Generously funded by Dr. Charlotte M. Craig and her husband, Bob Craig, the Craig Young Scholar Series aims to provide advanced graduate students, lecturers, and junior professors of German with the opportunity and venue to present their research to the public. Each semester, the German Department will invite young scholars of German from around the country to present a public lecture at the university.


Upcoming Craig Young Scholar Series Events

No events

Fall 2022

Susan Morrow, Princeton University

Expressive and Inexpressive Movement: Pantomime and Bodily Virtuosity in Jean-Georges Noverre’s Lettres sur la dance et sur les ballets (1759/1760)
Wednesday, November 16, 2022, 12:15pm
AB 4050 (West Wing), and via Zoom

Jean-Georges Noverre was the most famous ballet master in 18th-century Europe. The treatise that established his reputation, Lettres sur la dance et sur les ballets (1759/1760) theorizes a mode of dance that emerged in the late 17th and early 18th century, often referred to as ballet d’action or pantomime ballet, which staged wordless, danced dramas incorporating pantomime and tableaux vivants. This talk will concern the distinction made in Noverre’s Letters between the ‘expressive,’ mimetic movement technique of pantomime and the ‘inexpressive,’ non-mimetic character of virtuosic dance technique. It argues that Noverre takes these movement techniques to have distinct epistemic implications with important consequences for understanding the relationship between performance and text.

Susan Morrow is Assistant Professor of German at Princeton University. Prior to joining the Princeton German Department in Fall 2022, Morrow was a postdoctoral fellow at the Universität Potsdam (Department of Philosophy and Center for Post-Kantian Philosophy) and the Leibniz Center for Literary and Cultural Research (ZfL) Berlin (History of Theory Research Area). She has previously taught at Yale University (Department of German) and the Freie Universität Berlin (Department of Comparative Literature). She received her Ph.D. in German from Yale in 2019. Her dissertation, “Schematism: Poetics on the Way to Kant, 1760–1790” was awarded the ZfL’s 2019 Carlo Barck Prize.



Spring 2020

Elisa Ronzheimer, University of Bielefeld

Transit: Narrating Diaspora, Escaping History 
Wednesday, March 11, 2020, 11:30am

Elisa Ronzheimer is Akademische Rätin in the department of Comparative Literature at Bielefeld University. Elisa studied piano, German and French literature in Bonn, Cologne, Paris and New Haven. In 2018 she completed her PhD in German at Yale University with a dissertation entitled "Poetologies of Rhythm: Verse Forms ca. 1800 (Klopstock, Hölderlin, Novalis, Goethe, Tieck)" which will appear at De Gruyter in 2020. Elisa is interested in eighteenth-century poetics and aesthetics, theories of the lyric and concepts of poetic form between music and language. She currently works on a second book project which traces the 'afterlife' of stylistics as a method of interpretation in structuralist and post-structuralist literary theory.


Fall 2019

Christophe Koné, Williams College

Doll Making and Doll Thinking in ETA Hoffmann's The Sandman
Tuesday, October 15, 2019, 1:00pm

 In his talk on ETA Hoffmann’s romantic tale Der Sandmann, Christophe Koné examines the ongoing processes of doll making and doll thinking, a term he coins drawing from Jentsch’s and Freud’s essays on "The Uncanny," Thing and Queer theories. Shifting the focus from the Sandman to the doll Olimpia, Koné argues that the story revolves around doll makers and thinkers and that the narrative ultimately aims to turn the reader into a doll thinker.

IMG 0269 2Christophe Koné is an Assistant Professor of German and Comparative Literature at Williams College. He teaches language and literature classes. He holds a Masters in German Studies from Université Lumière, Lyon 2, France and a PhD in German Studies from Rutgers University. He is currently finishing a book manuscript on “Doll Thinkers and Doll Makers in Modern German Culture.” His research interests include German Romanticism, Modernism, Film Studies, Art History, Comics, and Fashion Studies.

Recent Publications:

"The Key to Voyeurism: Haneke's Adaptation of Jelinek's The Piano Teacher" with Fatima Naqvi in On Michael Haneke. Edited by Brian Price and John David Rhodes. Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 2010, p. 127-150.

"Aschenbach's Homovisual Desire: Scopophilia in Thomas Mann's Der Tod in Venedig" in Thomas Mann, Neue kulturwissenschaftliche Lektüren. Edited by Stefan Börnchen, Georg Mein, and Gary Schmidt. München: Wilhelm Fink Verlag, 2012, p. 95-106.

“Unbehagen in der Oper: Robert Lepages Ring-Bau und die Met-Maschine” in Jenseits von Bayreuth. Richard Wagner heute: Neue kulturwissenschaftliche Perspektiven. Edited by Stefan Börnchen, Georg Mein, and Elisabeth Strowick. München: Wilhelm Fink Verlag, 2014.

“Learning to Flirt with Don Juan” in Flirtations, Rhetoric and Aesthetics: This Side of Seduction. Ed. by Daniel Hoffman-Schwartz, Barbara Natalie Nagel, and Lauren Shizuko Stone. New York: Fordam University Press, 2015.


