Just a reminder of an upcoming December 1st deadline...We welcome  
inquiries or clarifying questions at any time.

Call for Contributors to the Anthology

The Autobiographical 'Turn' in Germanophone Documentary


Robin Curtis (FU-Berlin)
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Angelica Fenner (University of Toronto)
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Dec. 1, 2008: Max. 400 word abstract with brief bio blurb to both  
Jan. 15, 2009: Response and feedback.
June 15, 2009: Completed manuscripts of between 6,000-9,000 words.

In recent years, some of the most compelling, engaging, and  
innovative non-fiction film and video has been generated from a very  
personal point of view. The first-person stance in filmmaking is  
hardly new in the history of international documentary, nor is  
reflexivity about the technological apparatus which often attends  
such authorial endeavors. However, changing media (interactive, multi- 
media, digital camera, mobile phones, etc.) have expanded the  
possibilities for framing the self, and indeed, for pursuing diverse  
agendas pertaining to personal identity –exploring intricacies of  
family relations, retracing the individual’s interpellation by local  
and national historical events, mapping alterities of sexuality,  
ethnicity, race and culture, or abnegating the very possibility of a  
delimited self. In many cases, such endeavors have resulted in the  
merging or ‘nesting’ of older, obsolete, technologies within newer ones.

As the status of the individual witness behind and before the camera  
gains global currency in both feature-length documentaries as well as  
independent experimental work, it behooves us as scholars to take  
stock of the cultural specificity of these autobiographical  
engagements. Is the self and its representation in audio-visual form  
truly so constant that interpretive models developed in particular  
cultural contexts, such as the North American, can simply be mapped  
onto films from other cultures? Existing scholarship to date has  
seldom taken up this challenge. The German-speaking countries, in  
particular, have developed nationally distinct memory cultures  
addressing overarching legacies such as that of the Third Reich, the  
post-war division of Germany, and distinct political and economic  
regimes. They moreover trace a singular relationship to social and  
political categories of ethnicity, and the discourse (or lack  
thereof) of multiculturalism. From a production point of view, they  
also boast unique institutional structures and traditions in support  
of avant-garde and independent film, as well as commercial filmmaking.

The anthology Framing the Self is unique in establishing the central  
European nexus of Germanophone languages, cultures, and national  
histories, i.e. that of (East and West) Germany, Switzerland, and  
Austria, as a point of departure and of possible territorial return.  
We welcome rigorous and engaging scholarly essays that take stock of  
the remarkable proliferation of autobiographical documentary within  
these national arenas or spanning transnational pathways established  
through migration, exile, travel, or tourism. In acknowledgement of  
the increasing stylistic heterogeneity that characterizes  
contemporary non-fiction filmmaking, we understand the term  
‘documentary’ to encompass both narrative-driven filmmaking as well  
as experimental modes that engage creatively with the lived world. We  
encourage thoughtful engagement with existing discourses on  
autobiography in the domain of literary theory (e.g. post- 
structuralist, deconstructionist, materialist, or feminist  
approaches) in combination with a recognition of the specific  
constraints and opportunities the audiovisual medium (whether analog  
or digital) poses for artists who ‘cross the frame’ to position  
themselves within an interpersonal, familial, national, or  
transnational tableau. While filmic autobiography has been taken up  
by contemporary theorists such as Michael Renov, Jim McBride, and  
Elisabeth Bruss, this volume emphasizes the need for cultural  
contextualization when theorizing constructions of the self.

We recognize that, in some instances, there may be implicit  
challenges to establishing a given audiovisual text as discernibly  
autobiographical. The extensive documentary legacy of the GDR, for  
example, evinces virtually no engagement with the autobiographical  
self; alternately, within the avant-garde tradition, the self may  
elude definition or strive towards discursive displacement. In  
general, where is the authoring self to be located? And how has the  
auto/biographical stance undercut inherited distinctions between  
public and personal archival endeavors? What new understandings are  
emerging regarding the relationship between public event and private  
experience; canonical historiographies and subjective memories;  
national character and personal identity; and the interrelation  
between family and the self? Recent innovations in recording  
technologies have also prompted experimentation with narrative form,  
the terms of authorship, performativity, confessionality, narcissism,  
and furthermore explore the political efficacy of inscribing the  
self. Such analytical considerations naturally assume a very  
different valence in the North American context than in the European;  
North American scholarship should display a fluency in recognizing  
and negotiating these differences.

This anthology will be published in English; however, some funds are  
available for non-native English authors outside North America  
requesting assistance with the translation or editing of original  
work. Negotiations are in progress for publication with the Series  
"Screen Cultures: German Film and the Visual," Camden House Press.

Screen-L is sponsored by the Telecommunication & Film Dept., the
University of Alabama: