The success of Joanne K. Rowling’s Harry Potter novels, the Wachowskis’ Matrix-trilogy and Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings has put a worldwide spotlight on themes of the fantastic, forcing academics to reevaluate the genres and to grant them prominent position in literary or cultural criticism. The overwhelming appeal of the fantastic – in any of its facets – has not gone unnoticed by the media and has led to intensified academic negotiations of the genres. In Anglo-American culture this popularity met with existing structures, such as the International Association for the Fantastic in the Arts (IAFA) or the Science Fiction Research Association (SFRA), which in turn welcomed the newfound public and academic interest.
In German culture, on the other hand, academics involved with the fantastic are without networks, organization or affiliation. It therefore seems the ideal moment to establish an Association for Research in the Fantastic [Gesellschaft für Fantastikforschung (GFF)] as a basis for linking German language scholarship in the fantastic with its international counterparts and thereby making this scholarship more visible and accessible, and allowing for international exchange. To this end, in October 2010 the University of Hamburg will hold the first annual and founding conference of the GFF. The conference, “Fremde Welten - Wege und Räume der Fantastik im 21. Jahrhundert” (“Strange Worlds – Paths and Spaces of the Fantastic in the 21st Century”), is emphatically conceptualized as international and interdisciplinary. It conceives of the fantastic in its broadest definition as an umbrella term for all fantastic genres, such as fantasy, horror, gothic, science fiction, speculative fiction, as well as fairy tales, fables and myth. The interdisciplinary approach of the GFF includes research interests from fields such as literature, film, tv, culture, art, new media, architecture and music as well as incorporating impulses from sociology, anthropology, historical science or philosophy. The international approach is guaranteed by the bifocal orientation of the association as well as the conference. On the one hand, it reaches out to German speaking scholars working in the field, but on the other expressly encourages membership by international scholars working on German language fantastic.
The conference emphasizes the fantastic in its importance and relation to popular culture and understands it as a reflection of power relations and conflicts of interest. The popular anticipates these conflicts and expresses it before other social discourses can. By definition, the fantastic is able to negotiate alternative worlds and transgressive experiences of time and space, and thus represents a paradigmatic field of inquiry for cultural spaces. With historically specific developments of the 21st century in mind, the fantastic allows us to reveal social changes as no other genre does. What is the popular appeal of the fantastic grounded on? What alternatives does this cultural production offer?
The conference “Fremde Welten - Wege und Räume der Fantastik im 21. Jahrhundert” aims for a review of the status quo in German language scholarship of the fantastic, as well as open up a dialogue with international research done in this field. It intends to unite researchers and scholars and to initiate an exchange of ideas. In reference to the conference title we therefore ask conference contributors to consider the following questions (among many possible others): What paths have led the fantastic to its position today and which ones lie ahead? Which spaces has the fantastic entered or perhaps established?
The organizers call for proposals to be handed in by April 1st 2010. Proposals are possible as paper presentations (paper sessions of up to 3 presenters, 20 min each), panel discussions (moderated, with 3-5 panelists) or author readings from all areas of the fantastic, either in German or English.
Please send your proposals of no more than 250 words, with a short biographical note and contact data per email to: lars.schmeink [at] uni-hamburg.de
Any further information can be acquired at the same address.
Institut für Anglistik und Amerikanistik
D-20146 Hamburg Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
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