CFP - 2021 Germanic Studies Graduate Student Conference, Making Meaning across Media: Orality and Literacy in Germanic Languages (26.02.2021).

Cynthia Shin's picture

Dear Colleagues,

The Department of Germanic Studies at Indiana University invites contributions from graduate students for the 2021 Germanic Studies Graduate Student Conference titled Making Meaning across Media: Orality and Literacy in Germanic Languages. Given the unprecedented events surrounding the global spread of COVID-19, this year’s conference will be held in conjunction with the Department’s Hedwig Leser Lecture, featuring plenary speaker Prof. Katerina Somers.

Orality is deeply rooted in literacy, even though it is violently suppressed through literacy. Can you read a written text without voicing it in your head? Ong writes in Orality and Literacy (1988) that “though words are grounded in oral speech, writing tyrannically locks them into a visual field forever.” Likewise, Walter Benjamin writes in The Storyteller (1936) that “less and less frequently do we encounter people with the ability to tell a tale properly… It is as if something that seemed inalienable to us, the securest among our possessions, were taken from us: the ability to exchange experiences.” We can ask, however, whether we can recover some of the lost orality through literacy and rediscover literacy by returning to orality. Moreover, in the age of social distancing, mediated orality has taken on both new meanings and functions. How does that complicate the dynamic between orality and literacy?

The Committee welcomes papers on any topic related to meaning-making in oral and/or literary traditions in Germanic languages. This may include:

  • Morphology: Units of Meaning
  • Semantic and Pragmatic change in Language use
  • Corpus Linguistics and Speaker Populations
  • Bilingualism and Multilingualism in a Globalized World
  • Foreign Language Education and Second Language Acquisition
  • Literature and Discourse Studies: Structuring and Developing Meaning
  • The Orality of literacy, the Literacy of Orality
  • Prosody in Written Language
  • Secondary Orality
  • Verbal Performances of the Written Word: Poetry, ASL Poetry, Cabaret, Improvisation
  • Philology and Historical Linguistics
  • Multimedia Mediums: How Media Changes Meaning
  • Computer-Mediated Discourse
  • German Media Studies
  • Storytelling, Folklore and Oral Narratives
  • Music, Song and Orality
  • History of Literature and Communication: Trajectory through the Ages
  • Coronavirus and Sociolinguistics: What Changed?
  • Lost in Translation: Orality and Literacy across Languages


Authors of accepted papers will be asked to present their work at the Biennial IU Germanic Studies Graduate Student Conference on March 18-20, 2021, which will be held virtually via Zoom.


Abstracts: Deadline and Submission Guidelines

We ask authors to submit their abstracts by midnight on February 26, 2021. Abstracts will be selected based on their quality and relevance. The abstracts should include a description of the topic addressed, the method of inquiry, a summary of the findings, interpretation of the results, and a statement regarding the significance of their contribution to the respective fields of research. Please also include the title of the paper (as will be printed in the program) and the full names of the authors and presenters. In regard to length, abstracts should be limited to 200-300 words. Abstracts, as well as the author’s pertinent contact information (email and phone number), should be sent to Cynthia Shin at Please put “IUGS Conference [Last Name]” in the subject line of the email.


Acceptance of Abstracts

Authors will be notified by March 5, 2021 if their paper has been selected by the Conference Committee. Please note that the number of accepted proposals may be limited. 


Conference Procedure

Although this biennial event is usually held in person, the 2021 Germanic Studies Graduate Student Conference and Hedwig Leser Lecture will be held virtually via Zoom in an effort to mitigate the spread of COVID-19. Authors will be notified by March 8, 2021 regarding the date and time of their presentations, shortly to be followed by Zoom Conference Invitations. All Zoom sessions will be moderated by seasoned IU faculty or experienced graduate students. Presentations should not exceed 20 minutes in length. Given the screen-sharing functions available in Zoom, presenters are encouraged but not required to prepare visual aids (i.e., handouts, PowerPoints, etc.) to share with the audience.


Contact Information

The IU Department of Germanic Studies looks forward to receiving your abstracts in response to the call. Should there be any questions or concerns, please feel free to contact the Committee. Questions may be addressed to Cynthia Shin at or at


Thank you for your interest in this event. The papers you present will broaden the scope of Germanic Studies and encourage collaboration in and between departments and universities in the face of this time of separation and isolation.

Categories: Announcement