The Will to Repetition: demystification, subversion, and agitation of the same old in literature and film

Noëlle Miller's picture
Call for Papers
October 1, 2022
Subject Fields: 
French History / Studies, German History / Studies, Literature, Spanish and Portuguese History / Studies, Philosophy

Repetition is a basic aesthetic concept in the academic analysis of literary and cinematic narratives. In artistic production and reception, repetition offers references, efficiency, habit, and orientation; it is the prerequisite of the imaginable. At the same time, repetition is always difference, mask, and disguise (Gilles Deleuze): "To make something new out of repetition itself [...]; and to present it as the supreme object of will and freedom. [...] And Nietzsche: liberating the will from all bonds by making repetition precisely the object of the will." Because every representation is always also a new presentation and questions the identity and the origin of what was repeated: "Here my other word for repetition: 'reinvention'." (Peter Handke) Since the industrial revolution and the „Work of art in the age of its technological reproducibility" (Walter Benjamin) literature and film get their essential impact from both, the inherent subversive power of repetition and their serial materiality,

- to cause sensation, fascinate, shock, seduce, indoctrinate, or provoke through spectacle or the break with tradition and the "revaluation of all values" (Friedrich Nietzsche),

- to admonish, teach and preach by invoking moral decay, artistic ideals or visions of the future (utopias and dystopias).


The following questions, among many others, can guide the discussion:

- In what ways do fictional narratives in literature and film stage difference in repetition as a critique of social issues?

- To what extent can film and literature, as part of the mass media, question the domination of the media (Slavoj Žižek: The Pervert's Guide to Cinema; Truman Show)?

- Which means use literature and film to subvert the routines of everyday life?

- What are the characteristics of literature and film as 'echo rooms' of contemporary history (corona-fiction, eco-fiction)?


Other examples include:

- ´Umfunktionierung´ (Brecht), détournement (Situationist International).

- Parody, satire, plagiarism, travesty, carnivalisation (Bakhtin), grotesque, ´esperpento´ (Valle-Inclán)

- ´Cultural Hacking´ (Thomas Düllo/Franz Liebl)

- Pastiche and "palimpsest history" (Christine Brooke-Rose): Marcel Proust, James Joyce, Manuel Puig, Salman Rushdie, Michel Houellebecq:

- Reenactment (Monty Python, docu-fiction)

- "Industrial literature" (Sainte-Beuve), cult figures, frame-cyclical storytelling, and their media variants: H.P. Lovecraft, Sherlock Holmes, James Bond, Fantomas, Carmen, Joker, Don Juan, Dracula; film series and sequels such as Dekalog (Krzysztof Kieślowski), Resident Evil - some in the tradition of "storytelling as unkilling" (Volker Klotz): Decameron, Heptameron, The Parrot Book, Das Wirtshaus im Spessart, 1001 Nights.


The conference is dedicated to literary and cinematic narrative from the 19th century onwards. Contributions on the above-mentioned and other questions on the topic of "The Will to Repetition" from different cultures and language areas are welcome and will be published in a post conference volume. The conference languages are German and English.

We look forward to receiving proposals for papers by 1 October 2022 to:;;

The selected speakers will be supported with a travel allowance.