Call for Papers



in the

German Historical Museum

in Berlin

In November 2007 the German Historical Museum  and the  Karl-May-Society are jointly hosting a symposium on the work, reception and topicallity of Karl May in conjunction with the exhibition “Karl May – The Imaginary Journey” (7th September 2007 to 6th January 2008).

More than any other writer, Karl May has influenced German perception of the Middle East and North America  for generations. The long term effects on readers of "Winnetou" or "Through the Desert" cannot be overestimated.

 The attitudes of his readers – with a total print run of by now over 100 billion volumes – reveal the status of Karl May's work. Opinions range from “the Shakespeare of the young” to “the Cowboy-Mentor of The Fuehrer”, and from “delightful Saxon liar” to “last great mystic” of the German language. Among his well-known readers are such diverse persons as Karl Liebknecht and Adolf Hitler, Hermann Hesse and Ernst Bloch, Heinz G. Konsalik and Bertolt Brecht.

The events in South Eastern Europe, the Middle East and Africa vividly show the astonishing and worrying topicality of his novels as they lead the reader “Through Wildest Kurdistan", "From Baghdad to Istanbul", through the "Canyons of the Balkans" into the "Land of the Mahdi"- the Sudan, which was shaken by civil war then as now.

A change of production media occurred very quickly. Open air theatres from Rathen to Bad Segeberg attract hundreds of thousands of visitors every year. The Karl-May-Films of the 1960s endowed their leading actors, the Frenchman Pierre Brice and the American Lex Baker, with immortal fame as the most popular pair in the history of the German film.  Bully Herbig's parody of these cinema classics of the Economic Miracle years, “Shoe of the Manitou”, outranked other major international productions, with over 10 million cinema-goers.

Despite the almost intractable mass of research publications on the life, work and impact of Karl May, all these topics still need further investigation. The symposium has therefore been deliberately dedicated to a multi-disciplinary or interdisciplinary approach. Presentations from a variety of areas are equally welcome: the historical, geographical and ethnographic background of May's work, as well as editorial results, work on the theory of reception, mentality and media, or text-analytical,  philosophical and theological studies and contributions from the political and  education sciences. The perception of the author in the Third Reich, the GDR and other former Eastern Block states remains an area in need of attention, despite a number of influential studies in recent years.

Contributions from the arts and literature are also welcome.

In the oft-cited post-PISA era and against the background of increasing global ethnic and religious conflict, one has to question why, if and how  Winnetou, Hajji Halef & Co. can not only survive in the age of NINTENDO, next to Luke Skywalker, Spiderman and Harry Potter, but can even make a specific contribution to media competence, to the expansion of knowledge about the world and to the disseminaation of ethical values.

The conference languages are German and English.

Slots of 30 minute lectures followed by discussion are planned.

Contributions to the synposium will be published in the conference proceedings.

An application for financial support by the German Research Foundation  will be submitted in 2006.

Lecture titles und abstracts of approx. 30 lines must be submitted by 1st September 2006 to one of the following:

Priv.-Doz. Dr. Thomas Kramer

Institut für deutsche Literatur
Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin
Unter den Linden 6
D-10099 Berlin
Tel.: +49 30 20939657


Prof. Dr. Helmut Schmiedt

Universität Koblenz-Landau
Campus Koblenz
Institut für Germanistik
Postfach 201 602
56016 Koblenz
Tel: +49 261 2872054


Prof. Dr. Reinhold Wolff

Fakultät für Linguistik und Literaturwissenschaft
Universität Bielefeld
Postfach 10 01 31
D-33501 Bielefeld

Tel.: +49 521 1063514



Please refer to this website for further developments.