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Passages. Metaphors, Narratives, and Concepts

Rauischholzhausen Castle, Justus Liebig University Giessen (Germany)

May 19–24, 2019


Call for Papers

Passages are central objects of study across humanities disciplines. From textual excerpts to the shopping arcades theorized by Walter Benjamin, from the Middle Passage of the Atlantic slave trade to present-day forms of migration and resettlement, and from transitions depicted in the Bildungsroman to ritual praxis, ‘passages’ are understood and interpreted in many ways. Whether structural, semiotic, spatial/geographic, temporal, existential, societal, or institutional, passages refer to paths toward and processes of (status) change. They connect and thereby engender difference. They enable entrances and exits, arrivals and departures, while they also foster moments of liminality and suspension in between. Unlike thresholds that are simply crossed, passages imply journeys of duration, prompting anticipation of the new and foreign as well as a sense of existential finitude. Never smooth, passages come with challenges and risks as they bear the potential for breaks and ruptures.

In addition to exploring ‘passages’ in such myriad senses, the 2019 Hermes Summer School aims to foster a concept-based, interdisciplinary dialogue on how to approach and theorize such a term. Based on the notion that concepts function as crystallized mini-theories (Mieke Bal) and travel through times, contexts, and discursive settings, a conceptual approach to ‘passages’ will provide us with analytical tools to (re-)focus our research questions and create a meaningful exchange across disciplinary, national and linguistic boundaries. We invite participants to employ concepts in the study of culture such as Cultural Memory, Performativity, Space, Infrastructure, Knowledge, Media, Body, (Cultural) Translation among others, as they approach the topic of ‘passages’ and to explicitly reflect on their value and limits for their research. How can various definitions of and approaches to ‘passages’ travel and transfer between disciplines and thereby stimulate cross-disciplinary research? How do concepts in the Study of Culture enable meaningful passages between disciplinary contexts?

Each paper will be allotted 20 minutes. In addition to presenting their own work and areas of expertise, speakers are strongly encouraged to reflect on the concepts they employ in their analyses. A reader with selected literature on the topic of ‘passages’ will be provided. Please send your proposals including an abstract (200 words) and a short bio note (150 words, including your name, email address, institutional affiliation, dissertation topic, and disciplinary anchoring) to jens.kugele@gcsc.uni-giessen.de by January 31, 2019. We welcome abstracts related but not limited to the areas listed below:

  • Social passages including rites of passage; migration and (re-)settlement; politics, regimes, and violence; class im/mobilities; passages between “identities” (racial, gendered, sexual)
  • Historical passages (periodizations, transitions)
  • Linguistic and symbolic passages via translation or adaptation
  • Textual passages (genres, forms, structures)
  • Narrating/representing passages (e.g. as a trope or formal feature in cultural products)
  • Theories of passage in ritual studies/cultural anthropology and their heuristic potential for the study of literature and culture


General Information


The Graduate Centre for the Study of Culture (GCSC) is a founding member of the Hermes Consortium for Literary and Cultural Studies, a long-standing collaboration of eleven doctoral schools in Belgium, The Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Great Britain, the Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, and the USA. The Consortium’s annual summer school, hosted in turn by each partner institution, brings together specialists, delegates from the partner universities, and 22 PhD students (two per university). An intensive training workshop and work-in-progress presentations focus on shared methodologies and interdisciplinary themes and lead to the publication of an annual edited volume, published by UCL Press in the Comparative Literature and Culture series.


Practical Information


Accommodation for delegates, speakers and student participants will be provided for five nights (May 19–23 at Rauischholzhausen Castle and May 23–24 at a hotel centrally located in Frankfurt am Main). A shuttle to Rauischholzhausen will leave from the Main Station in Giessen on May 19 in the late afternoon; those travelling by plane can easily reach Giessen via train after landing in Frankfurt am Main. The program will end in Frankfurt on May 24 in the early afternoon. Participants are requested to make their own travel arrangements.




Elizabeth Kovach, Jens Kugele, and Ansgar Nünning on behalf of the Hermes Consortium


Hermes 2018: Vulnerability

University College London
Italian Institute of Germanic Studies
Villa Sciarra-Wurts, Rome, Italy
18-22 June 2018


The 2018 edition of Hermes, jointly hosted by UCL and the Italian Institute of Germanic Studies in Rome [Istituto Italiano di Studi Germanici], will take its timely topic from the UCL Institute of Advanced Studies (IAS) ongoing research initiative for 2017-18: “Vulnerability”.

