Department of Linguistic, Literary and Aesthetic Studies
International Workshop

“Practices of Ending, Closing and Quitting“

International Workshop “Practices of Ending, Closing and Quitting“ Organized by the Research Group „Contemporary Aesthetics“ UiB, 3rd of May 2024

Main content

Problems of ending, stopping and closing have shaped the public discourse in recent years: Think for example of the multiple ‚ends‘ of the Covid-19-Pandemic, the ongoing discussions about the end of capitalism, history and globalization, or the unsolved environmental and social challenges caused by the inevitable exhaustion of natural resources. New cultural practices like silent quitting, cancelling, or ghosting have received increased attention, for many the idea of ‘leaving society’ became attractive again; to stop flying or eating meat was perceived as a controversial imperative.

The aesthetic sphere did not remain unaffected by these contemporary ‘senses of endings’: apocalyptic, dystopian and catastrophic scenarios are flourishing in literature, in exhibitions, in movies and on stage. Furthermore, there are radical forms of ecological art, posthuman theory and Nature Writing dealing with various forms of extermination and extinction in the natural world. Joan Didion’s aphorism, “It is easy to see the beginning of things, and harder to see the ends”, is still valid today and points to the inherent difficulty of endings, closure and completion.

It might therefore be productive to turn away from the reckless proclamation of various ends (of art, an era, a trend) and rather look at the cultural, aesthetic and social practices connected to endings, closure and determination, trying to map the media specificity and the historical determinants surrounding different forms of endings. Ever since Aristoteles’ definition of the end as something coming “after something” and at the same time having “nothing else after it”, practices, morphologies and conventions of closure have been established for different fields, formats and genres. There are rules how a tragedy ends, how a poem should close, when a painting is finished, or when a character goes off stage. Katharsis or happy Endings, non-finito, closing formulas (Amen) or finales, just to name a few, provide an intricate knowledge of finalization, a structure for the production and the reception of art. At the latest with the dawn of modernity these rules and structures became problematic and have remained so ever since. Think of Theodor W. Adorno’s claim that all new music „is tormented by the question of how it can close, not merely end“, which not only accounts for symphonies, but for most of the art and literature produced during modernism.

The workshop will explore the different senses, practices and meanings of endings with regard to contemporary literature, music, art and theatre. The keynote-speaker Niklas Barth (LMU Munich) will explore the problem and the unlikelihood of ending and closing from a sociological perspective, focussing on the connection between routines and the impossibility of letting go of them.


10:00-10:15: Wolfgang Hottner (UiB): Introduction

10:15-11:15: Niklas Barth (LMU Munich): „Ending Interactions. Forms and Functions of Tactful Communication“

11:15-12:00: Ellen Stark Theander (UiB): „The Ruined Play: Understanding Spoilers“

12:00-13:00: Lunch

13:00-13.45: Cheyenne Gretemeier (UiB): „Paradigmatic Endings: Performative Cessation in Robert Walser’s Later Prose Pieces

13:45-14:30: Tobias Lindström (UiB): „The End of the Line“

14:30-15:00: Coffee

15:00-15:45: Sivan Malberger (UiB): „Beginning in the end times—Inger Christensen’s Alfabet between creation and lament“

15:45-16:30: Grethe Melby (UiB): Tba.