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Posts Tagged ‘Decadence’

The new edition of Francia-Recensio includes a review by my hand of the edited volume

Fanny Platelle, Hélène Roth (dir.), Le déclin dans le monde germanique. Mots, discours et représentations (1914–2014), Reims (Éditions et presses universitaires de Reims) 2018

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The volume considers discourses of decadence, decline, and degeneration in the german-language world since the First World War. On the one hand, it aims to go beyond the normal focus on the late 19th century Kulturkritik. On the other, it includes a number of as yet unexplored thematic fields like architecture and city planning.

My review can be found here.

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On May 15th to 17th of next year, I will be attending a conference titled “Declines and Falls: Perspectives in European History and Historiography” organized at the Central European University in Budapest.

My presentation – which draws upon my dissertation research – will address the complex interrelations between the concepts of progress and decadence in the long eighteenth century. Often, these two concepts are understood as mutually exclusive counter-concepts, epitomizing a forward-looking ‘Enlightenment theory of progress’ on the one hand and the backward and ultimately futile ‘complaints’ of conservatives and reactionaries on the other.

A closer look at the semantic structure of debates about the development of civilization in the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries reveals, however, that to contemporaries, these concepts were not usually counter-concepts at all. Rather, they were regularly understood as linked, or even interdependent. To understand this paradox, my paper addresses the various ways in which ‘the culture/civilization as a whole’ was conceptualized in these discourses.

Joining the analysis of the semantic structure of contemporary narratives of cultural decline with their pragmatic interpretation as speech acts in public interaction, I identify three different types of interpretation of the ‘whole’ in which ostensibly monistic claims about civilization in toto were linked to a differentiated understanding of its plural nature. In this way, the common view of narratives of progress and decadence as mutually exclusive discourses – at worst resulting in a general narrative of modern intellectual history as an eternal struggle between Enlightenment and Counter-Enlightenment – may make way for a more detailed understanding of the complexities of the debates about the character and development of civilization that have been so very important to public discourses of self-reflection in the modern age.

Update: a conference report has been published on the CEU website.

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Last week, I presented a paper at the conference ‘The Changing Experience of Time in the Long Nineteenth Century: Local, Regional, (Trans)National and Global Perspectives‘, held at the Centre for Transnational History of the University of St. Andrews (Scotland). My presentation was concerned with different models of historical analysis of the changing experiences and practices of time, especially with the so-called model of ‘temporalization’ which has been primarily championed by the German historian Reinhart Koselleck. Its title was:

Modern Times: Temporalization as a Concept of Historical Analysis

Also, I’m happy to announce that next month, I’m presenting other research at a conference ‘Populäre Geschichte und medialer Wandel zwischen Fortschrittsoptimismus und Kulturpessimismus‘, organized by the DFG-research group ‘Historische Lebenswelten in populären Wissenskulturen der Gegenwart‘ (DFG-FOR 875). This time, my topic will be a narrative of cultural interpretation that was quite influential at the end of the 18th century, which interpreted history as a slow evolution from a ‘poetic’ to a ‘prosaic’ mode of existence. The title of my presentation will be:

Vom poetischen Ursprung zur prosaischen Gegenwart: ein kulturanalytisches Geschichtsnarrativ im späten 18. Jahrhundert
(From poetic origin to prosaic present: a historical narrative of cultural analysis at the end of the 18th century)

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