We will explore the intrinsic ambivalence of this concept, which suggests both fragility and openness, and will pay attention to narratives of vulnerability but also to the ways in which texts and traditions may become vulnerable: to loss, censorship, editorial intervention, or interpretation. We will engage with shifting historical contexts and approach comparative studies as an opening to other fields of disciplinary inquiry, including neuroscience, which provides new perspectives on human perception and defence behaviour. Our philosophical and juridical understanding of vulnerability will be further advanced by the contribution of PRIN 2015 “Legal Entity and Vulnerability”, a large collaborative research initiative funded by the National Research Council of Italy.

Hermes aims to expand internationally collaborative research and research-based learning, and promotes international mobility and collaboration across Europe. Our summer school thus embraces the aims of the newly established UCL Rome Regional Partnership Fund, which facilitates and supports academic collaboration between UCL and institutional partners in Central Italy. We are delighted that this year’s summer school will be hosted in Rome and welcome this opportunity to open the Hermes network to the Italian doctoral schools associated with the Italian Institute of Germanic Studies.


Call for Contributions

Vulnerability, from the Latin vulnus (‘wound’), signifies a susceptibility to being wounded. It suggests both fragility and openness, and it is this ambivalence that we wish to explore.

Thinking about vulnerability often raises questions which are political and ethical in nature: who or what is vulnerable? What reactions does vulnerability provoke? What forms of responsibility does vulnerability entail? Vulnerability has been argued to be a defining characteristic of the human condition. The American philosopher Daniel Callahan writes that “we are as human beings intrinsically vulnerable. We are vulnerable to time and nature […] and we are vulnerable to each other”. Yet these vulnerabilities are shared not only by humans but also, for instance, by non-human animals. Indeed, the recognition that animals, too, are vulnerable is a key argument in animal rights. To recall a much-quoted phrase from Jeremy Bentham: “the question is not, Can they reason? nor, Can they talk? but, Can they suffer?”

In literary studies, vulnerability can be approached from a number of different angles. It may concern characters and situations, and encourage us to reconsider literary expressions of suffering and woundedness on the level of plot, theme, and characterization. Then again, texts themselves may also be vulnerable: to loss, censorship, editorial intervention, or interpretation. How is a text made vulnerable by its readers and how are readers made vulnerable by certain texts?

In the context of this conference we want to explore the specific contributions that comparative literature can make to vulnerability studies. A comparative approach encourages us to consider whether vulnerability has a distinct form in literature from different times and different places. It also benefits from a recognition of the importance of other disciplines — philosophy, psychoanalysis, neuroscience inter alia — in understanding discourses of vulnerability. Finally, we propose that comparative literature might itself be understood to be defined by its own vulnerability, in the two senses of the term introduced earlier: fragility and openness. Like comparative literature, vulnerability is at heart a mode and form of relationality.

We welcome abstracts (150 words) related — but not limited — to the areas listed below.

Each speaker will be allocated 20 minutes to give their paper. In addition to presenting on

their own work and areas of expertise, speakers may wish in their papers to reflect on

methodological questions raised by the general topic of vulnerability.

  • Figurations of vulnerability, in literature, art, humanitarian discourse, politics and
  • poetics
  • The constitution/construction and representation of vulnerable subjects and groups,
  • regions, languages, populations or communities
  • The vulnerability of text(s) and writing
  • The instrumentalizations of vulnerability in human rights discourse, humanitarian
  • studies, refugee studies, public policy and politics
  • Vulnerability and victimhood: ethics, values, agency and moral judgement
  • Vulnerability and violence: epistemic, actual and strategic
  • The relationship of ‘vulnerability’ to ‘precarity’, ‘fragility’ or ‘risk’
  • Vulnerable forms: genres, mediums, practices, objects, structures, materials, modes
  • of being, life-worlds
  • The gendering/ageing/sexing of vulnerability: vulnerability and intersectionality
  • Vulnerability and visibility, vulnerability and difference, vulnerability as image
  • Vulnerability and the law, discourses of protection, care and control, compassion andsupport
  • Vulnerability, performance and performativity
  • Vulnerability and power, vulnerability and strength/resilience
  • Comparative literature as a vulnerable discipline


Abstracts of no more than 150 words, accompanied by a short biographical presentation of similar length should be submitted by email to j.rushworth@ucl.ac.uk by Monday, 5th March 2018.


Practical Information

Accommodation for delegates, speakers and student participants will be provided for four nights (18th June to 22nd June 2018) at Villa Maria Guest House, in the immediate proximity of Villa Sciarra-Wurts and within easy walking distance from the vibrant neighbourhood of Trastevere and the historical centre of Rome. Students will be hosted in shared double rooms with en suite bathrooms.

