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Call for Papers

Conference: Caspar Walter Rauh and Phantastic Realism

Within German 20th century art, the graphic artist, illustrator, painter and writer Caspar Walter Rauh (1912-1983) is an outsider who has not yet received the attention that he deserves. The critical exploration of his oeuvre is still at an early stage.

Since Rauh started his career as an artist during the years of World War II, his work has unsettled viewers as he juxtaposes representations of the most frightening and traumatizing events of the epoch with joyful scenes of escapism into idyllic “alternate” worlds and into humour. Rauh’s dream-like images confront the viewer with the barbarism of the 20th century, with suffering, death and destruction on the one hand, and utopian sketches of better worlds on the other hand. His works have a strong narrative quality telling stories in a visual language based on fantasy and surrealism. They display private mythologies in which fish and birds, weird plants and imaginary vehicles play a major role.

The proposed conference will explore the specific “fantastic” dimensions in Rauh’s work. It will focus – although not exclusively – on the following key questions:

1. How can Rauh’s Phantastik be conceptualised and what is its significance in relation to the wider context of fantasy theory? What concepts of genre, what theoretical approaches can help to define it? Which concepts from philosophy, psychology, art history or literary criticism can be applied? To what extent can theories of dream contribute to an understanding of the “dreamlike” qualities in Rauh’s works?

2. What is the relationship between Rauh’s work and the canon of fantastic art and literature? What does Rauh’s oeuvre owe to iconographic traditions of fantastic art – from Hieronymus Bosch to Alfred Kubin and Félicien Rops? What role does literature play for him? Was it only relevant for Rauh as illustrator of works by authors such as E.A. Poe, Jean Paul, E.T.A. Hoffmann and Mary Norton, or was literature a general source of artistic inspiration for him?

3. For a brief period of not quite ten years following the Second World War, German writers and visual artists engaged significantly with a concerted attempt to describe war experiences through the medium of fantastic realism. Is there a taxonomy for this Nachkriegsphantastik and how does Rauh’s oeuvre contribute to it? Comparisons with other artistic and literary outputs of the late forties and fifties are invited, as are investigations into the causes for the proliferation of fantastic art and its subsequent decline over the given period.

The interdisciplinary conference is aimed at historians and theorists of art, literature and other cultural sciences. Multidisciplinary contributions are welcome, as are interpretations of individual works and motifs. Contributions should not exceed 30 minutes in length; conference languages are English, Portuguese and German.

Interested participants should send their proposed topic, including a working title, abstract (200 words) and short CV to one of the following before 31st May 2017:

Prof. Dr. John Greenfield:
Prof. Dr. Hans-Walter Schmidt-Hannisa:

Costs of accommodation (and, if possible, travel expenses) will be refunded to contributors.
Selected papers will be published.

Time and venue:
Palacete dos Viscondes de Balsemão / Faculdade de Letras da Universidade do Porto, Porto, 26-28 October 2017

The conference is hosted by the DEG (Departamento de Estudos Germanísticos) / Faculdade de Letras da Universidade do Porto and CITCEM (Centro de Investigação Transdisciplinar Cultura – Espaço – Memória).

The event is sponsored by the Câmara Municipal do Porto and the Goethe-Institut, Porto.

John Greenfield (Universidade do Porto),
Hans-Walter Schmidt-Hannisa (National University of Ireland, Galway)

The conference will be accompanied by an exhibition of selected etchings by Caspar Walter Rauh in the Palacete dos Viscondes de Balsemão, Porto.
The opening of the exhibition will be on Thursday, 26 Oktober 2017 at 6 p.m..