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Speculative Realism

Speculative Realism


Eighth Biannual Graduate Student Conference of the German Program

Department of German and Romance Languages and Literature at the Johns Hopkins University

Realism Bites: Disruptive Realisms in Modernity

Keynote speakers:

Prof. Elisabeth Strowick, Johns Hopkins University

Prof. Timothy Brennan, University of Minnesota

November 6- 7, 2015
The Johns Hopkins University


All the fissures and rents which are inherent in the historical situation must be drawn into the form-giving process and cannot nor should be disguised by compositional means.

(György Lukács, The Theory of the Novel)


The term realism has been associated with multiple artistic practices, styles and movements from nineteenth-century bourgeois realism to socialist realism, surrealism, Italian neorealism, magical realism, and postmodern hyperrealism. Its repetitions and invocations express a commitment to and a struggle for reality, rearticulating the political, social and epistemological functions and meanings of art. As a form of “Darstellung der Wirklichkeit,” it carries the tension of a set of oppositions: the reality that is and the reality that ought to be; an objective and verisimilar reproduction and a poetic constitution of reality; a conventional mode and personal expression of reality.

György Lukács emphasized the necessity for a “critical realism,” one that is determined by a critical perception and mediation of social contradictions, rather than their naïve reproduction. The notion of unity, so important for the Lukácsian concept of ‘critical realism,’ refers not only to the realist novel’s capacity to reveal the totality of social relations, but also to its depiction of the individual’s striving to reach totality as a mode of being. Even though, Lukács considered the novel as the primary form for the critical depiction of the modern conditio humana, the question can be raised whether “critical realism” functions more as an epistemo-critical concept than as a rigid genre definition. Since Lukács, many scholars and artists have called into question his notion of totality and human agency, and contested h is definition of art as a representational medium that reveals a social totality. Should we, as Fredric Jameson has suggested, hold on to a concept of totality, when discussing current “problems of realism?” How do the various forms of realism relate to what Lukács – justifiably or not – has identified as the pseudo-objectivity of Naturalism, on the one hand, and extreme subjectivism, on the other? Can one actualize critical realisms for a critique of representation? And in what way do contemporary reassessments and actualizations of realisms repeat or reverse traditional dichotomies, such as those between idealism and realism, nominalism and realism, realism and modernism?


This call for paper invites submissions from a wide variety of disciplines that discuss competing aesthetic strategies. Presentations should not exceed 20 minutes.

Please submit abstracts (300-500 words) with your name and affiliation to Esther Edelmann and Christiane Ketteler at by August 13, 2015.

Topics may include, but are not limited to:

  • Realism repeated: Realism after Modernism
  • Avant-garde “realities”
  • Antinomies and instabilities within classical realisms
  • The reception of realisms and its historical conditions
  • Realisms, political movements and alliances
  • Speculative Realism and the constitution and emergence of objects
  • Excessive Realism or new possibilities of perceptions of objects
  • Productive realisms or the emergence of new orders
  • Realisms (false) friends: Reportage, Travelogue, and Documentary
  • The Real and the Reality Principle
  • Capitalist Realism and the limits and problems in representing global capitalism and its alternatives
  • Theories and Projects of Mapping
  • Hyperrealism and the Desert of the Real / The Spectacle of Reality
  • Abject Realisms and the abjected within Realism
  • Realism and the Dissolutions of boundaries between the arts
  • Realism, Nominalism, Idealism, (New) Materialism
  • Realism, Romanticism, Symbolism
  • Post/Colonial Realisms
  • Feminist Realism
  • Realism and the Problem of Exemplarity
  • “Wirklichkeit als das Wirkende”


First Published in



‘Human Herbs’ – a song by Cold Hands & Quarter Moon:

Posted here by Glenn Rikowski

Glenn Rikowski @ Academia:


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