CFP: Re-Viewing the Rezension: Contexts, Histories, Dynamics (GSA Annual Conference, Montréal, 5.10.23-8.10.23) (01.03.23)

Elliott Schreiber's picture

CFP:  Re-Viewing the Rezension: Contexts, Histories, Dynamics

German Studies Association Conference 

October 5-8, 2023 

Montrèal, Canada

Panel Sponsored by the AATG

The book review creates a nexus of the literary work of art, the media, the world of the reader, and the business of selling books. Its purpose is to offer opinion and, as such, typically provides the first analysis for the public. Social in nature, the book review creates the stakes of a larger conversation that the reader is invited into prior to reading the book, thereby framing reading as dialogical in nature, an act of participating in public life. As with most aspects of public life, the review is also entangled in the dynamics of the marketplace and the media. The review can have a strong impact on book sales, as evidenced by the fact that books often include quotes from early reviews in their publicity packets. Even reviews than pan a book can create intrigue and sell copies. A reviewer who attracts a following can also impact sales of the newspaper, radio program, or online platform that they publish for. And as is so often the case, the medium has long shaped the form that the review can take, and in turn the review has helped transform the medium (e.g., the rise of the Feuilleton around 1800). 

This panel will explore the nature and history of the book review, from its precursors to its consolidation as a form in Christian Thomasisus’s Monatsgespräche to its rejuvenation in G. E. Lessing’s and Friedrich Nicolai’s Literaturbriefe to Walter Benjamin’s influence on the genre to the rise of the reviewer as a pop phenomenon, such as in Das literarische Quartett. We invite submissions that engage with the book review as a form and/or the book reviewer as a public figure. Submissions are not limited to addressing, but might consider, any of the following questions: 

  • What role do reviews play in the discipline of German Studies today? Or what role might they play in outward-facing Humanities?
  • What role has the book review taken in shaping the notion of an educated middle class, a Bildungsbürgertum?
  • What functions has the book review played throughout history in German-speaking Europe? What role does the book review play within periodicals throughout history, and how does the periodical enable the rise of the review?
  • What are the origins of the book review as a genre? What are its precursors? How has the review evolved in / adapted to different media (print, radio, TV, podcasts…)
  • How does the practice of the review help shape notions of enlightenment (e.g., Mendelssohn’s or Kant’s)? 
  • How has the Rezension made possible a space for experimentation, for trying out new ideas and experimenting with forms (e.g., Walter Benjamin)?
  • To what degree has the book review helped constitute a national / transnational consciousness?
  • How have reviews contributed to / How do reviews continue to contribute to the marginalization and tokenization of people of color, either within the profession of reviewing or in terms of authors getting reviewed?
  • What can we make of the critics’ tendencies to highlight darlings and disappointments? Who do they turn into disappointments and why? What about disappointments that, with time, have gained critical acclaim and vice-versa?
  • What role might gender play in the profession of reviewing, who gets reviewed, and the rhetoric of reviews?
  • How have both public letters (e.g. Lessing and Nicolai’s Literaturbriefe) and personal letters served as venues for reviews?
  • How did the practice of authors reviewing their own books shape the history of the review and the history of German literature?
  • What roles has the figure of the reviewer played in literary and cultural works (Günter Grass, Bodo Kirchhof, Martin Walser…)?
  • What role does the reviewer play as a popular intellectual?
  • What happens when reviews become part of political controversy?


Please send a one-page (200-250 words) abstract and brief bio to Necia Chronister ( and Elliott Schreiber ( by March 1, 2023.