This panel seeks to understand scandal, its meaning, and its use as a marketing tool. By putting historical and contemporary understandings of scandal in conversation with one another, we hope to learn how scandal has been used, how and why it remains productive, and what new branches of discourse are opened by contemporary efforts to understand scandal, such as what it says about the state of democracy and societal and cultural norms.
The boundary between scandalous and acceptable artistic production has long been a tool utilized by artists hoping to promote their work. As the truism goes, “there is no such thing as bad press”. The incorporation of absurd, profane, or taboo content rarely serves a function beyond self-promotion via shock value. If successful, scandal can increase sales and the size of an artist’s audience. Less successful bids for press can end in ostracism, boycotting of the artist, and legal troubles. Recent scandals in the German-speaking context (the 2020 publication of Till Lindemann’s explicit poem “Wenn du schläfst”, the striking of paragraph 103 of the German constitution as a result of the Böhmermann Affair, Günther Wallraff’s use of blackface in Black on White) give cause for continued scholarly analysis of artistic scandal, the limits of creative license, and the laws which are intended to protect the creativity of artists. Papers analyzing artistic scandal from diachronous perspectives are welcomed in addition to synchronous perspectives from earlier centuries, e.g. problematic depictions of sexuality like in Thomas Mann’s Tod in Venedig and Elfriede Jelinek’s Die Klavierspielerin, 19th century censorship and performance scandals.