16th International Connotations Symposium

July 26 - 28, 2021
Eberhard Karls University Tübingen (online)

It has often been observed that Shakespeare’s Midsummer Night’s Dream is a metaliterary and metadramatic play. It presents not only the rough course of true love but also the glories and failures of the poetic imagination and of theatrical illusion, most obviously so in connection with the play within the play performed by Bottom and his fellows. What has less often been pointed out is the argument about genre(s) that is conducted in A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Peter Quince refers to the play within the play as a “most lamentable comedy” (1.2.11); the list of entertainments offered to Theseus describes it as “tragical mirth” (5.1.57). More than 300 years later, Ford Madox Ford similarly plays with the term tragedy in The Good Soldier. The narrator of the novel initially rejects the label of tragedy for the events he is presenting, preferring to describe them as “the saddest story,” but by the end of his narrative he has changed his mind, calling the story a tragedy indeed. Our symposium will focus on works that, like A Midsummer Night’s Dream and The Good Soldier, reflect on the genre(s) to which they belong; this self-reflection may be either explicit or implicit. Questions to be dealt with include: What are the techniques used to make self-reflexive statements about genre? Are parodies by definition examples of metagenre? Do the reflection on genre and the performance of genre in one and the same work support or undermine each other? Is metagenre an indication of genre change or genre crisis? Are some genres more likely to become self-reflexive than others (e.g. sonnets about sonnets)? How significant is the concept of genre after the romantic emphasis on originality and uniqueness?

Guests are welcome!

Please contact us at symposium2021[at]


You can also download the programme as PDF here.

Monday, July 26

13:00          Welcome

Introductory Reflections

Chair: Angelika Zirker

13:15          Burkhard Niederhoff (Ruhr University Bochum), “An Introduction to Metagenre”

14:15          David Fishelov (The Hebrew University of Jerusalem), “Parodies of Six-Word Stories: A Humorous Version of Metagenre”

15:15          Break

Metagenre on the Stage

Chair: Burkhard Niederhoff

15:45          Mirjam Haas (Mainz University), “‘What death?’: Death as Genre Marker in The Duchess of Malfi

                   Anny Crunelle Vanrigh (Université de Paris Nanterre), “Tragedy vs. Trauerspiel: Metagenre in The Duchess of Malfi

17:30          Break

Chair: Lena Linne

18:00          Dorothea Flothow (University of Salzburg), “Victorian Theatrical Burlesque as a Comment on Theatrical Genres and Conventions”

19:00          Ilana Gilovich (Columbia University), “Body of Work: Genre and Gender in Hannah Gadby’s Nanette

Tuesday, July 27

The Epic from Homer to the Twenty-First Century

Chair: Matthias Bauer

13:30          David V. Urban (Calvin University), “Metagenre in Milton’s Paradise Lost and Paradise Regained: Its Relevance to Milton’s Presentation of Epic Heroism” 

14:30          Thomas Kullmann (Universität Osnabrück), “Self-conscious Epic: Metageneric Reflexion in Byron’s Don Juan

15:30          Break

16:00          Lena Linne (Ruhr University Bochum), “‘Sing, Muse, he said, and I have sung’: Metageneric Reflection in Contemporary Rewritings of the Homeric Epics”

17:00          Break

Metagenre in Poetry

Chair: Burkhard Niederhoff

17:30          Jonathan Nauman (Vaughan Association), “Remaking the Pastoral: Critique and Performance in Henry Vaughan’s ‘Mount of Olives’ Poems”

18:30          Matthias Bauer (Eberhard Karls University Tübingen), “The Love(s) of Plants: Erasmus Darwin’s Ambiguous Metagenre”

Wednesday, July 28

Metagenre in Fiction

Chair: Angelika Zirker

14:30         Tom Zille (University of Cambridge), “This Tragic Acting: Metageneric Reflection in the Novels of Ivy Compton-Burnett”

15:30          Break

Chair: Lena Linne

16:00          Judith Saunders (Marist College), “An Intriguing Case of Failed Satire: Edith Wharton Probes Metageneric Problems in ‘The Descent of Man’”

17:00         Adelheid Rundholz (Johnson C. Smith University), “Chutnifying Genre: Salman Rushdie’s Midnight’s Children

18:00          Break

Chair: Matthias Bauer

18:30         Katrin Berndt (MLU Halle-Wittenberg), “‘Speak, Mnemosyne’: The Poetics and Performance of Genre in Petinah Gappah’s Memoir-Novel The Book of Memory