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Sprach- und Literaturwissenschaftliche Fakultät

Amerikastudien / Anglophone Literaturen und Kulturen – Prof. Dr. Sylvia Mayer

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Workshops, Symposien, Tagungen

“Speculative Endeavors. Cultures of Knowledge and Capital in the Long Nineteenth Century” 21.-23. Oktober 2022Einklappen

Keynote Speakers
Prof. Dr. Peter Knight (Manchester)
Pro. Dr. Lori Merish (Georgetown)

Organized by Dr. Katrin Horn, PD Dr. Karin Hoepker, and Selina Foltinek

Supported by DFG, WIN UBT, and Bavarian American Academy

This conference investigates the ways in which cultures of knowledge and forms of capital intersect in the US during the long nineteenth century. Epistemological and economic concerns complexly intertwine in the US, which by 1900 had emerged as “the land of speculation” (Stäheli). Influential texts such as Thorstein Veblen’s A Theory of the Leisure Class (1899) and Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s Women and Economics (1898) illustrate an altered perception of the significance of market dynamics for all areas of social interaction and a commodification of the private sphere. The rise of Wall Street, the increasing incorporation of America, and the experience of economic volatility drives people to seek potential “insider knowledge” about the machinations of markets, and different knowledges compete and conflict in the face of uncertainty.

Speculative Endeavors seeks to bring together new perspectives on speculation and knowledge production that include illicit, tacit, oral, unofficial, or subjugated knowledges. Traversing histories of scientific, scholarly, legal, and otherwise official knowledges, scholarship increasingly focuses on forms of “connected knowing” (Adkins) that may contain multiple “small, shared truths” (Spacks). Practices of speculation may be marginalized by their association with racial and gendered minorities. Or they may find expression as libel, slander, innuendo, rumors, gossip, and any number of other speculative or supposedly baseless modes of transaction and information. Yet despite their tenuous relationship to facts or publicly available evidence, these forms of knowledge are inextricably linked to economic concerns and contribute to covert informational labor. Mechanisms of exclusion and inclusion closely regulate access to and speculative value of such information, as when in 1890 E.L. Godkin commented on how “a particular class of newspapers […] has converted curiosity into what economists call an effectual demand, and gossip into a marketable commodity.”

To understand these intersections and tensions, the conference aims to facilitate a discussion of how these modes of knowledge relate to new forms of economic transactions and speculative thinking, practices of communication, and uses of mediality. The conference consists of four workshop panels, which discuss pre-circulated papers, and is flanked by two keynotes: Peter Knight (Manchester/Leiden) addresses “Vernacular Epistemologies of the Market” and Lori Merish (Georgetown) speaks about “Fugitive Knowledge: Poverty as Specular, Poverty as Speculation.”

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Internationale Konferenz "Cross-Cultural Studies: Intercultural Adaptation, Globalization, and Risk" Oktober 6-7, 2017, Fu Jen Catholic University, TaiwanEinklappen

More information

“Queer / New Media: Rethinking Knowledge and its Failures” 10.-11. Dezember 2020. Einklappen

Mit Keynote von Prof. Robert Payne (American University of Paris), “Lossy Media: Queer Encounters with Infrastructure.”
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"Auto/Biographie und Gender: Fakt, Fake, Fiktion" 1.-2. Oktober 2020. Einklappen

“ 9. Öffentlicher Workshop des Arbeitskreises Biographie und Geschlecht.
Mit Keynote von Prof. Dr. Anje Kley (FAU Erlangen-Nürnberg), "Tod – Körper – Geschlecht: Literarische Freiheit und moralische Verantwortung in aktuellen US-amerikanischen Memoiren"

Internationale Konferenz "Ökologische Genres" 3-5. Oktober 2014Einklappen

Eine Internationale Konferenz des DFG-Netzwerks "Ethik und Ästhetik in literarischen Repräsentationen ökologischer Transformationen" findet im Oktober in Bayreuth statt. 

Zeit: 3.-5. Oktober 2014

Raum: S 120, Gebäude GW 1

Programm (pdf)

Internationale Konferenz "The Shaping Power of Risk: Literature, Culture, Environment" 24.-26- Februar, 2012Einklappen

Keynote Speakers:
Prof. Dr. Ursula K. Heise (Stanford University)
Prof. Colin Milburn (University of California, Davis)
Dr. Bronislaw Szerszynski (Lancaster University)


Since the 1980s, one of the most productively employed categories of social and cultural analysis has been the category of “risk.” Sociologists such as Ulrich Beck, Anthony Giddens and Niklas Luhmann have shown that various social, political, and cultural transformations in our period of late modernity can be understood as responses to risk perception, risk communication, and risk assessment. Similarly, cultural anthropologists in the tradition of Mary Douglas have identified the socio-cultural mechanisms and functions that are involved in the construction of risk. Only fairly recently, however, has risk become a theoretical lens and analytical category in the fields of literary and cultural studies – most significantly in the field of environmentally oriented literary and cultural studies.

