Topics in Literature and Contemporary Theory

The working group in literature and theory fosters the interdisciplinary study of literary texts with reference to developing configurations in contemporary theory.  The group focuses on German texts but maintains a strong comparative component, enlisting texts from numerous literary and philosophical traditions. In biweekly meetings, faculty and student participants discuss emergent paradigms in literature, critical theory, and social forms. At the beginning of the Fall semester, the working group will finalize the readings for the coming academic year.  The program will include a reading list, schedule, and research agenda. This forum is open to all interested participants throughout the Yale community; knowledge of German (or other foreign languages) is not necessary: all texts are made available in English and discussions are in English. The reading list and program will be made available through regular announcements on canvas; this site will also be used to distribute information about related external events, conferences, and appearances by guest speakers at Yale.

2019–2020 Topic: Poetology and Philology in Romanticism

The importance of German Romanticism as a literary and philosophical movement can hardly be overstated. Engaged in a vast array of intellectual fields, it was a transformative movement in the history of European thought with reverberations still being traceable in twentieth- and twenty-first- century culture and politics.

While it is hard to determine the borders or the shared center of this often contradictory movement, the philosophical, literary, and poetological gestures the authors were engaged in continuously challenged traditional separations of theory and literature. Along with these experimental textual practices, poetology—the reflective treatment of the forms of writing —gains a special importance for thought. At the same time, language and philology become main points of interest for the Romantic movement: a newly broadened consideration of language brings about a reassessment of its role in thinking. No longer considered a secondary instrument for thinking, language and its historical development become a major object for Romantic writing.

While this turn to questions of language and philology is quite often situated in the nationalistic project of Romanticism, it displays nevertheless an empathic engagement with questions of multilingualism. Inherent to it was a sense for the plurality of languages and genres, as well as for the problem of (un)translatability.

The aim of the working group will be to understand the relationship between poetological and philological thought, as it was formed in Romanticism. How is the interest in language intertwined with the dissolution of the distinct separation between theory and literature? How did the general investigation of the nature of language inform the poetics of Romanticism? How did poetological conceptions impact philology? How did the philological investigation of language and languages influence the formation of political thought? And what can this intertwining of poetology and philology still offer for the present and future of thinking?

Materials could include Friedrich Schlegel, Friedrich Hölderlin, Friedrich Schiller, Friedrich Wilhelm Joseph Schelling, Friedrich Schleiermacher, Friedrich Rückert, Friedrich de la Motte-Fouqué, Friedrich Ludwig Jahn, Friedrich Wilhelm von Humboldt, Friedrich von Hardenberg (Novalis), Johann Gottlieb Fichte, Johann Gottfried Herder, Johann Georg Hamann, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, and Heinrich Heine.