Among the numerous commemorations which are to take place in 2018, the centenary of the German revolution of 1918-1919 holds a special position. Placed between the bicentenary of Karl Marx’s birth, the 170th anniversary of the 1848 Spring of Nations and the 50th anniversary commemoration of 1968, it seems to take second place. This is made manifest by the multiple and contradictory descriptions of the event. Depending on the perspective adopted, the 1918-1919 German Revolution is referred to as “paradoxical”, “betrayed”, “interrupted”, “forgotten”, but also as “democratic”. The name itself tends to vary as well, sometimes emphasising the time when it took place – “November revolution”, “March fights” – or the real or supposed origins – “Spartacist uprising” – of the events. As is often the case in such anniversary years, this topic enjoys editorial actuality. It is notable that most contributions try and provide an overview, quite often from a generalising point of view aiming at exhaustive presentation.
Our conference wishes to take the opposite approach by focusing on subjective accounts of the revolutionary episode – whether those narrative originate from personal memories or from literary or artistic constructions. Indeed, this event, maybe more than any other from the same time period, generated multiple and often contradictory interpretations. This can be explained by the internal conflicts of the Left which characterise this revolution: from the MSPD to the USPD and Spartakus, the KPD and the Revolutionäre Obleute, it is obviously impossible to write a general history of the revolution, since it bears the mark of divergent currents and personalities with contradictory positions – in its progression as well as in its historiography. Concurrent memorialisation and mythification processes contributed to deepening certain antagonisms and mitigating others – for instance, Karl Liebknecht et Rosa Luxemburg, held up as heroes of the Revolution and commonly mentioned together, have held opposed positions more than once.
On the basis of literary texts, art works, press articles, ego-documents (accounts, diaries, testimonies), we would like to address personal experiences from the very core of the events (e.g. Käthe Kollwitz’s diary) as well as their interaction with aesthetic preoccupations (Döblin of course, but papers about less well-known texts are welcome too). Emphasis is to be placed on the role of time patterns in the particular context of German history, since certain accounts were written immediately after the events (E. Barth, G. Noske) whereas others, which represent a substantial body of texts, were collected and put to paper much later in the specific ideological framework of the GDR. Thus, the role that the Institut für Marxismus-Leninismus beim Zentralkomitee der SED played in the transmission of the memory of the Revolution, is to be addressed.
In post-1989 Germany, the papers could discuss the position of the different left-wing parties regarding the memory of the revolution: can we speak of an official position of the SPD about it today, or are there several subjective readings that cannot be reduced to a unitary point of view? What is the relationship of this party to those among its members who were capital actors of the Revolution (F. Ebert, G. Noske, P. Scheidemann) or to their opponents (R. Luxemburg), or, in many cases, to their associates (W. Groener, leader of the OHL from November 1918 onwards).
But the study of time patterns can take a more phenomenological form by focusing on the relationship between hastening events and the stretching of time (e. g. the masses waiting for a sign in January 1919), or between expectation and action.
Thus, through the study of different narratives and modes of experience (re)configuration, we aim at writing history from below, making the kaleidoscope of different experiences visible and constructing an image of the revolution which is to be necessarily incomplete, contradictory and diverse.
Proposals (1500 signs max.) are to be submitted by July 15th, 2018 to: firstname.lastname@example.org
and must include following information:
First and last name
University and/or reserch institution
Title of the paper
Conference languages : French / German / English
Date: November 9th-10th, 2018
Place: Paris, Maison Heinrich Heine
Organisation comitee: Valérie Carré / Jean-François Laplénie / Agathe Mareuge
Sorbonne Université (Paris) – Faculté des Lettres – EA REIGENN
108, boulevard Malesherbes