While concepts of risk point toward a whole spectrum of notions that range from chance and probability to loss and threat, the culturally shaping power of current environmental risks has largely been the result of a concept of risk as threat: technologically induced, anthropogenic risks such as the nuclear risk, biochemical/toxic risks, the risk of global warming and climate change, and the risk of species extinction as well as non-anthropogenic risks such as earthquakes, tsunamis or volcanic eruptions have all figured as perceptual and cognitive schemata in situations that are characterized by the openness and uncertainty of the future. Risk must thus be distinguished from actual catastrophe: risk refers to the anticipation of catastrophe and to the possibility of detrimental future occurrences.

Based on the premise that due to their imaginative and formal/aesthetic range cultural artefacts such as literary texts, films, or video games participate in processes of risk communication in very specific ways, this conference intends to broaden our understanding of the culturally shaping power of risk by featuring keynote lectures and papers that investigate the participation of a variety of texts – texts coming in different media, but also texts emerging from different cultures – in the processes of environmental risk communication.

The conference will focus on three topic areas:

A Environmental risks and genre

The representation of risk often involves the employment of particular genres, genre conventions, modes of narration, and imagery. Papers in this topic area will explore the forms and functions of, for instance, genres such as environmental dystopias, eco- or medical thrillers, and legal drama, of narrative modes such as environmental apocalypticism, but also of genres or modes that have figured less prominently in the recent history of environmental risk representation.

B Environmental risks and the affective/emotional power of texts

Affect and emotion are of central importance to our enjoyment of all kinds of cultural products, be they poems, novels, blockbuster movies, or video games, and they also play a major role in our assessment of various risk scenarios. Their ability to engage audiences emotionally is one of the reasons why literary and filmic representations of risk sometimes interact in powerful ways with media reports on real-world events and scientific projections of possible future developments. Papers in this topic area will therefore examine the affective dimension of risk representation in literary and film texts and the way it opens up spaces for involvement in relation to the risks addressed.

C Environmental risks and the moral function of texts

With the identification of an environmental risk as a threat or danger in a text we automatically move within – culturally specific – realms of ethics and morality since this identification involves judgments about “goodness” or “badness,” about “right” and “wrong.” Literature and film offer indispensable, sometimes multi-layered sites of moral deliberation and can thus be regarded as specific modes of ethical inquiry. Papers in this topic area will thus address the environmental ethical dimension in literary and filmic risk narratives by, for instance, taking into account historically and culturally changing sets of ideas or conceptual frames that activate and strengthen particular values.


Prof. Dr. Sylvia Mayer

Chair Anglophone Literatures and Cultures / American Studies

Die Konferenz wurde von der Hans Böckler Stiftung und der Bayerischen Amerika-Akademie (BAA) gefördert.

Young Scholars Network (Workshop) “Re/Visions of American Studies” 25.-27, Juni, 2010Einklappen

“Re/Visions of American Studies” is a loosely organized network of roughly 30 young scholars of American Studies from Germany and Austria. Consisting mostly of Ph.D. and Post-doctoral researchers, the group first met in 2009 at the University of Bremen to discuss any and all matters related to American Studies—as a discipline, a research context, and a field of employment. The next meeting of the network will take place at the University of Munich in July 2011.

In June 2010, a group of 15 Americanists met at the University of Bayreuth and discussed a wide array of topics, among them the transnationalization of American Studies, the institutionalization of structured doctoral programs, and the Bologna process and related changes in the European university landscape.

True to BIFAS’s commitment to support young scholars, BIFAS-members and principal investigators Prof. Dr. Jeanne Cortiel and Prof. Dr. Sylvia Mayer generously funded the travel expenses of the participants and thus helped to provide such a forum to young Americanists.

Claudia Deetjen and Christian Schmidt (Co-organizers)

Internationale Konferenz "9/11 as Catalyst: American and British Cultural Responses"  27.-29. November, 2009 Einklappen

The conference investigated North American and British cultural responses to the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon on September 11, 2001, and to the social, political and cultural effects that have developed in their wake – including further attacks such as the ones in Madrid (2004), London (2005), and Mumbay (2008). While official political discourse was dominated by the notion of 9/11 as a historical rupture and by the conceptualization of a “War on Terror” that had to be fought with military force abroad and by curbing civil liberties at home, a close look at a wider spectrum of texts and discourses reveals that responses to the attacks and to the impact of terrorism in general have been much more diverse and complex. Whether the events of 9/11 mark a historical caesura or not – a contested claim that was among the key issues at stake at the conference –, they certainly had a catalytic effect on the cultural production in various media: in literature, in the theater, in the news media, in film and television, in the realms of music and dance. This cultural production shows the first contours of a cultural memory that has symbolically negotiated experiences of shock, trauma, and commemoration as well as the various political, social and economic developments in our post-9/11 world. The papers presented addressed first wave responses to the attacks as well as second wave responses of the years following; they focused on their participation in the shaping of discourses of terror(mindedness), fear, violence, mourning, religion, nationalism, civil liberties, migration and globalization; they explored how a diversity of ethnic, racial, and gendered perspectives have explored the diffusion of public and private sphere and how they have revisited (and revised) national narratives of identity formation; and they discussed the aesthetic repercussions 9/11 and the “War on Terror” have had on the aesthetic and conceptual notions of postmodernism.