A conference fee of EUR 270.00 per participant, to be paid to the organisers on arrival, will include participation, accommodation, lunch on four days, conference dinner, and a guided walking tour of Rome.

Participants are requested to make their own travel arrangements. Please see here information on how to reach Villa Maria Guest House. In case of dietary or other special needs, please contact the organisers at your earliest convenience, at f.mussgnug@ucl.ac.uk


General Information

University College London (UCL) is proud to be a founding member of the Hermes Consortium for Literary and Cultural Studies, a long-standing collaboration of eleven doctoral schools in Belgium, The Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Great Britain, the Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, France, and the USA, with a proven record of international excellence in the field of Comparative Literary Studies. The Consortium’s annual summer school, hosted in turn by each partner institution, brings together specialists, delegates from the partner universities and 22 PhD students (two per university). Intensive training workshops and work-in-progress presentations focus on shared methodologies and themes and lead to the publication of an annual edited volume, published by UCL Press in the Comparative Literature and Culture series, co-edited by Prof. Timothy Mathews and Dr Florian Mussgnug.



Participants are encouraged to consult the IAS homepage for reading suggestions and information about ongoing research initiatives and events around the theme of vulnerability. Recommended preparatory reading will be sent by the organisers in pdf, in preparation for the summer school. We also recommend the following monographs and edited collections:

Bentham, Jeremy, An Introduction to the Principles of Morals and Legislation, ed. by J. H. Burns and H. L. A. Hart (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1996).

Butler, Judith and Zeynep Gambetti (eds), Vulnerability in Resistance (Durham and London: Duke University Press, 2016).

Callahan, Daniel, ‘The Vulnerability of the Human Condition’, in Bioethics and Biolaw, ed. by P. Kemp, J. Rendtorff, and N. Mattsson Johansen, 2 vols (Copenhagen: Rhodos International Science and Art Publishers, 2000), II, 115–22.

Ganteau, Jean-Michel, and Susana Onega (eds), Victimhood and Vulnerability in 21st-Century Fiction (New York: Routledge, 2017).

Ganteau, Jean-Michel, The Ethics and Aesthetics of Vulnerability in Contemporary British Fiction (London: Routledge, 2015).

Gilson, Erinn, The Ethics of Vulnerability (London: Routledge, 2016).

Greene, Thomas M., The Vulnerable Text: Essays on Renaissance Literature (New York: Columbia University Press, 1986).

Haraway, Donna J., Staying with the Trouble: Making Kin in the Chthulucene (Durham and London: Duke University Press, 2016).

Latour, Bruno, Facing Gaia: Eight Lectures on the New Climatic Regime (Cambridge: Polity, 2017).

McCoy, Marina, Wounded Heroes: Vulnerability as a Virtue in Ancient Greek Literature and Philosophy (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014).

Maillard, Nathalie, La Vulnérabilité : une nouvelle catégorie morale? (Geneva: Labor et Fides, 2011).

Mathews, Timothy, Alberto Giacometti: The Art of Relation (London: I.B. Tauris, 2014).

Morton, Timothy, Hyperobjects: Philosophy and Ecology after the End of the World, (Minneapolis and London: University of Minnesota Press, 2013).

Pick, Anat, Creaturely Poetics: Animality and Vulnerability in Literature and Film (New York: Columbia University Press, 2011).

ten Have, Henk, Vulnerability: Challenging Bioethics (London: Routledge, 2016).

Scarry, Elaine, The Body in Pain: The Making and Unmaking of the World (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1985).

Tylus, Jane, Writing and Vulnerability in the Late Renaissance (Stanford: Stanford University Press,


Invited Speakers

Giandomenico Iannetti (University College London)

Katherine Ibbett (University of Oxford)

Peter Leary (University College London)

Timothy Mathews (University College London)

Simona Micali (University of Siena)

Baldassare Pastore (University of Ferrara)

Ellen Sapega (University of Wisconsin-Madison) - tbc

Organising Committee

Florian Mussgnug (UCL)

Jennifer Rushworth (UCL)

Roberta Ascarelli (IIGS)

Lucia Corso (Enna)


Faculty of Arts and Humanities, UCL

PRIN “Legal Entity and Vulnerability”

University of Enna Kore

Italian Institute of Germanic Studies

Hermes, Aarhus University, June 12th-16th 2017: Contexts

Conference theme

Literature and art are always situated in a context, both literally, metaphorically and by reference. But what does this ‘situatedness’ mean? How do literature and art imagine or critically reflect a community, a state or a world and what does the social and cultural context of the reader or the spectator mean for the interpretation of a work of literature or art? What is the political potential of literature and art? Do globalization and new media change our understanding of what context is? And do new methods of comparatism or Big Data entail new ways of perceiving the concept of context?

