Hermes Summer School “Passages: Metaphors, Narratives and Concepts” (May 19-24, Rauischholzhausen/Giessen)

Call for Papers

Passages are central objects of study across humanities disciplines. From textual excerpts to the shopping arcades theorized by Walter Benjamin, from the Middle Passage of the Atlantic slave trade to present-day forms of migration and resettlement, and from transitions depicted in the Bildungsroman to ritual praxis, ‘passages’ are understood and interpreted in many ways. Whether structural, semiotic, spatial/geographic, temporal, existential, societal, or institutional, passages refer to paths toward and processes of (status) change. They connect and thereby engender difference. They enable entrances and exits, arrivals and departures, while they also foster moments of liminality and suspension in between. Unlike thresholds that are simply crossed, passages imply journeys of duration, prompting anticipation of the new and foreign as well as a sense of existential finitude. Never smooth, passages come with challenges and risks as they bear the potential for breaks and ruptures.

In addition to exploring ‘passages’ in such myriad senses, the 2019 Hermes Summer School aims to foster a concept-based, interdisciplinary dialogue on how to approach and theorize such a term. Based on the notion that concepts function as crystallized mini-theories (Mieke Bal) and travel through times, contexts, and discursive settings, a conceptual approach to ‘passages’ will provide us with analytical tools to (re-)focus our research questions and create a meaningful exchange across disciplinary, national and linguistic boundaries. We invite participants to employ concepts in the study of culture such as Cultural Memory, Performativity, Space, Infrastructure, Knowledge, Media, Body, (Cultural) Translation among others, as they approach the topic of ‘passages’ and to explicitly reflect on their value and limits for their research. How can various definitions of and approaches to ‘passages’ travel and transfer between disciplines and thereby stimulate cross-disciplinary research? How do concepts in the Study of Culture enable meaningful passages between disciplinary contexts?

Each paper will be allotted 20 minutes. In addition to presenting their own work and areas of expertise, speakers are strongly encouraged to reflect on the concepts they employ in their analyses. A reader with selected literature on the topic of ‘passages’ will be provided. Please send your proposals including an abstract (200 words) and a short bio note (150 words, including your name, email address, institutional affiliation, dissertation topic, and disciplinary anchoring) to by January 31, 2019.

We welcome abstracts related but not limited to the areas listed below:

  • social passages including rites of passage; migration and (re-)settlement; politics, regimes, and violence; class im/mobilities; passages between “identities” (racial, gendered, sexual)
  • historical passages (periodizations, transitions)
  • linguistic and symbolic passages via translation or adaptation
  • textual passages (genres, forms, structures)
  • narrating/representing passages (e.g. as a trope or formal feature in cultural products)
  • theories of passage in ritual studies/cultural anthropology and their heuristic potential for the study of literature and culture

General Information

The Graduate Centre for the Study of Culture (GCSC) is a founding member of the Hermes Consortium for Literary and Cultural Studies, a long-standing collaboration of eleven doctoral schools in Belgium, The Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Great Britain, the Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, and the USA. The Consortium’s annual summer school, hosted in turn by each partner institution, brings together specialists, delegates from the partner universities, and 22 PhD students (two per university). An intensive training workshop and work-in-progress presentations focus on shared methodologies and interdisciplinary themes and lead to the publication of an annual edited volume, published by UCL Press in the Comparative Literature and Culture series.

Practical Information

Accommodation for delegates, speakers and student participants will be provided for five nights (May 19–23 at Rauischholzhausen Castle and May 23–24 at a hotel centrally located in Frankfurt am Main). A shuttle to Rauischholzhausen will leave from the Main Station in Giessen on May 19 in the late afternoon; those travelling by plane can easily reach Giessen via train after landing in Frankfurt am Main. The program will end in Frankfurt on May 24 in the early afternoon. Participants are requested to make their own travel arrangements.


Elizabeth Kovach, Jens Kugele, and Ansgar Nünning on behalf of the Hermes Consortium