Interdisciplinary Graduate Student Conference: Being a Hedgehog: Isolation, Creativity, and Destruction

Submitted by Michael Neininger on
Being a Hedgehog: Isolation, Creativity, and Destruction

The graduate students of the Departments of Germanics, French & Italian, and Comparative Literature, Cinema & Media Studies at the University of Washington are pleased to announce their second interdisciplinary graduate student conference on May 11th and 12th, 2018:


Being a Hedgehog: Isolation, Creativity, and Destruction


“Solitude gives birth to the original in us, to beauty unfamiliar and perilous - to poetry. But also, it gives birth to the opposite: to the perverse, the illicit, the absurd.”

 - Thomas Mann, “Death in Venice”


This interdisciplinary graduate student conference, entitled "Being a Hedgehog: Isolation, Creativity, and Destruction" will investigate the complex nature of isolation and its precarious position at the nexus of artistic productivity and political disaster. Romantic authors in the European tradition famously praised the role of solitude in the creative process as a path to inspiration, insight, and self-discovery. In one of his many Athenäum fragments, Friedrich Schlegel extended the necessity for seclusion even to individual works of art, which he claimed must be isolated from the surrounding world and complete unto themselves like a hedgehog (“…von der umgebenden Welt ganz abgesondert und in sich selbst vollendet sein wie ein Igel.” Fr. Schlegel, Athenäums-Fragmente Nr. 259). Decades later, Arthur Schopenhauer seized upon the spiny isolation of the hedgehog to craft a parable about the hardships of hurtful intimacy, an image elaborated on by Sigmund Freud in his Group Psychology and the Analysis of the Ego. Subsequent explorations in the arts and sciences have frequently highlighted the destructive side of a life lived in seclusion; both for the individual as well as for societies dependent on the participation of their citizens. By gathering together graduate students from a wide variety of disciplines and probing the nature of isolation propagated by border walls and firewalls, hedgehogs and hedge funds, we hope to foster a deeper understanding of the tension at the heart of this key concept and of its changing role in the modern world.


Event Schedule:


Friday, May 11th 3:00pm – 6:30pm


3:00 – 3:45pm: Check-in (CMU 202/204)

3:45 – 4:00pm: Opening Remarks

4:00 – 5:00 pm: Keynote by Prof. Kata Gellen, Andrew W. Mellon Assistant Professor of German at Duke University

5:15 – 6:30pm: Dinner Reception



Saturday, May 12th 8:00am – 7:00pm


8:15 – 9:00am: Breakfast (CMU 204)

9:00 – 10:15am: Panel 1

10:30 – 11:45am: Panel 2

11:45 – 1:00pm: Lunch (CMU 204)

1:00pm – 2:15pm: Panel 3

2:30 – 3:45pm: Panel 4

4:00 – 5:00pm: Summary Roundtable

5:00 – 6:30pm: Dinner Reception and Closing Remarks




 Panel 1: Isolating Exile

    • Mod. Aaron Carpenter, University of Washington
    • Stephen Parkin, University of Chicago, “The Isolation of Grief and the Self-Consolatory ‘Cure'”
    • Vanessa Hester, University of Washington
    • Jeff Jarzomb, University of Washington

 Panel 2: Self-Destructing Genius

    • Mod. Matthew Childs, University of Washington
    • Seth Thomas, University of Colorado, “What is the origin of Genius?”
    • Carlos Salazar Zeledon, University of Costa Rica, “Performing Oneself”
    • Katherine Hrach, Indiana University, “Jeder Lektüre ist eine kleine wahnsinnige Gesellschaft”

 Panel 3: Creating Autobiography

    • Mod. Jeff Jarzomb, University of Washington
    • Carolin Radtke, University of Arizona, “Coming of age as a slave”
    • Sina Meissgeier, University of Arizona, “In search of himself”
    • Autumn Vowles, Johns Hopkins University, “Overcoming the Injustice of Isolisme

 Panel 4: Being at the Margin

    • Mod. Rogério de Melo Franco, University of Washington
    • Michael Watzka, Columbia University’s, “Reporting From a Global “No-Man’s-Bay””
    • Moira Barrett, Potsdam University, “Writing the Informal Self”
    • Claire Woodward, Brigham Young University, “Nationalism as a Force of Isolation”