In this graduate seminar we wish to focus on the way ‘context’ is understood in literary and cultural studies. In a certain sense, contexts have become wider. It has been argued that aesthetics is always already cosmopolitan or globalized (Papastergiadis 2012), and that Big Data-methods in literature departments will open up literary studies to the great unread (Manovich 2015). New comparatists have argued in favor of a new universalism or a planetary consciousness (Apter, Spivak) and for a relational, transcultural understanding of context (Baucom, Dobie). Yet there is also a new focus on the importance of ‘nearness’, of micro-historical circulation, personal life-stories (Schaffer, Smith), concrete political contexts, personal precariousness (Butler) and affective, phenomenological and performative effects of literature and art on individuals (Ngai, Ahmed). In between the global and the local, we find the nation state that used to be the geographical cornerstone of comparatism as well as the ethnic or political communities often discussed in cultural studies. Talking about context also often means addressing the relation between aesthetics and politics. New approaches have pointed out the inherent political importance of aesthetic form and of giving voice to the unheard (Rancière) and of creating new forms of collective subjectivity and agency (Mouffe, Douzinas).

Literature and art matter in the world and so do storytelling, street art, performative media actions, commercials, documentary movies, political self fashioning etc. that all draw on different forms of aesthetics. We invite participants to critically discuss the role of context in the interpretation, canonization and circulation of literary and artistic works as well as the methodological implications of contextual interpretations.


Topics, suggested but not limited to

  • Aesthetics and politics
  • The politics of literary form
  • Big Data and new approaches to context
  • The contextualized reader or spectator
  • Aesthetics in a globalized context
  • Microhistories
  • Circulation of literature and art in different contexts
  • Context’s function within comparative method
  • Mediated contexts and their relation to literary works or artworks
  • Historical forms and discussions about context
  • The role of the reader/spectator
  • Ethnicity, race-, gender- based contexts



Paper proposals (abstracts) of approx. 300 words should be sent to Karen-Margrethe Simonsen (litkms@cc.au.dk) or Jakob Ladegaard (litjl@cc.au.dk) no later than February 15, 2017.


Price for participation

270 Euro (includes participation, excursion, lunch all days, one dinner and lodging at hostel)



School of Communication and Culture, Aarhus University Langelandsgade 139 8000 Aarhus C Denmark http://cc.au.dk/en/



Ahmed, Sarah. The Cultural Politics of Emotion. Edinburgh: Edinburgh Univesity Press, 2014.

Apter, Emily. The Translation Zone: A New Comparative Literature, Princeton University Press, 2006.

Baucom, Ian. Specters of the Atlantic: Finance Capital, Slavery, and the Philosophy of History. Durham: Duke University Press, 2005.

Butler, Judith. Precarious Life. The Powers of Mourning and Violence. London/New York: Verso, 2004.

Dobie, Madeleine, Trading Places. Colonialism and Slavery in Eighteenth-Century, Ithaca/London: Cornell University Press, 2010.

Douzinas, Costas. Philosophy and Resistance in the Crisis. Cambridge, UK/Malden: Polity Press, 2013.

Manovich, Lev. "The Science of Culture? Social Computing, Digital Humanities, and Cultural Analytics." manovich.net/index.php/projects/cultural-analytics-social-computing.

Mouffe, Chantal. Agonistics: Thinking The World Politically. London – New York: Verso, 2013.

Ngai, Sianne. Ugly Feelings, Cambridge, Mass/London: 2005.

Papastergiadis, Nikos. Cosmopolitanism and Culture, Cambridge UK/Malden: Polity Press, 2012.

Rancière, Jacques. Politique de la littérature. Paris: Éditions Galilée, 2007. (Politics of Literature, Polity Press, 2011).

Schaffer, Kay and Sidonie Smith: Human Rights and Narrated Lives. The Ethics of Recognition. New York: Palgrave MacMillan 2004.

Spivak, Gayatri, Death of a Discipline, New York: Columbia Press, 2003.


