The Grotesque, the Absurd, and the Deviant: Transforming the Bounds of the Normative

23rd Annual Graduate Student Symposium

Department of Germanic Languages and Literatures at Washington University in St. Louis

February 28 & March 1, 2014

Keynote: Dr. Thomas Haakenson

The grotesque, the absurd, and the deviant may question, disrupt or distort the normative by imbuing it with notions of incongruity, ugliness, folly, or caricature. All three concepts offer alternative trajectories to the normative by suspending, ridiculing, and confounding rules, inhibitions, restrictions, and regulations of the everyday. The grotesque, the absurd, and the deviant thus permit a realignment of customarily separated spheres and interactions, and empower what might be perceived as lacking logic, reason, prudence, or beauty. In so doing, these three categories possess the potential to not only instill fears in those engaging with them—both fictional figures and real audiences alike—but they also offer new inspiration and open up previously impenetrable boundaries.

Some questions that the symposium seeks to address are: Do the grotesque, the absurd, and the deviant liberate or do they re-inscribe norms? Are these categories inherently formulaic? What do the grotesque, the absurd, and the deviant tell us about human interaction more broadly conceived? How do they contribute to the shaping of our perception? What is the relationship between genre and the concepts of the grotesque, the absurd, and the deviant? What is the space or location of these categories?

The graduate students of the Department of Germanic Languages and Literatures at Washington University in St. Louis invite submissions that engage the topoi of the grotesque, the absurd, and the deviant across a range of disciplines and historical periods. A focal interest lies in how the grotesque, the absurd, and the deviant, as aesthetic phenomena are represented in the German-language context. Fields relevant to this topic include: literary studies; musicology; art history; film and visual studies; gender, queer and sexuality studies; disability studies; history; philosophy; sociology; and political theory. 

Possible paper topics include but are not limited to the investigation of the grotesque, the absurd, and the deviant in regard to the following:

-humor

-religion and mysticism 

-hybridity

-genre and/or media

-artistic inspiration

-comparative approaches

-theoretical investigations of the three categories 

Please submit abstracts of 300 words or less no later than December 21, 2013 using the abstract submission form of the symposium website: http://pages.wustl.edu/germangrads/abstract-submission-form. Presentations are to last 15-20 minutes and should be in English or German. 

The conference organizers additionally invite submissions for poster sessions, which allow scholars to employ visual materials to initiate conversations about their research. Examples include: posters, 3-D art, interactive exhibits, and other multimedia presentations. Please be advised that presenters are asked to provide their own materials and equipment for poster sessions, which includes an accompanying explanatory handout. 

For more information about the German Department at Washington University in St. Louis, please visit the department's main page.

The symposium committee may be contacted at germangradwustl@gmail.com.

The 2014 symposium committee members are:

Amy Braun

Ben Davis

Angineh Djavadghazaryans

Heidi Grek

Anne Klopf

Ervin Malakaj

Anna Nowicki

Simone Pfleger

Claire Ross

Brooke Shafar

Harrison Todd

Miriam Zeh

Christin Zenker