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Loneliness International Colloquium – University of Lisbon – 13./14. February 2020

Lisbon - Portugal
Organization: Centre for Comparative Studies (University of Lisbon)
Categories: Comparative, Aesthetics, Cultural Studies
Event Date: 2020-02-13 to 2020-02-14 Abstract Due: 2019-06-28


International Colloquium – University of Lisbon – 13./14. February 2020

Organisation: Centre for Comparative Studies (University of Lisbon)

Languages: Portuguese / English


Confirmed Keynote Speaker: Jochen Hörisch (Mannheim): "We walk hand in hand - The role of a romantic programm against loneliness in the digital age".


The Lisbon Comparative Colloquium on Loneliness aims to trace this topos in its various artistic manifestations from the times of Romanticism to the Digital Age. In the latter, loneliness is understood as a new “mass disease” that is responsible for physical and mental suffering and the most frequent cause of death in the western world (Manfred Spitzer Einsamkeit. Die unerkannte Krankheit, 2018). Western societies have started to react to the problem, for example, the British Government created a “Ministry for Loneliness” in January 2018, in order to fight the “real and diagnosable scourge” of loneliness that particularly affects teenagers, the elderly and the disabled (https://www.gov.uk/government/news/pm-launches-governments-first-loneliness-strategy).


The notion of loneliness, however, is not restricted to the 21st Century but can be found in almost all epochs and artistic forms. In the tradition of Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s Les Rêveries du promeneur solitaire (published 1782), the phenomenon of Waldeinsamkeit develops as a central literary motif through Ludwig Tieck’s Der blonde Eckbert (1797). In the works of Friedrich Wilhelm Joseph Schelling, loneliness functions as a productive creative space, in which the distinction between the mind and nature can be suspended. At the turn of the 20th Century, the partially positive Romantic idea of loneliness is replaced by existential abandonment, as it is evident from Friedrich Nietzsche’s dictum “Gott ist tot” or Georg Lukács’ notion of the “transzendentale Obdachlosigkeit” (“transcendental homelessness”; Theorie des Romans, 1916). Furthermore, the repercussions of the Industrial Revolution found expression in a form of Social Darwinism that corrodes social bonds and leads to a fragmented society. The rapid technological developments and urbanisation created new forms of isolation in modernity. For the inhabitants of the Digital Age, new forms of loneliness emerge despite worldwide connectivity and the tendency towards dissolution of the private sphere by social media (Sherry Turkle Alone Together, 2011).


We welcome contributions from the disciplines of literary, visual, musical and cultural studies as well as philosophy and anthropology. Please send your proposals (approximately 300 words) until 28 June 2019 to lisemotions@gmail.com


Topics that might be considered include, but are not limited to:


Loneliness and Waldeinsamkeit in literature, painting and music

The praise of loneliness

Digital Isolation

Inner Emigration

Loneliness and gender (e.g. lonely women such as Anna Karenina, Effi Briest or Madame Bovary and lonely men such as Stoner, Homo Faber, Meursault or Philipp Marlowe)

Puppets, Automata and machines

Loneliness as narrative experiment (e.g.. Marlen Haushofer’s Die Wand (1963) or Thomas Glavinic’s Die Arbeit der Nacht (2006); particularly also in films such as All is Lost (2013), Gravity (2013), Locke (2013) or The Martian (2015))

Demographic dimensions of loneliness (e.g. Ageing and Old Style vs. Young Adult Fiction)

Narratological perspectives on loneliness (e.g. comparisons between the genres of the novel, film, theatre, etc.)

Loneliness and (abandoned) places (monasteries, prisons, space, abandoned cities and landscapes)

The loneliness of the greats (Kafka, Pessoa)

The loneliness of the reader/observer



Conference Fee: 100 € (normal rate) and 40 € (reduced rate for students)


Gerd Hammer