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23 March 2023 - 24 March 2023

12:00PM - 3:00PM

Durham University

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Join us for our conference exploring narratives from 'Heimatliteratur' across German-speaking countries in the long nineteenth Century. These texts, written during social and political transitions resulting in the emergence of a unified nation state, reveal a shifting sense of boundaries, national identity, and 'otherness', along with impacts from paper and printing technological advances. We will contrast this discourse with contemporary discussions around inclusivity and marginalisation.

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Image ©Städtisches Museum Braunschweig, Depositum im Stadtarchiv Braunschweig

Bounded Narratives: Containment and Exclusion in German-language Literature of the long nineteenth Century

23-24 March 2023

Durham University

In the nineteenth century increasingly virulent forms of globalization and nationalism, the latter ‘grounded and bounded by the problematics of territory and identity’ (Vilashini Cooppan), went hand in hand. In this field of tension German-language literature of the long nineteenth century registers an uncertainty about its own borders that parallels the uncertainty around ‘Germany’ itself as an idea. As the German-speaking countries underwent transitions that resulted in the emergence of a unified nation state, the question of enclosure and exclusion in an increasingly globalized world — the often invoked and subverted bounds of Heimat — reverberated on a political level. This conference seeks to consider the ways in which literary narratives reflected these shifts and were, in turn, defined and shaped by practices of containment and exclusion, in a both topical and formal, i.e. aesthetically self-referential respect: German-language literature across the century has faced charges of a rigid inwardness, as Heimatliteratur insufficiently aware of the world beyond itself. Meanwhile, the figure of the outsider reappears and returns across the century in changing guises, not least in the form of the colonial foreigner, the sexual deviant, or the uncanny other. 

With the drive to define a national canon and advances in paper production, typesetting, and bookbinding came the consolidation of sanctioned textual spaces: the standardization of the printed page and of the book as commercial product. What happens, then, when we pay attention to the outsides as much as to the insides of texts, both material and otherwise? How do texts reflect on their own exclusions — typographical, representational, narrative? This conference seeks to open up a discussion of narrative boundaries that pays attention to representational and methodological practices of exclusion and inclusion, as well as to the slippery figure of the boundary or bounding line. We seek to hold open a critical attitude towards established canonical forms and to draw continuities between nineteenth-century discourse and contemporary discussions around inclusivity and marginalization. 

Please contact Polly Dickson ( or Claudia Nitschke ( for further information, and to register to attend. 

Conference Programme:

Day 1:  Thursday 23 March




Johannes Endres (UC, Riverside)

Frühromantischer Zynismus. Das Beispiel Friedrich Schlegels und Friedrich von Hardenbergs (Novalis)


Maha El Hissy (LMU Munich)

Visual Culture and German Drama after the French Revolution


Polly Dickson (Durham University)

Adelbert von Chamisso’s Paper Boundaries: Container, Network, Doodle



Coffee and Refreshments


Benedict Schofield (University of Bristol)

Expanding Textual Topographies? Territory, Identity, and Race in Gustav Freytag’s Soll und Haben (1855) and its twin sequels, Reinhold Solger’s and Erich Ebermayer’s Anton in Amerika (1862; 1928)


Dirk Göttsche (University of Nottingham)

Nation building and the politics of memory: Shifting and competing narratives in the representation of the anti-Napoleonic ‘Liberation Wars’ before and after 1871


Conference Dinner


Day 2: Friday 24 March


Michiel Rys (Durham University / KU Leuven)

Poetic Transgression in Working-Class Writing. Form and Metafiction in August Otto-Walster’s Am Webstuhl der Zeit (1873) and Lu Märten’s Torso. Das Buch einer Kindheit (1909)


Martina Wernli (Universität Frankfurt a.M.)

In New Clothes. Fashion, Life and Politics in Texts by Female Authors of the 19th Century


Coffee and refreshments


Joanna Raisbeck (Oxford University)

‘Ich Petrefakt’: Geopoetics and the limits of the human in nineteenth-century poetry


Barry Murnane (Oxford University)

Making and managing contagion in nineteenth-century realism: Grillparzer, Raabe, and Fontane 



Please contact Polly Dickson ( or Claudia Nitschke ( for further information, and to register to attend. 



Please contact Polly Dickson ( or Claudia Nitschke ( for information. 

Where and when

School of Modern Languages and Cultures, Durham University