Calls for papers (2017)

The “Epic” Bertolt Brecht

The Editors of the graduate student journal Focus on German Studies in conjunction with the Graduate Student Association of the Department of German Studies at the University of Cincinnati present the Twenty-Second Annual Focus Graduate Student Conference:

Bertolt Brecht is well-known for his “episches Theater,” a style of theater meant to provoke thought and reason in the audience over a sense of feeling and empathy with the performers. Yet, many believed Brecht ultimately failed in this regard to create truly epic theatre. In this conference, we seek to push the boundaries of the nature of the epic style and to highlight its successes and future as a viable and powerful style of theater, by exploring a wide range of live performance and film and media, both by and inspired by, Brecht.

Specifically, we are interested in creating panels that discuss the epic style in Brecht’s works of Spoken Theater and Musicals, Operas, Cabaret, Radio-plays and Cantatas, The Use of Screens in Live Performance, and the Epic Style in Screenplays and Film Studies, in the Weimar Republic, his Exile, and the GDR. We would also like to have a panel on the Epic Style in the Twenty-First Century and/or the Future of Epic Theater.

Current graduate students are invited to send 250-word abstracts to Ellen C. Chew at by July 9th, 2017. Submissions are welcome from any discipline. Papers may be presented in either German or English.

Lesser-known works are always encouraged! Graduate Students in German Studies, European Studies, History, Musicology, Theater and Performance Studies, Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies, and Film and Media Studies are strongly encouraged to apply. 


Brechtian and Wagnerian Aesthetics Today

A special session for the Modern Language Association Convention in New York City, 4-7 January 2018, sponsored by the International Brecht Society.

Scholars have long questioned the dichotomy between the Epic Theater and Gesamtkunstwerk which Brecht sets up in his first major statement on the Epic Theater, “Notes on the Opera Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny.” In Wagners Aktualität, Theodor W. Adorno indicated that Wagner’s Ring is in a significant sense “epic,” due to its episodic structure and preference for narrative scenes over action. More recently, Joy Calico has traced the contours of the relationship between the Epic Theater and the Gesamtkunstwerk, showing how Brecht is indebted to Wagner’s opera not just because it offers a historical and political foil, but also because it is an important forerunner to his own attempts to rethink the contract with the audience and the relationship between music and the body onstage.

Recent works by Alain Badiou, Slavoj Zizek and others have further complicated the easy identification of Wagner’s art with reactionary politics. Artists themselves have also long combined the Wagnerian with the Brechtian to more-or-less self-conscious degrees (for example, in the films of Hans-Jürgen Syberberg, the performance art of Christoph Schlingensief and Jonathan Meese, or the theater of Frank Castorf).

In our age of total digital distraction, has the dialectic of the Brechtian and Wagnerian reached an end? Are the categories of the Gesamtkunstwerk and Lehrstück, or techniques such as Verfremdung, Gestus, and historicization still coherent or useful in understanding contemporary works of art?

The International Brecht Society invites proposals on any aspect of the interplay between “Brechtian” and “Wagnerian” aesthetics – broadly conceived – in theater, music, film, television, or other media. Please submit ca. 200 word proposals and a short CV to Jack Davis ( by Friday, 24 March 2017. Presenters must become MLA members by 7 April 2017.