Home » Event » Critical Time in Modern German Literature and Culture

Critical Time in Modern German Literature and Culture

posted in: Call for papers, Event

University of Nottingham, 11-12 July 2014

The emergence of the modern sense of critical time that Reinhart Koselleck defined as the „Verzeitlichung“ (temporalization) of all areas of human knowledge around 1800, of subjectivity, history and nature in the modern experience and mind, has long been seen as a defining feature of modernity and modernism. Hartmut Rosa, arguably the most prominent German critic of temporality in our digital age, believes that acceleration defines the temporality of modernity as well as modern society; echoing cultural criticism around 1900 he views the renewed acceleration of life in late modernity today as a threat to civilization. Literary and cultural engagement with modern critical time, however, goes well beyond the theme of acceleration: there is, to give just a few examples, the contrapuntal fascination with deceleration and ecstatic moments (epiphanies), the dialectic of speed and deliberate slowness, the notion polyphonous time and simultaneity („Gleichzeitigkeit des Ungleichzeitigen“), the distention of time between the past, the present and the future in the human mind (Saint Augustine), the intrinsic link between temporalization and a revalidation of memory (both individual and collective), or the idea that complex aesthetic temporalities („ästhetische Eigenzeiten“) break with the modern time-regime – a now prominent research focus which raises questions as to the role of literature and the arts in the reflection, production, staging and critique of modern time-regimes and the very conceptualisation of time and temporality.

While the modern sense of critical time first emerged in political, historical and anthropological discourse, it also transformed the long-standing discourse about social time (Norbert Elias) and the ethics of time (Emmanuel Lévinas). In literature it has produced its own genres – such as the „Zeitromane“ and „Zeitgedichte“ of the long nineteenth century – and helped to redefine the epistemology of writing and literary poetics more widely. It is not coincidental that a recent collection of „Die allerschnellsten Geschichten der Welt“ (the very fastest stories of the world) is entitled „Moment!“, hence highlighting the moment that oscillates precariously between the fleeting moment of transience, the living moment of multiple embeddedness, and the critical imperative to recalibrate our attention. It is equally intrinsic to modern critical temporalities that the rethinking of time goes along with the rethinking of space; the nineteenth-century spatio-temporal revolution embodied by the railways is only the most obvious instance of this dialectic, which recurrs prominently in contemporary discourse about the digital revolution and the paradoxically spatial temporality of the internet.

This symposium will combine theoretical and critical approaches to the changing face of time and temporality since c. 1800 with case studies on the engagement with the modern sense of critical time in German literature and culture from 1800 to the present. Comparative and interdisciplinary papers are as welcome as those focusing on German sources to explore the politics of time, the ethics of time, the epistemology of time, the poetics of time, and related themes.

Please email your proposals (300-500 word outline plus 200 word cv) to Professor Dirk Göttsche, email: dirk.goettsche@nottingham.ac.uk by 25 March 2014.

Speakers will benefit from funding for travel and accommodation.

Professor Dr Dirk Göttsche,
Department of German Studies,
School of Cultures, Languages and Area Studies
University of Nottingham
University Park
Nottingham NG7 2RD
Tel. 0044-115-8466297
Email: dirk.goettsche@nottingham.ac.uk