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Aftermath: German and Austrian Cultural Responses to the End of World War I

Strand Campus, London

13 Sep 780aftermath

The centenary of 1918 offers a timely opportunity to assess the impact of the end of World War I on German and Austrian cultural production in the interwar period. This interdisciplinary conference aims to shed light on ways in which German and Austrian literature, art, music and film were shaped by experiences of defeat and political unrest in the period up to 1933. How did writers, artists and filmmakers engage with the different peace settlements which ended the conflict? How did they contribute to the task of rebuilding society in the wake of the conflict? And to what extent did the legacy of the war continue to influence the cultural production of the interwar years? Taking up Anton Kaes’ suggestion that ‘the double wound of war and defeat festered beneath the glittering surface’ of interwar culture, the conference will explore how the legacy of the conflict can be traced – both directly and indirectly – in works by cultural practitioners across the political spectrum.

Selected papers from the conference will be published in a special issue of the peer-reviewed journal Oxford German Studies. The conference will include a guided visit to the ‘Aftermath: Art in the Wake of World War I’ exhibition at Tate Britain, as well as a panel discussion with the curators. There will also be a public screening of G. W. Pabst’s 1931 film Kameradschaft [Comradeship] in collaboration with the Greater London German Network.

To register for the conference, please e-mail

The original Call for Papers, which sets out some of the research rationale behind the conference, can be downloaded here.

Aftermath conference poster

Full programme details here:

Aftermath: German and Austrian Cultural Responses to the End of World War I

Unless otherwise stated, all events will take place in the Council Room at the Strand Campus, King’s College London (WC2R 2LS,

Thursday 13th September

10.30 Arrival and registration

11.00-11.30 Introduction

Catherine Smale (King’s College London): Aftermath: Culture at the End of World War I

11.30-13.00 Panel 1                           Chair: Katja Haustein (University of Kent)

  • Mary-Ann Middelkoop (University of Cambridge): Art, Weltgeltung and the New Germany: Conceptions of German Foreign Cultural Policy in the Aftermath of the First World War, 1918-1920’
  • Jonathan Dentler (University of Southern California): How the World Sees Us: The German Debate on News Photography in the Wake of World War One, 1925-1940
  • Laird Easton (California State University): Harry Graf Kessler’s Proposal for a League of Nations

13.00-14.00 Sandwich lunch

14.00-15.30 Parallel Panels

            Panel 2 (Room K3.11)                       Chair: Tara Windsor (University of Birmingham)

  • Katja Haustein (University of Kent): Living in Crisis: Helmuth Plessner and the Ethics of Tact
  • Gernot Wimmer (University of Vienna): Robert Musil’s Criticism of Modernity and Scepticism towards Civilisation
  • Jasmin Sohnemann (Universität Potsdam): Erziehung zum republikanischen Bewusstsein durch das Beispiel – From Aesthetic Concerns towards Socio-Political Engagement: War as the Turning Point in Arnold and Stefan Zweig’s Ambitions

            Panel 3 (Council Room)        Chair: Corinne Painter (University of Leeds)

  • Vera Kaulbarsch (LMU Munich): ‘Ein Mensch ist nicht viel, ein paar Aktentaschen voll Fleisch’. Meat, Mourning and Disappearing Bodies after the First World War
  • Niccola Shearman (The Courtauld Institute of Art): The Aftermath in Black and White – On the Question of ‘Visible Relief’ in the German Woodcut after 1918
  • Devlin M. Scofield (Northwest Missouri State University): Unattainable Landscape: The Place of Strasbourg in the Commemorative Practices of Interwar German Veterans’ Associations


15.30-16.00 Coffee

16.00-17.00 Keynote talk      Chair: Christa Spreizer (Queens College/The City University of New York)

James Van Dyke (University of Missouri): The Success and Failure of Otto Dix's War

17.00-19.00 Break for dinner (own arrangements)

19.00   Screening of Kameradschaft (dir. G. W. Pabst, 1931) in the Nash Lecture Theatre, with an introduction by Leila Mukhida (University of Cambridge). Followed by a wine reception sponsored by the Centre for Modern Literature and Culture. 


