Conferences, Congresses

Flower Power - Blossoms and Petals Between Beauty, Classification, and Dominance


Following the vegetal turn in the humanities, our conference aims to explore the literary, cultural, and philosophical implications of flowers. Flowers are far less innocent than bridal bouquets and Mother’s Day kitsch might suggest. For Alice Walker, the elaborate floral arrangements that her mother used to adorn even the shabbiest houses with symbolize not only comfort and hope despite poverty, but the creative potential of a generation of Black women who were denied other access to art, culture, and self-realization. Culturally and historically, flower picking is connoted with human power over nature, yet it also glosses over sexual violence, colonial fantasies of discovery, and anthropocentric delusions of grandeur. In ancient myths, girls are abducted and raped while gathering flowers; the symbolically charged breaking of flowers anticipates defloration. Most recently, the fact that Goethe’s folk poem “Heidenröslein” identifies a rape victim with a broken rose came under literal attack in the wake of a #MeToo-inspired campaign when the art collective Frankfurter Hauptschule threw toilet paper at the Goethe House in Weimar in the summer of 2019 to denounce the flowery euphemism. On colonial expeditions, botanists collected important plant knowledge, but the exotic objects unknown in Europe were also exported, classified, and monetized; this imperialist gesture still resonates in the term “plant hunter.” The poetry of symbolism, impressionism, and modernity seized the fascination for orchids, lilies, and azaleas. However, even today, tropical flowers are still a status symbol, as evidenced by the “PlantParenting” trend on social media platforms. Neo-baroque, floral book formats – anthologies, florilegia, herbaria – enjoy renewed popularity in times of climate crisis: in contemporary artistic plant collections, the need for order and explanation meets subversive critique of Western, anthropocentric exploitation of nature, while voices in philosophy, literary, and cultural studies aspire to re-establish the herbarium as a text genre for the humanities that meets critical and posthumanist demands more effectively than the individualistic monograph.

We look forward to an interdisciplinary dialogue between literary and cultural studies, with research from collaborative fields such as gender studies, ecocriticism, ecofeminism, postcolonial/decolonial studies, critical plant studies, posthumanities, and environmental humanities.

Source of description: Information from the provider

Fields of research

Literature from North America, Literature from Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Literature from UK and Ireland, Italian literature, Eastern Middle European literature (Poland, Slowakia, Czech Republic, Hungary), Literary theory, Gender Studies/Queer Studies, Postcolonial studies, Ecocriticism, World Literature, Literature and other forms of art, Literature and natural science




Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München (LMU)
Graduate School Language & Literature


Ludwigstraße 25
80539 München
Submitted by: Sophie Emilia Seidler
Date of publication: 26.04.2023
Last edited: 26.04.2023