The keynote speaker for the 2023 SCFLLF will be Dr. Richard Langston, Professor of German at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Abstract of Keynote Address

Interrogating public spheres, regardless of whether they are classical and bourgeois or postclassical and global, requires careful micrological consideration of the principle forces that frustrate, foreclose or even co-opt the possibility of shared experience. While modern social theories—from Marx on exchange to Mauss on gift giving, from Simmel on flirting to Freud on love, etc.—offer us much with which to make sense of the myriad ways actual people do come together to form associations, the dominant historical trajectory of the public sphere is nevertheless regarded as one of decline. In the words of one scholar, we can at best only speak, therefore, of partial public spheres.

In contradistinction to the concerns of social theory, my interest lies in the social desires of modern and contemporary European literature especially now in our post-literary, technologically mediated world. In spite of the shortcomings and failures of actual association, literary narrative is an inherently social enterprise that engenders countless forms of association. My keynote talk will consider how German fiction written since 1945 acts on such desires by employing technology in its narratives (cinema will be of particular concern for my case studies) as an essential medium for either fostering or subverting the possibility of forming bonds in a democratic liberal society.