Freitag 05. November 2010 — Postgraduate Conference, Hanover

The Aesthetics of Authenticity. Representing Self and Other in Literature and Culture

Wolfgang Funk (University of Hanover), Irmtraud Huber (University of Berne)

Contemporary literary and cultural critics are notoriously careful with the time-honoured but dethroned grand terms “reality” and “truth”. Authenticity, however, though closely related to the former, seems not to have suffered as severely from postmodern scepticism. On the contrary, looking at book blurbs and adds there can be no doubt: Authenticity sells. While the term might seem to serve merely as a politically correct way of reintroducing the true and the real, prominent cases of faked authenticity like that of Mudrooroo or Benjamin Wilkomirski’s Fragments: Memories of a Wartime Childhood spectacularly prove that authenticity is not a mere empty sales slogan, but, on the contrary, is closely and indissolubly tied to questions of authority and power struggles, to ethical considerations and emotional investments. As such the importance of authenticity belies the “Death of the Author” proclaimed by Roland Barthes and becomes the site of tearing tensions between the fictional and the real, conventionality and originality, the margins and the centre, the same and the other. At the same time, authenticity as a term is far from being clearly defined and bears those contradictions within itself. While it apparently hinges on notions of objectivity, truth and reality, it can also be used - rather paradoxically it would seem - to denote ardent, genuine expressions of subjectivity in the sense of being true to oneself. In both cases authenticity depends on giving the impression of being inherent, natural, found not created. Nevertheless it is often the result of careful aesthetic construction that depends on the use of identifiable techniques with the aim of achieving certain effects for certain reasons. To better understand the mechanisms behind this and the functions it serves is to get a clearer view on an important baseline of contemporary culture. This conference therefore aims to explore further along these lines the appeal, the lure and the problems of discourses of authenticity. We would especially encourage papers concerned with the narrative and aesthetic strategies used to establish authenticity as a verbal illusion. Possible topics include but are not restricted to:


- Narrative Strategies for Generating or Subverting Authenticity

- Authentic Representation as an Aesthetic Category

- Authentic Representation and Realism

- The Ethics of Authentic Representation

- Authenticity and Alterity

- Authenticity and Simulation

- Authenticity and the Sublime

- Authenticity and Postmodern Theory

- Commodification of Authenticity

- The Politics of Authenticity

- Authenticity and Sincerity

- Authenticity and Originality

- Authenticity and Tradition

- Authenticity and Authority


Please send a 250-word proposal for a 20-minute talk and a brief CV to by 28 May 2010. For further information please contact the organisers Wolfgang Funk (University of Hanover) email: or Irmtraud Huber (University of Berne) email: or visit the website

esense GmbH