Posts Tagged ‘Conceptual History’

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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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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