Graduate students from institutions across the country and abroad joined the University of Michigan's Department of Germanic Languages and Literatures on September 29th and 30th for the graduate student conference “Mediating the Modern: Sound/Image/Text.” Both borrowing from and looking beyond the work of German media theorist Friedrich Kittler, conference participants spent two days exploring productive points of contact between contemporary media theory, on the one hand, and the literary and cultural histories of mediation, remediation, and intermediation, on the other. Preceding the conference, students took part in a workshop led by Professor Celia Applegate (Vanderbilt) discussing selections from her most recent publication The Necessity of Music: Variations on a German Theme. A keynote address by Professor Sean Franzel, Associate Professor of German at the University of Missouri, kicked off the conference, which included four panels: Theorizing Sound; Materiality 1800/1900/2000; Violent Images, Auditory Objects; and Intermediations: Film, Literature, Photography.
Presentations addressed topics ranging from 18th-century Parisian street criers to Kittler’s musical proclivities, from insect experiments to Japanese Manga, and from Nazi architecture to feminist filmmaking. Discussions navigated from aesthetic humanism to cybernetic post-humans and back, bringing participants’ ideas and questions into conversation with one another. Conference participants worked together to interrogate the meaning of modernity, how it is represented, and how it is experienced, on both collective and individual levels. The conversations and ideas generated by the conference attest to the vibrancy of a rising generation’s innovative work within our individual disciplines and fields as well as an interdisciplinary and intermedial approach to German studies.