Friday 14th September

8.45 Assemble at the staff entrance to the Tate Britain, which can be found at the back of the gallery car park on John Islip Street (see map in conference pack)

9.00-10.00 Guided tour of ‘Aftermath’ exhibition at Tate Britain (

10.00-12.00 Free time to explore the exhibition, then return to King’s

12.00-13.00 Sandwich lunch

13.00-14.30 Round-table discussion                         Chair: Ben Schofield (King’s College London)

  • Emma Chambers (Tate Gallery, London)
  • Tobias Hoffmann (Bröhan Museum, Berlin)
  • Niccola Shearman (The Courtauld Institute of Art, London)
  • Rachel Smith (Tate Gallery, London)

14.30-15.00 Coffee

15.00-16.00 Keynote talk      Chair: Laird Easton (California State University)

Ingrid Sharp (University of Leeds): Dangerous Visionaries and Revolutionary Transformations: Women’s Political Cultures in the Aftermath of War

16.00-18.00 Panel 4               Chair: Catherine Smale (King’s College London)

  • Corinne Painter (University of Leeds): Writing the Revolution: German Women as Revolutionary Agents
  • Ursula A. Schneider and Annette Steinsiek (Universität Innsbruck): Paula Schlier: Petras Aufzeichnungen (1926) – Personal Experience, Neue Sachlichkeit and the ‘New Woman’
  • Christa Spreizer (Queens College/The City University of New York): Women’s Political and Cultural Agency in the Postwar Era: The 1929 exhibition ‘Die Frau von Heute’
  • Katherine Calvert (University of Sheffield): Die Familie als Männersache? Alice Rühle-Gerstel’s Assessment of the Legal Status of Mothers in Das Frauenproblem der Gegenwart

18.30 Dinner (own expense). A table has been booked at Tas Bloomsbury (22 Bloomsbury St, WC1B 3QJ). Please speak to Catherine Smale if you would like to attend.


Saturday 15th September

9.30-11.00 Parallel panels

Panel 5 (Room K3.11)                       Chair: Vera Kaulbarsch (LMU Munich)

  • Nicholas Attfield (University of Birmingham): ‘Eine Reihe bunter Zauberbilder’: Thomas Mann, Hans Pfitzner, and German Song c.1918
  • Saskia Haag (IES Abroad Vienna): Cabaret as Liturgy. Walter Mehring’s early poetry collection Das Ketzerbrevier
  • Anneleen Van Hertbruggen (University of Antwerp): Germany’s Defeat and the Longing for a New Reich – The (Re-)Sacralization of the Symbol of the ‘Third Reich’ in Gerhard Schumann’s Songs of the Reich (1930)

Panel 6 (Council Room)        Chair: Mary-Ann Middlekoop (University of Cambridge)

  • Francesca Roe (University of Bristol):‘The Man-Machine’: Masculinity, War, and the Simulacrum from 1900 - 1930
  • Mimmi Woisnitza (Leuphana Universität Lüneburg): ‘Schooled by Experience’: Piscator’s Notion of Political Theatre in the Wake of World War I
  • Martin Brady (King’s College London): Between Shell Shock and Prophesy: German Cinema after 1918

11.00-11.30 Coffee and pastries

11.30-13.00 Parallel panels

            Panel 7 (Room K3.11)                       Chair: Jasmin Sohnemann (Universität Potsdam)

  • Sigurd Paul Schleichl (Universität Innsbruck): Looking Backwards – The First Austrian Republic and Austria-Hungary
  • Elisabeth Attlmayr (University of Bath): After the Conflict: Feuilletons in Viennese Newspapers in the Aftermath of the War
  • Helen Roche (Durham University): The Austrian Bundeserziehungsanstalten, 1919-1933: Hotbeds of Radicalism or Seedbeds of Reaction?

Panel 8 (Council Room)         Chair: Martin Brady (King’s College London)

  • Tara Windsor (University of Birmingham): Fairy Tales and Völkisch Federalism after the First World War: The Case of Hans Friedrich Blunck
  • Rose Simpson (Aberystwyth University): Unworldly Aspirations: Ina Seidel’s Astrological Response to German Defeat 1918
  • Clemens Ruthner (Trinity College Dublin): ‘Versuchsstationen des Weltuntergangs’: (Post)Apocalyptic Scenarios in German and Austrian Fantastic Literature around World War I

13.00-13.30    Concluding plenary and discussion of publication plans

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