Sarah Giese, M.A. (Univ. of Bayreuth), Prof. Dr. Sylvia Mayer, (Univ. of Bayreuth), Dr. Dunja Mohr (Univ. of Erfurt) (Co-organizers)




Bayerische Amerika-Akademie

​Guest Lectures/GastvorträgeEinklappen

SS 2023

  • Prof. Dr. Alexa Weik von Mossner, University of Klagenfurt. Reading and Book Talk, “Fragile. Envisioning Climate Futures,” 3 July 2023

WS 2021/22

  • PD Dr. Christina Meyer (TU Braunschweig), "Star Journalists. Newspaperwomen in the Late Nineteenth Century"

  • Prof. Hannes Bergthaller (National Taiwan Normal University, Taipei), „Afterimages: Landscape in the Anthropocene“

SS 2019

  • 15.05.2019, Prof. Andrew Urban (Rutgers University), “Modernism in the American Home: Envisioning Domesticity without Servants”
  • 18.06.2019, Dr. Solvejg Nitzke (TU Dresden) “An Unrepresentable Other? Modelling Climate through Story-Telling"
  • 01.07.2019, Dr. Pia Wiegmink (Obama Institute for Transnational American Studies, Mainz) "Travelling Beyond the Slave Narrative: The Transnational Autobiographies of Nancy Prince and Eliza Potter"

SS 2018

  • 04.05.2018, Prof. Dr. Alexa von Mossner (University of Klagenfurt), "Affective Ecology and a Transmedial Poetics of Risk Narratives"

SS 2016

  • 11.07.2016, Prof. Dr. Christian Moraru (University of North Carolina), "Language, Territory, Nation: American Literature in the 21st Century" 

WS 2015/16

  • 07.12.2015, Prof. Dr. Libby Robin (Australian National University, Canberra), "Beyond Seasons: Learning to Live Wel with Variability and Uncertainty" 

WS 2013/2014

  • 29.01.2014, Dr. Hannes Bergthaller (National Chung-Hsing University, Taiwan), “No More Eternal than the Hills of the Poets”: The Modern Semantics of Nature and the Shifting Grounds of Moral Authority in Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring 

SS 2013

  • 11.07.2013, Prof. Dr. Christa Buschendorf (University of Frankfurt), "Bourdieu's Concept of Symbolic Violence as a Tool of Literary Interpretation"
  • 01.07.2013, Dr. Michael Kindellan, Fellow A.-v.-Humboldt Foundation, University of Bayreuth, "Ezra Pound and Modernist Poetry"
  • 05.06.2013, Prof. Dr. Sabine Wilke, University of Washington, Seattle, "Imagining the Environment and Environmental Degradation"

SS 2012

  • 21.06.2012, Prof. Dr. Bertrand Westphal (University of Limoges), "Literature and Geography"

WS 2011/2012

  • 02.12. 2011: Prof. Dr. Hal Crimmel, Weber State University, Utah, U.S.A., "Ecocriticism and Place-based Learning"

SS 2011

  • 01.06. 2011 (Mi 10-12) Prof. Dr. Rebecca Potter, University of Dayton, Texas, USA: “The Property of Fiction: Willa Cather's My Ántonia and O Pioneers!”
  • 05.07.2011, Prof. Dr. Lisa Gill, University of Maryland, College Park, USA: “A Construction of the Hip-Hop Aesthetic/Genre: Origins, Development, and Connections”
  • 06.07.2011, Prof. Dr. Miriam Strube, Universität Paderborn: "Make it new?" Interrelations between pragmatist philosophy and modernist culture"

SS 2010

  • 12.5. 2010, Prof. Dr. Christa Grewe-Volpp, Universität Mannheim: "Like a Fair Virgin: American Images of Nature from Columbus to Toni Morrison"
  • 16.6.2010, Prof. Dr. Elizabeth Ammons, Tufts University, USA: "Rising Waters: American Literature and the Fight for Environmental Justice"
  • 7.7.2010, Prof. Dr. Stacy Alaimo, University of Texas, Arlington, USA: “Transcorporeal Knowledges: Science, Environment, and the Material Self”

SS 2009

  • 27.04.09, George Ellenbogen, Boston: „Poetry Reading“
  • 24.06.09, Maurizio Valsania, University of Torino: „Thomas Jefferson and the Enlightenment: A Reappraisal“

Verantwortlich für die Redaktion: Univ.Prof.Dr. Sylvia Mayer

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