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Back to the Future

Tradition and Innovation in German Studies


Edited By Marc Silberman

In the course of the 1970s, interdisciplinary German studies emerged in North America, breaking with what many in the field saw as a suffocating and politically tainted tradition of canon-based philology by broadening both the corpus of texts and the framing concept of culture. In the meantime the innovative impulses that characterized this response to the legacy of Germanistik have themselves become traditions. The essays in this volume critically examine a selection of those past attempts at renewal to gauge where we are now and how we move into the future: exile and forced migration, race and identity, humanism and utopian thought, solidarity and global inequality. A younger generation of scholars demonstrates how reviving and refining the questions of yore leads to new insights into literary and theatrical texts, fundamental philosophical and political ideas, and the structure of memory in ethnographic performance and photography. Looking back into the future is a self-reflexive gesture that asks how tradition inspires innovation, and it displays compelling evidence for the importance of historically informed cultural research in the field of German studies.

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The essays in this volume are revised, extended versions of presentations at the 50th Wisconsin Workshop, held at the University of Wisconsin in Madison from September 14 to 16, 2017. Organized by Professors Venkat Mani and Marc Silberman, the Workshop was made possible through the generous financial support of the Anonymous Fund (College of Letters and Sciences), German Program (Department of German, Nordic, and Slavic), DAAD Center for German and European Studies, Center for European Studies, George L. Mosse Program (Department of History), Mosse/Weinstein Center for Jewish Studies, Middle East Studies Program, School of Music, and Department of Political Science. We are grateful for the support and enthusiasm of our partners. We also appreciated the help of colleagues in hosting our international guests: Professors Hannah Eldridge, Sonja Klocke, Weijia Li, and Pamela Potter. Most important, without our competent (but often invisible staff), including project assistant Anna Muenchrath, financial officer Katja Mohaupt-Hedden, and office manager Nicole Senter, the entire affair would not have been the success it was. Thank you.

The authors of the contributions in this volume have made every effort to trace copyright holders and to obtain their permission for the use of copyright material. The publisher apologizes for any errors or omissions and would be grateful for notification of any corrections that should be incorporated in future reprints or editions of this book.

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