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On the H-Soz-Kult platform, I have published a review of Alain Corbin’s Histoire du silence. De la Renaissance à nos jours.

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Alain Corbin: Histoire du silence. De la Renaissance
à nos jours, Paris 2016.

The book presents a wide ranging overview over the changing meanings and uses of silence in Western culture from the Renaisance to the present day. Alongside its historical analysis, it presents a case for the reappraisal of silence as a space of self-knowledge which – as the author argues – has too often been lost in the modern world of “hypermédiatisation” (p. 11).

After some delay, a research guide written by my colleagues and me at the chair of Western European History at Freiburg University has been published on the Clio-Online platform.

Theo Jung / Sonja Levsen / Sabine Mischner / Friedemann Pestel / Christina Schröer, Das lange 19. Jahrhundert, in: Clio Guide – Ein Handbuch zu digitalen Ressourcen für die Geschichtswissenschaften, Hrsg. von Laura Busse, Wilfried Enderle, Rüdiger Hohls, Gregor Horstkemper, Thomas Meyer, Jens Prellwitz, Annette Schuhmann, Berlin 2016 (=Historisches Forum, Bd. 19), http://www.clio-online.de/guides/epochen/das-lange-neunzehnte-jahrhundert/2016.

In it, we present a broad overview over the digital resources presently available to historians of the ‘long’ nineteenth century, ranging from search catalogues and source databases to institutional frameworks and communication platforms. It aims to ‘guide’ the student and scholar through this new field of expertise as well as provide a critical evaluation of the possibilities and pitfalls opened up by the availability of these new gateways to information and source materials.

thinking-about-the-enlightenment

The volume Thinking about the Enlightenment: Modernity and its Ramifications, edited by Martin L. Davies of Leicester University has now been published by Routledge.

My chapter,

Multiple Counter-Enlightenments: The Genealogy of a Polemics from the Eighteenth Century to the Present

the penultimate in a very diverse series of perspectives on the various dimensions of the relationship between Enlightenment and the present, takes up the issue of counter-enlightenment(s). It asks how various criticisms of ‘the’ Enlightenment gradually came to be viewed as constituting a singular tradition of thought, constitutive of Western reflection upon or own place in history.

Volume Introduction

Thinking about the Enlightenment looks beyond the current parameters of studying the Enlightenment, to the issues that can be understood by reflecting on the period in a broader context. Each of the thirteen original chapters, by an international and interdisciplinary team of contributors, illustrates the problematic legacy of the Enlightenment and the continued ramifications of its thinking to consider whether modernity can see its roots in the intellectual revolution of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.

Drawing from history, philosophy, literature and anthropology, this book enables students and academics alike to take a fresh look at the Enlightenment and its legacy.

The proceedings of a conference I attended two years ago in Heidelberg have been published as volume 18 in the series Schriften zur politischen Kultur der Weimarer Republik by Peter Lang.

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My own contribution, titled

Eine “Klage, die so alt ist, als die Geschichte”? Dimensionen des Wandels im Diskurs der modernen Kulturkritik

(A “Complaint as old as History itself”? Dimensions of Change in the Discourse of Modern Cultural Criticism)

develops an analytical model to describe four dimensions of change in the modern discourse of cultural criticism since the late eighteenth century.

Click here for the volume’s contents, a short introductory text, part of the introduction and the publisher’s page.

On April 6 to 7, I will participate in a conference organized by the History of Parliament research group in cooperation with Prof. Christopher Reid of Queen Mary University London.

The conference program may be found here.

My own paper, titled

“A Rhetoric of Silence: Silent Members in the July Monarchy Chamber of Deputies (1830-1848)”,

will be concerned with the rhetorical role of the silent members in the parliamentary debates of the July Monarchy. As I will argue, these silent members were anything but passive. Rather, they developed a complex rhetoric of their own, playing a significant role in the development of debates.

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In January of 2014, a group of colleagues from the Freiburg history department and I founded the ‘Reading Workshop History and Theory’ (Lektürewerkstatt Geschichte und Theorie). Its aim is to bring together scholars and students from all disciplines of the humanities with an interest in the theoretical basis of their respective fields.

Starting point was the observation that although the necessity to coordinate theoretical reflection and empirical research is often stressed, in practice the links between the two aspects are often neglected. The reading workshop confronts this weakness by providing an informal forum for rigorous discussion of the theoretical foundations of research in the humanities.

Two years onward, we have been discussing a wide variety of themes, such as:

  • Postcolonialism
  • Walter Benjamin
  • Niklas Luhmann
  • Spatial turn
  • Carl Schmitt
  • Actor-Network-Theory
  • Paul Ricœur
  • Max Weber
  • Michel Foucault
  • … and many others

Since this is a self-organized group and not an official teaching course, we are flexible with regard to themes, dates as well as to the form of discussion.

Anyone in the Freiburg area – from the first semester student up to the PhD and beyond – interested in joining is cordially invited to send an email to: geschichteundtheorie@gmail.com.

Our poster:

Poster1.LGT

The conference proceedings of a workshop I participated in two years ago have now been published under the title:

Denis Diderot und die Macht / Denis Diderot et le pouvoir

My own contribution considers Diderot’s discussion of power, sexuality and colonial rule in the Supplément au voyage de Bougainville and is titled

Stimmen der Natur. Diderot, Tahiti und der homme naturel

Voices of Nature. Diderot, Tahiti and the homme naturel

Summary (in German):

Im Supplément au voyage de Bougainville setzt sich Diderot am Beispiel Tahitis mit Fragen der Macht, der Sexualität und der Kolonialherrschaft auseinander. Der Text gilt als Paradebeispiel für die exotistische Verklärung eines fremden Naturvolkes als Kontrastbild zur Verkommenheit abendländischer Zivilisation. Und tatsächlich gibt es Stimmen im Text, die einer solchen Idealisierung und einem ‚Zurück zur Natur’ das Wort reden. Aber es gibt auch andere. Erst die Auflösung der Stimmenvielfalt des Textes zugunsten der Identifikation einer eindeutigen Grundaussage lässt bestimmte Äußerungen im Text als Elemente einer systematischen ‚Naturtheorie‘ Diderots erscheinen. Jedoch muss eine solche Lesart nicht nur eine konstitutive Ebene des Textes – seine multiperspektivische Form – außer Acht lassen, sie verstrickt sich auch auf inhaltlicher Ebene in Widersprüche. In diesem Beitrag wird versucht, die verschiedenen Positionen im Text in ihrem Zusammenhang zu betrachten. Aus diesem Blickwinkel zeigt sich, dass Diderot sich keineswegs als autoritatives Sprachrohr der Natur aufführt. Im Gegenteil. Indem er die Vielfalt der Stimmen, die sich auf die ‚natürliche’ Ordnung als Legitimitätsbasis ihrer jeweiligen Autorität beziehen, miteinander kontrastiert, zeigt er performativ, was es heißt, sich auf die Veränderlichkeit der Natur einzulassen, ohne den Anspruch zu erheben, sie ein für alle Mal festlegen zu können.


I’m very grateful to the volume’s editor, PD Dr. Isabelle Deflers and the team at the Frankreichzentrum (Center for French Studies) of Freiburg University for making this publication possible.

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