Contact Address:
Prof. Dr. Klaus Mecke
Institut für Theoretische Physik
Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg
Staudtstraße 7
91058 Erlangen
Phone: +49-9131-85 28441
Fax: +49-9131-85 28444

Contact Address:
Dr. Aura Heydenreich
Germanistik und Komparatistik
Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg
Bismarckstraße 1b
91054 Erlangen
Phone: +49-9131-85 22978

International Conference

"Perilous Passages – The Birth of Risk in 19th Century American Culture"

Schloss Thurnau, 23rd–24th October 2015, Schloss Thurnau
University of Bayreuth / University of Erlangen-Nuremberg

This conference draws attention to the crucial role the nineteenth century played—particularly in the transatlantic North American context—in transforming the meaning of risk and moving it from the margins of particular trade enterprises to the center of social cohesion and individual identity.

For more information see the conference abstract and further information on the website of conference.


  • Prof. Dr. Jeanne Cortiel (University of Bayreuth)
  • Dr. Karin Hoepker (University of Erlangen-Nuremberg)

Preliminary Program:

Day 1 – Friday, 23rd Oct. 2015:

13:30 - Welcome and Introduction

14:00–16:00 - Workshop I: Bubbly Economics: Gambling, Speculation, Insurance (Chair: Sylvia Mayer, University of Bayreuth)

  • Johannes Voelz (University of Frankfurt): "Charles Brockden Brown's Ars Conjectandi"
  • Klaus Benesch (LMU Munich): "The Dynamo and the Virgin: Henry Adams' Speculative Realism"
  • Jason Puskar (UW Milwaukee): "Hazardous Individualism: Risk and Race in the Nineteenth Century"

16:00–17:00 - Coffee Break

17:00–18:30 - Keynote I: Ann Fabian (Rutgers University): “Risk, Play, and Gambling in the 19th Century“ (Chair: Susanne Lachenicht, University of Bayreuth)

19:00 - Conference Dinner

Day 2 – Saturday, 24th Oct. 2015:

9:00–10:30 - Keynote II: Maurice Lee (Boston University):"Risking the Humanities" (Chair: Antje Kley, University of Erlangen-Nuremberg)

10:30–11:00 - Coffee Break

11:00–13:00 - Workshop II: Dangers of Land and Sea: Exploring, Seafaring, Buccaneering (Chair: Katrin Horn, University of Erlangen-Nuremberg)

  • Gesa Mackenthun (University of Rostock): "Perils and Paradigm Shifts: Scientific Expeditions in the Age of Darwinian Crisis."
  • Hester Blum (Pennsylvania State University): "The Perils and Prospects of Oceanic Studies"
  • Alexandra Ganser (University of Vienna): "Risk and Crisis in 19th-Century Popular Narratives of Piracy"

13:00–14:00 - Lunch

14:00–16:00 - Workshop III: Risks of Blackness: Slavery, Trade, and Human Property (Chair: Laura Oehme, University of Bayreuth)

  • Sharon Ann Murphy (Providence College): "Securing Human Property: Slavery and Industrialization in the Upper South"
  • Catrin Gersdorf (University of Würzburg): "Risk and the Politics of Nature in the Work of Frederick Douglass"
  • Karin Hoepker (University of Erlangen-Nuremberg): "Perils of the Sea? The Creole-Mutiny and Frederick Douglass’ The Heroic Slave"

16:00–16:15 - Coffee (no break)

16:15–18:00 - Panel Discussion and Concluding Remarks

19:00 - Informal Dinner (for those who stay over night)