Posts Tagged ‘Germany’

Der Begriff der Emigration gab es damals [1933] in Deutschland nicht. Man wußte, Marx, Engels hatten sich ihrer Zeit nach London begeben, um ihre Stunde abzuwarten. In neuerer Zeit waren einige Spanier nach Paris gereist, um den politischen Verhältnissen in ihrer Heimat zu entgehen. Man kannte politische Flüchtlinge, aber den massiven, ethisch untermauerten Begriff der Emigration, wie er nach 1933 bei uns gang und gäbe wurde, kannte man nicht. Man kannte natürlich auch die russischen Emigranten, aber bei denen lag Flucht vor gegenüber Ermordetwerden, das war eine vitale Reaktion, kein gesinnungshafter Protest gegen eine andere Gesinnung – und wer war 1933 fähig und bereit, den 30. Januar in Berlin mit dem 8. November 1917 in Petersburg zu vergleichen? Wenn nun also Angehörige meiner Generation und meines Gedankenkreises Deutschland verließen, emigrierten sie noch nicht in dem späteren polemischen Sinne, sondern sie zogen es vor, persönlichen Fährnissen aus dem Wege zu gehen, die Dauer und die Intensität dieses Fortgehens sah wohl keiner von ihnen genau voraus. Es war mehr eine Demonstration als eine Offensive, mehr ein Ausweichen als eine Aktion. Emigration als Führerfronde war kein bei uns bekannter Begriff.

Gottfried Benn: Doppelleben, in: Sämtliche Werke, Stuttgarter Ausgabe, Gerhard Schuster ed., vol. 5, Prosa 3, Stuttgart 1986, p. 83.

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Wer für die Menschen wirken will, der muß sie lieben und verachten zugleich.

Frankfurt a. M., 21. December 1848

Friedrich Daniel Bassermann, in: J. Loewenberg: Aus den Frankfurter Parlamentstagen. Stammbuchblätter deutscher Abgeordneter, in: Die Gartenlaube 17 (1875), p. 290.

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I lived in eastern Germany for four months of 2008. There were a million weird things about living there, but there was one that I didn’t anticipate: Germans don’t fake-laugh. If someone in Germany is laughing, it’s because he or she physically can’t help themselves; they are laughing because they’re authentically amused. Nobody there ever laughs because of politeness. Nobody laughs out of obligation. And what this made me recognize is how much American laughter is purely conditioned. Most of our laughing—I would say at least 51 percent—has no relation to humor or to how we actually feel. […] It had never before occurred to me how often I reflexively laugh; only in the absence of a response did I realize I was laughing for no reason whatsoever. It somehow felt comfortable. Now that I’m back in the U.S., I notice this all the time: People half-heartedly chuckle throughout most casual conversations, regardless of the topic. It’s a modern extension of the verbalized pause, built by TV laugh tracks. […] This is not the only reason Germans think Americans are retarded, but it’s definitely one of them.

Chuck Klosterman: Eating the Dinosaur, New York 2009, p. 165-166.

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The journal Neue Politische Literatur just published my review of Franziska Rehlinghausstudy on the German concept of destiny from early modern times through to the First World War. It comes recommended as a detailed analysis of a concept that had crucial significance for intellectual, social and political processes during the period, but also as an exemplary use of the methods of Historical Semantics.


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The journal Traverse: Zeitschrift für Geschichte has just published a special issue on the topic of Temporal Experiences: Acceleration and Plural Temporalities (Zeiterfahrungen: Beschleunigung und plurale Temporalitäten). The table of contents may be found here.

In it, I have published a contribution on the concept of acceleration under the title:

Beschleunigung im langen 19. Jahrhundert: Einheit und Vielfalt einer Epochenkategorie

[Acceleration in the Long 19th Century: Unity and Plurality of a Temporal Category]


The essay starts by contrasting the influential theories of acceleration formulated by Reinhart Koselleck and Hartmut Rosa. On this basis, it argues for a new approach to the history of acceleration based in the methodical tradition of Historical Semantics.

From this point of view, the usual interpretation of acceleration as the distinguishing and dominant temporal mode of the modern era is left behind in favor of a more empirical approach. Taking German debates on the topic during the 19th century as a case study, the article shows how acceleration was not a singular phenomenon (defining the modern era) at all. Rather, it could have many different meanings according to the perspective and interests of various groups as well as the changing historical contexts. In this manner, the article argues for a differentiated focus on the ways in which ‘modern’ people interpreted their own temporality instead of the sweeping, but ultimately oversimplified identification of modernity as the ‘era of acceleration’.

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Summer break is coming to an end and soon the winter term will start again. As usual, I will be offering an intensive ‘Seminar’ course as well as a smaller ‘Übung’ or reading course.

The Fourth Estate: Press and Politics in Germany and France (1789-1914)

Whereas the constitutive role of the press in any well-functioning democracy stands beyond doubt today, at the same time its power in modern ‘mediocracies’ is often the target of criticism. The origins of this tension lie in the 19th century – when the press developed an unprecedented importance to political processes. In this seminar, these developments are traced from a comparative viewpoint, focusing on the French and German cases.

The Power of Language: Introduction to Historical Semantics

Since the emergence of the so-called ‘linguistic turn’ in the 1970s a variety of new theoretical and methodological approaches in the field of historiography have stressed the role of language not only as an indicator, but also as a factor in historical processes. This reading course offers an introduction to the different theoretical research models developped in this context as well as to their empirical results.

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Next week, 24 and 25 September, I’ll be participating in a workshop held in Marburg, titled:

Aristokratismus. Historische und literarische Semantik von ‘Adel’ zwischen Kulturkritik der Jahrhundertwende und Nationalsozialismus (1890-1945).

Aristocratism. Historical and Literary Semantics of ‘Aristocracy’ between Cultural Criticism of the Turn of the Century and National Socialism (1890-1945)

The workshop is part of a DFG-funded research project on the same theme and is organized by Prof. Dr. Eckart Conze, PD Dr. Jochen Strobel, Daniel Thiel und Jan de Vries.

My paper pursues a diachronic comparison of German discourses of cultural criticism around 1800 and around 1900, focussing on the differences in the use of semantics of aristocracy in these contexts. Thus, the paper offers an empirical case study using a model distinguishing between four dimensions of change in the history of cultural criticism I formulated last year on a conference in Heidelberg (soon to be published in its proceedings).

The Call for Papers for the Marburg workshop may be found here.

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