The Archive

The videos enclosed are part of an archive we want to build. They are excerpts of the presentations in Munich and they present different approaches to our project. Nevertheless, we want more. More views, suggestions, ideas, plans. We will invite academics, artists, and humanists to send in their short videos with their stand on the problems in the humanities. In those videos they are invited to determine the problems. But they also should feel free to hint towards the future of the humanities. What do we have to change to break free from the logic of efficiency and embrace the passion that has been suppressed in recent years? How can we engage with the world, with people, spirit and head?

Dominic Richard(University of Edinburgh) opened our conference in Munich with a talk on the problem of survey classes and canonisation. Students are being discouraged to look beyond the big names these classes focus on.

Anne von Petersdorff (Michigan State University) suggests that we should rethink the concept of the traditional dissertation. Her hybrid dissertation combines collaborative, creative filmmaking and feminist scholarship grounded in German studies. It is made up of two parts: a written treatment addressing fundamental issues in feminist filmmaking–body, voice, and collaboration– which in turn complements her travel documentary Wanderlust, cuerposentránsito (2017), a bi-autobiographical account of a journey from Egypt to Germany. Wanderlust has played at a number of international filmfestivals, for more information on the film please see:

Misia Doms (Pädagogische Hochschule Niederösterreich) reintroduced old terms like “wisdom” and “soul” when speaking about the academic endeavours in the humanities. Students must be able t0 take time for soul-searching during their studies. In order to understand the object of interest, be it languages, cultures or humans, they must develop a passionate relationship to it. (Language: German)

Stefan Bronner (University of Connecticut) states the necessity for literary studies to open up to new communication modes and seek a broader audience. Bronner criticises the lack of passion and emotion in today’s academic world and its exclusion of Eros and the body. According to Friedrich Kittler, the academic’s asceticism and his search for knowledge and truth are in reality nothing but sexual impotence. Facing the growing influence of international nationalism and anti-intellectualism, he argues that academics have to do more than just analyze, archive and teach students “skills” for their future in the corporate world. On the contrary, teachers should comment, construct, create, and seek public attention. (Language: German)

Nausikaä El-Mecky ( Universitat Pompeu Fabra in Barcelona) asks: what if we accepted that we as human beings sometimes behave irrationally, and that when we learn, a part of us also learns irrationally? Our anger, ignorance and bias will not only help students and young people connect with art, but they will also allow for new intercultural approaches. This is not to say that educators should rant and shout at their terrified students; rather that they reconsider the educational possibilities and positive opportunities offered by intellectual and / or emotional states that have strong negative connotations. 

Philipp Theisohn (Universität Zürich) spoke to us on Skype about strategies to communicate literature to a broader audience. In his classroom, he introduces judgement as a category to interest students in literary texts. According to Philipp, educators have to leave the classroom in order to convey literature’s universal relevance.

Discussing Plato’s dialogue “Timaeus”, Lauren Smith and Marcel Schmid (Brown University & University of Virginia) argue that philosophy is only possible if we resist the natural sleep, which overcomes us as humans. Neither the achievements of humanity, nor human fullness occur naturally. They require this resistance to nature that should be what education is.

Alexander Kappe (FU Berlin) analyses the humanities’ standing within the German university, points out political discrimination against our field, and the humanities’ very own shortcomings. Being involved in a broader cultural discourse can be a disadvantage for academics in Germany. Referring to Nietzsche, Kappe reveals a hidden motif behind the German ideal of the ascetic academic: one who is not supposed to communicate with the common people in order to allegedly serve the truth. This asceticism, however, appears to be the drive to outshine competitors. (Language: German)

Hans-Joachim Schott (Universität Bamberg) refers back to Lyotard’s claim of the end of the grand narratives by arguing that Postmodern thinkers, who sought to target grand narratives due to their dangerous outcomes, themselves produced readings of world history à la Hegel. Tracing the development of Gilles Deleuze’s philosophy, Schott proves that the French philosopher has brought forth his own messianic narrative in the Übermensch-figure of the “Schizo”. (Language: German)