Modern German Literary History
The teaching and research area Modern German Literary History focuses on the reconstruction of the ideological frames and cultural settings of literary texts, which not only trains philological techniques and hermeneutic competences, but also recognizes the potential of literature to illuminate our present. Research and teaching are based on the premise that such contextualization is a necessary prerequisite for the understanding of the specifically aesthetic dimension and function of literature. Some emphasis is put on the endeavour to introduce the students to the treasures of digital libraries and to familiarize them with texts beyond those available in modern editions, the so-called "Höhenkammliteratur". The focus of the publication activities and of the teaching are Lessing and the Enlightenment, the Goethe era, the Romantic era and classical modernism up to Gottfried Benn. With respect to contemporary literature, cognitive science approaches are integrated in the analysis and linked to approaches deriving from the history of ideas and history of knowledge, in German "Wissensgeschichte".
The research activities documented by the publications concentrate mainly on the following fields:
The question of the revaluation of sensuality in the context of the "anthropocentric turn" (Charles Taylor), the reflection of the body-mind problem and the determination of the role of the aesthetic for the model of the "whole person" form the common theme of the "Lessing-Handbuch" (593 pp.; 2nd edition 2004, 3rd edition 2010, 4th edition 2016). The introductions to the context of the individual works are also designed as fundamental orientations to the questions of the Enlightenment epoch. Abstract terms that are frequently used as stereotypes (from the fields of philosophy and theology, poetics and art theory) are broken down from their original contexts and filled with life (problem-historical presentation based on source studies). In the third, newly edited edition, the social transformation processes that go hand in hand with the revaluation of the individual are increasingly taken into account; the fourth edition is extended by a chapter entitled "Lessing and the Jewish Enlightenment".
In numerous essays - on the tolerance debate, on the image of the Orient, on the modernization of myth (by Goethe) - these questions are deepened and concretized on the basis of new sources from the 18th century.
Literature and Aesthetics
The book "The Appearance of Things: Introduction to Aesthetics" signals and documents my interest in old and new theoretical concepts as well as my reflection on the difficult relationship between aesthetic theory and artistic practice. It is at the same time an attempt to impart scientific knowledge and procedures to a wider audience, including young scholars, some from Aachen, as contributors.
Literature and (Forms of) Knowledge
This research direction, which is related to the topic "literature and anthropology", is documented above all by my habilitation thesis "Sinnenwelt und Weltseele" of 1993 and a number of recent essays. It deals with the question of interrelations between aesthetic forms of expression and the construction of (natural) scientific knowledge. In particular, the Internet project "Sinne und Synapsen" is located here. The form of knowledge that the focus is on is research into the functioning of sensory perception in connection with neurophysiology, which has been rapidly expanding since 1900. With regard to contemporary literature, the focus is on theories of cognitive science and their references to the literary representation of forms of vision and perception.