Bruce Robbins, Professor, Department of English and Comparative Literature, Columbia University, New York

Susana Araujo, Senior researcher at the Centre for Comparative Studies of the Faculty of Arts University of Lisbon

Mads Rosendahl Thomsen, Professor with Special Responsibilities, School of Communication and Culture, Aarhus University

Frederik Tygstrup, Professor, Department of Arts and Cultural Studies, Copenhagen University

Hermes 2016: Contemporary Perspectives on Media and Genre Interactions

Call for papers


In the symposium in Leuven we would like to explore the influence of the ever-transforming media landscape on literary genres. How do media affect and change literary genres? Which new literary genres emerge under the influence of other media? And what is the influence of transmediality and convergence culture on comparative literary studies?

Another set of questions relates to genre as a classification instrument in both literature and other media. Do accepted terms like drama, comedy… but also autofiction mean the same thing in different media e.g., literature or television? This question can be explored from a diachronic or a synchronic perspective: how do genres change under the influences of developments in media culture (e.g., the invention of print, film, television and internet)? How do specific genres (e.g. thriller, western, detective…) relate to or differ from each other in various media (film, literature, TV)? What about remediation: how do new media affect existing genres in ‘older’ media and vice versa?

A third line of questioning is a set of specific concepts in recent critical discourse that are related to but that also transcend genre. More specifically, we are thinking about the notion of seriality that re-emerges in contemporary literature, maybe under the influence of television series, and raises questions about older forms of seriality. A second theme is the blurring of reality and fiction in a transmedial context: how does it differ from older forms of such blurring boundaries in literature, for instance in the context of postmodernism?

We welcome papers from various disciplines and literatures but strongly encourage papers that have a distinct comparative literary approach and embrace interdisciplinarity.

Fee: 300 € per student (covers hostel, lunch, conference dinner and coffee breaks).

Organisation: Anneleen Masschelein, Heidi Peeters and Gert-Jan Meyntjens

Please send you proposal (500 words) before February 26, 2016 to




Reading List    

Alber, Jan and Hansen Per Krogh (eds.). Beyond Classical Narration: Transmedial and Unnatural Challenges (Narratologia). 2014.

Bolter, David Jay and Richard Grusin. Remediation. Understanding New Media. 2000.

Collins, Jim.  Bring on the Books for Everybody: How Literary Culture Became Popular Culture. 2010.

Flusser, Vilém. "The Future of Writing." 2004.

Genette, Gérard. Introduction à L'Architexte. 1979.

Gripsrud, Jostein. Understanding Media Culture. 2002.

Hutchheon, Linda. A Theory of Adaptation. 2006.

A Poetics of Postmodernism. 1988.

Jenkins, Henry. Convergence Culture: Where Old and New Media Collide. 2006.

Kittler, Friedrich. Gramophone, Film, Typewriter. 1999.

Letourneux, Matthieu. "Serializing Imports and Importing Series: France and Foreign Mass-Produced Fiction." 2014.

McLuhan, Marshall. Understanding Media. 1964.

Mittell, Jason. Complex TV. 2015.

Ryan, Marie-Laure. Narrative across Media: The Languages of Storytelling. 2004.

Possible Worlds, Artificial Intelligence, and Narrative Theory. 1992.

Ryan, Marie-Laure and Marina Grishakova (eds.). Intermediality and Storytelling (Narratologia). 2010.


Hermes 2015: Author, Authorship, and Authority in the Age of Cultural Studies and New Media

Hermes seminar 2015


Charles University in Prague, June 14 to June 19, 2015

In the past decades, the interest in the textuality, contexts, readership, historicity or materiality of literary production has overshadowed an important area of literary studies focused on the author, authorship and authority. The present time, marked by the predominance of cultural studies and profound changes effected by the new media, their interactive nature and their impact on our understanding of authenticity, originality and intellectual property, invites us to reconsider the status, meaning and potentialities of author-oriented approaches.


Starting from the Prague Structuralism discussions of authorship in terms of intentionality and “semantic gesture,” Wayne Booth’s “implied author,” E.D. Hirsch’s hermeneutics and Michel Foucault’s concept of a historically developing, discursive “author-function,” the author-oriented approaches can be discussed in view of a number of thematic areas and from various conceptual perspectives, for instance:


  • literariness
  • rhetoric and transformation of humanistic philological agenda
  • fiction and fictionality  
  • gender studies
  • identity and psychoanalysis
  • autobiographical fiction, disease narratives and life writing
  • postcolonial and diasporic studies   
  • authorship and intellectual property
  • constructivist approaches
  • collective authorship
  • new media studies
  • ethical turn
  • autobiographical studies
  • historical approaches
  • literary sociology


Papers confronting the approaches based on the notions of intention, literariness, identity, gender, posture, etc., with the reconfiguration of authorship in the age of the new media are especially welcome.