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Session Details

499. New Perspectives on German Ecocritical Prose: Messages, Patterns, and the Revision of the Literary Canon

Thursday, 5 January, 12:00 noon–1:15 p.m., 307, Hynes

A special session

Presiding: Alexander E. Pichugin, Rutgers Univ., New Brunswick

Alexander E. Pichugin's Annotation:
According to the canonical three-phase model of the development of ecocriticism offered by Cheryll Clotfelty based on the analysis of the Anglo-American literature (1996), the first phase consists of the study of the representation of nature in literature with a closer look at ecologically-oriented patterns and stereotypes; the second phase is the recovery of nature-writing texts, and the third phase represents the development of theoretical frameworks of the ecocritical approach.

The rise of the ecologically-oriented approaches to literature and the development of ecocriticism as a scholarly discipline in the 1970s did not remain for very long the prerogative of Anglo-American literature and scholarship. Other national literatures and literary studies have been rapidly developing their views on the connections between literature and ecology; these are often based on different premises and follow their own respective literary traditions.

The German ecocritical approach of today represents a complex combination of the processes delineated by Clotfelty, which have to be understood not as “phases,” but rather as coexisting, parallel, and simultaneous trends in the development of German ecocriticism. The latter is characterized by a number of general theoretical paradigms, such as the system-theoretical approach of Hofer (2007) and the cultural ecology of Zapf (2002, 2008). At the same time, more and more emerging literary works and their authors are recognized and studied as ecocritical ones; in addition, an active revision of the established literary canon is in full swing. While there has been a considerable amount of scholarship on both ecologically oriented works in German-language literature and on German ecocriticism as scholarly enterprise, an analysis of current trends and perspectives is long overdue.

This session seeks to understand the dynamics of the most recent developments in both modern ecologically-oriented German-language prose and German ecocritical scholarship. Each carefully selected paper represents one particular strand of this development:

1. Exploring the “message” as a conscious ecological program of the ecologically-oriented prose and forms of its realization in the texts (Stefan Hoeppner, University of Freiburg, Germany);

2. Defining patterns and literary devices specifically characteristic to the ecocritical prose, such as utopic spaces and alternative realities (Arnim Alex Seelig, McGill University, Montréal, Canada);

3. Ecocritical rereading of established works and authors and revision of the literary canon and (Sabine Nöllgen, University of Washington, Seattle).

The papers offered in this session both represent the modern trends in the development of German ecocriticism and at the same time indicate the directions of its future development.

1. "Life after Man: Overcoming the Human in Dietmar Dath's The Abolition of Species," Stefan Hoeppner, Univ. of Freiburg

2. "The Paradise That Never Was: Ecocritical Utopian Alterity in Novels by Dietmar Dath and Christian Kracht," Arnim Alex Seelig, McGill Univ.

3. "Toxic Excess in Wolfgang Hilbig's Alte Abdeckerei," Sabine Nöllgen, Univ. of Washington, Seattle

For abstracts, visit


  • German Literature – Twentieth and Twenty-First Century

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