Metareference in the Arts and Media

Date: May 22 – 24, 2008
Venue: Institut für Anglistik, Karl-Franzens-Universität Graz – Heinrichstr. 36, A-8010 Graz

Strange as it may seem, Cervantes’s novel Don Quijote, Woody Allen’s film Purple Rose of Cairo, Shakespeare’s comedy A Midsummer Night’s Dream, paintings by Magritte and Mozart’s instrumental sextet “Ein musikalischer Spaß” (‘A Musical Joke’) all share one common feature: they include a meta-dimension. ‘Metaization’ – the movement from a first cognitive or communicative level to a higher one on which the first-level thoughts and utterances self-reflexively become objects of reflection and communication – is in fact a common feature not only of human thought and of language as a primary medium but also of literature and most arts as (secondary) media. However, research into such meta-issues has so far predominantly focussed on metatextuality in literature, in particular on what since 1970 has been discussed as ‘metafiction’. This monomedial focus has led to a highly differentiated – albeit neither uniform nor complete – conceptual ‘toolbox’ for analysing metaphenomena in verbal texts and has permitted fruitful discussions of possible functions of metaphenomena in this field. Yet, with very few exceptions, little effort has been made both within literary studies and from the perspective of other media to create bridges between these two areas in order to profit from this toolbox and its potential of analysis, functional and otherwise, for the larger context of the arts and media.

The aim of the symposium is to remedy this onesidedness within the framework of a ‘transmedial’ approach to metareference and generally to develop the study of metaphenomena in literature and other arts and media. This development should include:

  • reconceptualizing ‘metafiction’/’metatextuality’ as a more widely applicable concept that avoids the ad hoc bricolage that has so far characterized large parts of literary research, and renders it fruitful for the interpretation of works of other arts and media;
  • collecting and interpreting relevant examples of metareference where this has not yet been done to a sufficient degree (this concerns notably film, the visual arts and music, moreover, for instance, sculpture and architecture) and devising conceptual and terminological tools for these areas, where appropriate;
  • exploring major historical forms, functions and effects of meta-works as well as the general development of ‘metaization’ in cultural history, and finding possible reasons for it;
  • discussing the capacity for metaization of individual media and genres from a media-comparative point of view.

The forthcoming symposium as well as the planned publication in its wake are expected to concentrate on systematic and historical issues, while a follow-up conference planned for 2009 will focus on the ‘explosion of metaization’ in postmodern/contemporary (Western) culture.
There will also be opportunity for informal exchange during some social and tourist activities for which the historical centre of Graz and the city’s beautiful surroundings provide perfect settings.

Papers are welcome that deal with any of the above-mentioned topics, be it from a theoretical/ systematic or a historical perspective. We especially encourage papers that go beyond ‘metafiction’, notably with reference to other literary genres, film, the pictorical arts, music etc., but also invite individual case-studies. However, all papers should address the wider concerns mentioned, in particular mediacomparative aspects. The length of papers, which must be given in English, should not exceed 30 minutes.

Please, send abstracts of 300 to 500 words with short CV including an indication of academic affiliation by email to
The deadline is December 20, 2007.

For further information contact the conference organizers
Prof. Dr. Werner Wolf (, or
Prof. Dr. Walter Bernhart (