds. From Wolfram von Eschenbach’s Kingdom of Zazamanc to fantastic imaginings of faraway lands in Medieval and Early Modern Cosmographia and from Calvinist cities upon hills to Kafka’s penal colony, literature’s renderings and attempted realizations have fueled the imagination, sparked debate and far too often led to disaster. The world elsewhere may, following Thomas More, be called Utopia, but this is both a “good place” and “no place”, making such constructions inherently fraught with challenges from pragmatism and problematic in their definitions of what ‘”good” is. These worlds are often fantastic, but can also be terrifying; are often familiar, but upon closer inspection utterly alien. They are “imaginative spaces” in which we work through the hopes, fears, desires and possibilities that human experience engenders.  They provide the means through which we imagine ourselves as part of a world, a universal community.  The Internet and digital media grant us new power to simulate our imagined worlds.  But how have the nature and use of these imagined worlds changed in our increasingly interconnected and globalized age?

Conference organizers: Jenna Ingalls, Tara Hottman, Kenneth Fockele
theworldelsewhere@gmail.com