Adele Guyton (KU Leuven)


Adele Guyton is a PhD researcher at KU Leuven’s MDRN lab. She works on late 19th and early 20th century German and British popular periodicals and the relationship between their fictions and contemporary astronomical science. Her research interests include periodical studies, alternate histories and fan fiction.

Open and Closed Spaces: Narrating Pseudoscience, Fiction, and Scientific Authority in the Periodical Das Neue Universum

In 1925, Karl August von Laffert published a short story entitled “Das Ende unseres Mondes” (The End of Our Moon) in Das Neue Universum, a mainstream popular science periodical aimed at ‘die reifere Jugend’ (older youths). The contents of “Das Ende unseres Mondes” form the kind of catastrophe narrative familiar to audiences today from the multitude of dystopian films and novels at our disposal: there is a planetary catastrophe (the moon falls), a plucky hero, and a new beginning. The peculiar thing about “Das Ende unseres Mondes” is that it was written explicitly as propaganda for the heterodox cosmology Welteislehre, known in English as the glacial cosmogony.

This presentation will examine the narrative techniques and tropes used by Laffert to make the Welteislehre convincing and appealing to Das Neue Universum’s audience, and look at how the story fits in with the periodical as its paratext. I argue that in “Das Ende unseres Mondes”, it is narrative structures and intertextual hints that do the heavy lifting in favour of Welteis ideas. Intradiegetic diary passages and Classical and Biblical references subtly reinforce the Welteislehre’s cyclical model of history and frame global catastrophe as an arena for heroism on a Homeric scale. In seeking to persuade a wider, younger, and possibly more skeptical audience, Laffert leans in on those narrative aspects of Welteis that might appeal to youth growing up in a period of national crisis.