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Posts Tagged ‘Zeitgeist’

An article I wrote for the Contributions to the History of Concepts has been published in volume 9, number 1 of this journal.

The article traces the uses of the concept of zeitgeist in early nineteenth-century European political discourse. To explain the concept’s explosive takeoff in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, two perspectives are combined. On the one hand, the concept is shown to be a key element in the new, “temporalized” discourses of cultural reflection emerging during this time. On the other, its pragmatic value as a linguistic tool in concrete political constellations is outlined on the basis of case studies from French, British and German political discourse. Developing this two-sided perspective, the article sheds light on an important aspect of early nineteenth-century political discourse while also pointing to some general considerations concering the relationship between semantic and pragmatic analyses of historical language use.

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Some of my writing has been made available online through the Freidoks server at Freiburg University.

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At a workshop at the ZiF in Bielefeld, I will be presenting a paper on the use of the concept of zeitgeist in early nineteenth century political discourse, titled:

The Politics of Time: Zeitgeist in Early Nineteenth-Century Political Discourse.

The workshop, titled “Zeitgeist: an Inquiry into the Media of Time-Specific Cultural Patterns”, takes place from 19 to 21 September, 2013. For the programm, click here. For the workshop’s concept, click here.

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An article I wrote about the concept of the ‘spirit of the age’ in the long Eighteenth Century has been published in the volume Frühe Neue Zeiten, edited by Prof. Dr. Achim Landwehr.

Zeitgeist im langen 18. Jahrhundert. Dimensionen eines umstrittenen Begriffs, in: Achim Landwehr (Hg.): Frühe Neue Zeiten. Zeitwissen zwischen Reformation und Revolution (= Mainzer Historische Kulturwissenschaften 11), Bielefeld: transcript 2012, S. 319–355.

In my article, I trace the meanings and usages of the concept of zeitgeist in its various forms (esprit du siècle, Geist der Zeit, spirit of the age, etc.) across a number of contexts in France, England and the German lands. The concept is shown to be at the center of the temporalization of discourses about contemporary culture and its historical development during the Eighteenth Century. A special focus of the article lies on the complicated relation between the unstressed usages of the concept on the one hand and the explicit, metalinguistic discussion about it on the other. Because of its controversial and elusive nature, the concept of the spirit of the age was at the center of heated debates about its cognitive and metaphysical legitimacy and its pragmatic usefulness. How did such debates influence its use in other contexts?

To read the Achim Landwehr’s introduction to the volume, click here.

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Next March, I will be attending the 33rd annual conference of the Ninteenth Century Studies Association in Asheville, North Carolina. The title of the paper I will present is ‘Spiritual Power in a Secular Age: The ‘Spirit of the Age’ in Early 19th Century Politics’.

For more information, see here.

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Starting in Freiburg in the summer semester of 2011, I will be teaching two courses.

The Intellectual: Genesis of a Modern Social Type
The Dreyfus Affair is often viewed as the birth of the modern intellectual.  In fact, however, the origins of this important ‘persona’ are much older and reach into the Enlightenment period. Taking a series of case studies from France, England and the German lands as a starting point, this BA-Seminar from a comparative perspective traces the emergence and development of this figure during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Besides questions of social structure, finance, forms of communication and use of media, its focus will be on the problematic relation of the intellectual (and his locus naturalis, the public realm) with the political.

Zeitgeist: History and Impact of a Controversial Concept
The concept of ‘zeitgeist’ or ‘spirit of the age’ has all but disappeared from our vocabulary. If used at all it is usually employed in an ironic mode. Yet at one time, this was remarkably different. For a long time, zeitgeist was the central concept within Western discourses of historical reflexion. It expressed the reflexion upon the present as a changing form of life and thus built the center of a historical consciousness that emerged at the onset of the modern era. This reading course (Übung) will trace the history of this modern concept from its beginnings in the seventeenth up to his heyday in the first half of the nineteenth century. On the basis of source material (pamphlets, journal articles, poetry, theatre) from the German, French and English language areas several questions will be posed, i. e.: what meanings did the concept convey and how did these change over time? In what contexts and to what purposes was it used? How was it instrumentalized for political aims? Against which social background did it arise and how did it influence this in turn? Thus, on the basis of this example, general question are put forward about the history of concepts and its method.

More information about these courses may be found here.

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