CFP: 2016 MLA: Readers, Viewers, Listeners, Users (March 2015)

Eric Ames's picture

2016 MLA Convention in Austin, TX

Forum: 20th- and 21st-Century German LLC

Readers, Viewers, Listeners, Users

What ever happened to readers, and do they have a future? For all the work that has been done on the state of reading in today’s world, the audience remains a problem. Or does it? In film studies, a discipline once entwined with literary scholarship, archival research on historical audiences continues unabated; indeed, it is thriving. The same can be said of radio and television studies. And then there is the emerging field of digital humanities, which may turn users into co-creators of online texts. Curiously, literary studies may be alone in dispensing with historical audiences. And that is not all. Reception theory, a German development once widely debated, has also been abandoned by scholars of German literature. In PhD qualifying exams, for example, questions of audience are anathema and rarely even asked as a result. Why should they be? What could they bring? This forum seeks to engage problems of audience and their implications for our understanding of German literature, film, and new media. Does Wolfgang Iser’s “implied reader” still have purchase, or have readers grown more explicit over time? What can we learn from the differences among fields (film studies, literary studies, and digital humanities, to name a few), from the different assumptions they make and approaches they take? Have digital technologies brought readers “back” into history? What about cross-over practices, how new media turn readers into viewers, listeners, and users all at once? And where is the archive for studying readers to come? We invite papers reflecting on problems of research and methodology as well as case studies, theoretical inquiries, comparative and interdisciplinary approaches. Please send 250-word abstracts by March 9 to Eric Ames: eames(at)