Poetics of Politics (Documentation)

Contemporary American literature has rediscovered politics. As scholars who proclaim an end of postmodernism, a post-postmodern turn, maintain, literature around the turn of the millennium has broken with the 'narcissist' playfulness of postmodernism and demonstrates a rekindled interest in addressing issues of social concern, an interest that it pursues by literary strategies nonetheless deeply shaped by postmodern aesthetics. 

This 'political turn' in literature coincides with what we may call a 'poetic turn' in politics. Political (sub-)cultures show themselves increasingly conscious of their own textuality, which shows, for example, in their strategic development and use of specific genres of political 'writing' (in old as well as new media); in the extent to which political texts draw on the means and techniques of literature; or in instances of textual self-reflexivity.

The conference "Poetics of Politics: Textuality and Social Relevance in Contemporary American Literature and Culture," held June 20-22, 2013 at Leipzig, brought together fifteen scholars and a large group of participants to discuss these developments. The conference was made possible by the generous support of The Consulate General of the United States of America, Leipzig, The Barbara Hobbie & Richard Mancke Fund, The Vereinigung von Förderern und Freunden der Universität Leipzig, and the Benefiz Kaffee- und Milchshakebar Shake and Donate.


Keynote I: Greta Olson

Greta Olson

The Politics of Form: Analyzing Post-Post 9/11 Critical Texts



Panel I: Nonfiction

Bruno Arich-Gerz

Poetics of Disaster: Generic Instability and the Upgrading of Imaginativeness in The 9/11 Commission Report


Sebastian M. Herrmann

Fog, Fact, Fiction: Narrative Blurring and Reality Effects in Larry Beinhart’s Fog Facts and The Librarian


Carolin Alice Hofmann

Political Unease in Testimonial Nonfiction: Rebecca Skloot’s The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks and Dave Eggers’s Zeitoun


Keynote II: Ilka Saal

Ilka Saal

‘Just as good as the real thing’: Exploring Historiopoetics in Contemporary American Literature



Panel II: Narratives in Old Media

Hans Frese

The Great American Novel and Beyond: Jonathan Franzen and the Legacy of the Culture Wars


Olesya Bondarenko

Examining the Glass and the Frame: Politics and Subjectivity in Rae Armantrout’s Poetry



Panel III: Narratives in New Media

Frank Usbeck

Bridging the Gaps: Pop Culture and Ritual in Military Blogs from Afghanistan


Stefan Schubert

‘A Man Chooses, a Slave Obeys’? Objectivism, Choice, and Narrative Agency in BioShock



Panel IV: Television

Felix Brinker

The Politics of Long-Form Storytelling in Contemporary American Serial Television: On Popular Seriality, Operational Aesthetics, and Audience Management


Katja Kanzler

Narrative Politics in Contemporary TV Legal Drama: The Good Wife and Damages


Eleonora Ravizza

The Politics of Nostalgia: Gender Representation in Mad Men



Keynote III: Andrew Hoberek

Andrew Hoberek

Thinking Institutionally: ArgoZero Dark Thirty, and the Politics of Contemporary Historical Films



Panel V: Drama on Stage and Screen

Dorothea Gail

The Last Days of American Civilization: The Poetics of Righteous Violence in Bob Goldthwait’s Black Comedy God Bless America


Sabrina Hüttner

Politics of Dissent? Reconsidering ‘the Political’ in Contemporary American Political Theater