Chris Iverson on the "Acceptance in German Literary and Visual Culture" Conference at the University of Washington

 A guest post by Draperite Chris Iverson, 
recipient of one of Draper’s recent travel grants
Over May 11th and 12th, 2012, I attended The University of Washington’s Graduate Student Conference 2012, Acceptance in German Literary and Visual Culture, in Seattle, Washington and presented my paper, “Rubble Films on the German and International Screens.” The experience was amazing, as it was my first time presenting at a conference, and the panels covered a broad range of time periods and genres of German and international cultural products. The range of the conference proved impressive, with the notion of “acceptance” arising in many different forms, from the acceptance of a single writer or thinker into the German canon to the notion of the perception of Germany itself from without.

Volker Mergenthaler, a visiting professor from the University of Marburg, delivered the Keynote Address, “Die Regeln des Spiels und das Spiel mit den Regeln: ‘Nine Eleven’ und die deutschsprachige Literatur,” (The Rules of the Game and Playing with the Rules: ‘Nine Eleven’ and German-language Literature). Professor Mergenthaler discussed the effect of 9/11 on German-speaking writers’ work and how the literary landscape changed in the years following the attacks on the Twin Towers.

I presented on a panel with a student from Boston University whose paper, “Seeing the Other Germany: Western Perceptions of Identity in East German Art,” followed through lines of the abstract and the political from the post-World War I paintings of Otto Dix to, more recently, the poster for the film, Goodbye Lennin!, from the “western” perspective.

My paper, “Rubble Films of the German and International Screens,” discussed how German, American, Italian, and Jewish directors dealt with guilt, complicity, and victimhood in post World War II Germany and what roles those notions played in how to re-accept Germany back to civilization after the reign of the National Socialists. The films I covered are called Trümmerfilme or Rubble Films because they take place largely amid the rubble of post war Europe, namely Berlin, and surfaced mostly between 1946 and 1949, between the end of the war and the division of Germany into the eastern and western states. My answer to the question of re-acceptance? Well, though the differences in the films gave hints as to each filmmaker’s views, it seems each one would respond with a different variation on “I don’t know,” given the complexity of the problem and the expressive possibilities of film.

Draper sent out the call for papers and this was, after all, a graduate conference, so I expected a challenging, rigorous, and ultimately rewarding experience. No surprises there, but what I did not expect was the feeling of community among The University of Washington’s graduate students in their Department of Germanics that extended to the guest presenters at the conference. After the final panel had presented and the papers had been explored through a thrilling Q&A session, the organizers and presenters gathered in Seattle’s Gas Works Park, overlooking Downtown Seattle and the Space Needle, for a picnic where we discussed the weekend’s work and got to know each other.

I hope Draper continues to promote The University of Washington’s Department of Germanics Graduate Student Conferences and strongly encourage other Draperites to answer these calls for papers.

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