Conference: The Ethics of Survival

Conference PosterThe Ethics of Survival in Contemporary Literature and Culture

Erlangen, 12-13 October 2018, Alte Bibliothek, FAU Erlangen

Conference Convenors: Rudolf Freiburg & Gerd Bayer


The Erlangen Conference “The Ethics of Survival” will focus on one of the most exi­gent issues of our time. Although historical approaches towards the ethics of survival will be welcome, our conference’s main emphasis will lie on the representation of ‘survival’ in con­temporary literature and culture. Participants from Great Britain, the United States of Ameri­ca, France, Spain, Austria and Germany will delve deep into the complex problems involved in all attempts to survive; the papers will analyze ‘survival’ in contemporary prose narratives, short stories, poems, dramas, and theoretical texts, but also in films, art or other modes of cultural practices, including the representation of survival in museums and memorials.

The papers presented will be taken as impulses to discuss questions including the fol­lowing: Is survival a social act or must it be looked upon as a proof for radical human egotism? What are the complex interrelations between the Holo­caust and the act of survival? In which ways is survival associated with acts of memory and forgetting; what role does dementia play in Holocaust narratives? Does survival under extreme conditions blur the lines be­tween the victims and the perpetrators? How does survival imply feelings of guilt and despair? In which way do the stories of refugees and asylum seekers reflect the ethical ordeals of survival in the present? How does the representation of war contribute to the discus­sion of ‘the ethics of survival’? How does a personal con­frontation with a life-threatening disease or addiction influence an individual’s ethical thinking? Is it permitted to describe acts of survival in a humorous way? What are the ethical conditions for humanity’s survival in an in­creasingly changing digitalized world? Do all ethical systems have to collapse in confrontation with apocalyptic scenarios?


Conference Programme:




9.00-9.30        Conference Welcome (R. Freiburg & G. Bayer)


9.30-11.00      Panel 1, chair: Gerd Bayer

Vanessa Guignery, “‘Survivors all’: Affirmative Connections in the Work of Caryl Phillips and Julian Barnes”

Philip Tew, “Post-Millennial Narratives of the Self and Survival: Emotion and Social Narrative Exchange in Trezza Azzopardi’s Remember Me and Zadie Smith’s NW.”


11.00-11.30    Coffee Break


11.30-13.00    Panel 2, chair: Silvia Gerlsbeck

Janet Wilson, “Feats of Survival: Refugee Writing and the Ethics of Representation”

Susana Onega, “Vulnerability, Empathy and the Ethics of Survival in Graham Swift’s Wish You Were Here


13.00-14:00    Lunch Break


14.00-15.30    Panel 3, chair: Jaroslaw Jasenowski

Brad Prager, “The Survivor as Wound: Thomas Mitscherlich’s Reisen ins Leben

Maria Anna Mariani, “Close Reading of a Title: On Primo Levi’s Survival in Auschwitz”


15.30-16.00    Coffee Break


16.00-17.30    Panel 4, chair: Sandra Dinter

Erin McGlothlin, “The Ethics of Reading Narratives of Survival of the Holocaust”

Jean-Michel Ganteau, “The Visibility of Survival: Even the Dogs and Jon McGregor’s Ethics of Vulnerability”





9.00-10.30      Panel 5, chair: Susanne Gruß

Sue Vice, “Dementia as Cultural Metaphor in Holocaust Narratives”

Sibylle Baumbach, “Stories of Dis-ease: Ethics and Survival in Dementia Narratives”


10.30-11.00    Coffee Break


11.00-12.30    Panel 6, chair: Rudolf Freiburg

Hubert Zapf, “Literature, Sustainability and Survival”

Philipp Sonntag, “Liminality, Moral Agency and Ethics: Survival in the Fiction of Ian McEwan”


12.30-13.00    Conference closing (R. Freiburg and G. Bayer)




This conference is supported by:

Dekanat, Philosophische Fakultät und Fachbereich Theologie, Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg

Dr. Alfred Vinzl Stiftung

Interdisziplinäres Zentrum Literatur und Kultur der Gegenwart