Erica Weitzman, Northwestern University

“Senseless phalluses snot in the face of the world”: Gottfried Benn and the Endgame of Materialism 
Wednesday, October 30, 2019, 12:15pm

German realism is dominated by a paradox: on the one hand, its authors want to turn their attention to the real things of the real material world; on the other, they want to contain that world within idealist (which is to say, for them, humanist) terms. The controversial Expressionist Gottfried Benn, a doctor by trade, was heavily influenced by such paradoxes and debates at the start of his writing career. This talk looks at the representational strategies of Benn’s early, experimental-autobiographical “Rönne-novellas” (1914-1916), to show how, in his work, Benn both attacks the previous century’s humanist optimism and brings it to its negative, obscene culmination. In doing so, the talk also reveals the problematic basis of humanism itself in its phobic constitution of “sheer matter.”

Copy of erica 082Erica Weitzman is Assistant Professor in the Department of German at Northwestern University. She received her Ph.D. in Comparative Literature from New York University in 2012, and has also held positions at Konstanz Universität, the University of California, Berkeley, and as a fellow with the Alexander von Humboldt-Stiftung at the Zentrum für Literatur- und Kulturforschung, Berlin. She is the author of the monograph Irony’s Antics: Walser, Kafka, Roth and the German Comic Tradition (Northwestern UP, 2015) and co-editor of the collected volume Suspensionen. Über das Untote (Fink, 2015), and has published numerous articles on authors including Stifter, Fontane, Kafka, Walser, Sacher-Masoch, Karl Rosenkranz, Gustav Freytag, Ismail Kadare, and Jacques Derrida. She is currently completing her second book project, At the Limit of the Obscene: Realism, Aesthetics, Profanation, which looks at the representation of materiality in nineteenth- and early twentieth-century German realism.



Fall 2018

Teresa Kovacs, University of Michigan

Staging the Ruinous
Abandonment, Decay, and Destruction in Contemporary Performances
October 10, 2018, 12:30pm

Contemporary theatre and performance are deeply entangled with abandonment, decay, and destruction. While publications on ruin and ruination in other disciplines like urban studies, literature or visual arts have steadily increased within the last years, theatre scholars have thus far failed to analyze the implications of ruins for contemporary performance practices. I argue that German-language theatre since the second half of the twentieth century has been uniquely shaped by decomposition. In focusing on the theatrical texts of Heiner Müller and Elfriede Jelinek and their stagings and musical arrangements by Heiner Goebbels, Dimiter Gotscheff, Dieter Kaufmann, and Johan Simons, I will grapple with the following questions: Which concepts of theatrical temporality are connected to decay? How do humans relate to their ruinous surroundings and how is this relationship transformed into the theatrical structure? How do we perceive the ruinous performance?

Teresa KovacsTeresa Kovacs is a Visiting Scholar at the Department of Germanic Languages and Literatures at the University of Michigan (Erwin Schrödinger Fellowship, FWF). Her current book project deals with performative practices that evolve around decay manifested themselves between Renaissance and contemporary theatre and performance. She received her Ph.D. at the University of Vienna with a dissertation on Elfriede Jelinek’s “Secondary Drama,” which won several awards. Publications (Selection): Drama als Störung. Elfriede Jelineks Konzept des Sekundärdramas (transcript 2016), Schreiben als Widerstand. Elfriede Jelinek & Herta Müller (Praesens 2017, co-ed. with Pia Janke), Postdramatic Theatre as transcultural Theatre (Narr 2018, co-ed. with Koku Nonoa), Schlingensief-Handbuch (in preparation, Metzler 2020, co-ed. with Peter Scheinpflug and Thomas Wortmann).

Spring 2018

Franziska Humphreys, EHESS - Paris

Without Image - Refuge of all Images: On Some of Walter Benjamin's Dream Narratives.
March 21, 2018, 12:15pm

Based on several dream narratives by Walter Benjamin, my paper questions the syntactic ramifications and motivic tensions between the theoretical conceptualization and the literary claims of this author. In attempting a constellatory reading of these texts by comparing, in particular, The Arcades Project and On the Origins of German Tragic Drama, I show that Benjamin not only conceptualized allegory in theoretical terms, but that he literally dreamed it up. I argue that a certain multilingualism inherent in the text and an alertness to mediatic leaps are decisive for the reading of any text. An allegorical reading, in the very strict sense of the word limned in what follows, breaks with the representational function of language in order to retrace and reflect its unique relief and physiognomy.

IMG 0616Franziska Humphreys studied Comparative Literature, French Literature, and Art History in Munich and Paris. Currently, she holds a DAAD position as specialist lecturer at the Ecole des hautes études en sciences sociales (EHESS) and the Fondation Maison des Sciences de l’Homme, where she heads the German-French translation program.






Antje Pfannkuchen, Dickinson College

"Reading the Unreadable - Hieroglyphics between metaphor and electrophore"
February 22, 2018, 3:15pm

Around 1800 hieroglyphics were popular as a concept and a reference in various fields, from science to theology to poetry. Attempts at the decipherment of the Egyptian hieroglyphs coexisted with the use of them as metaphors for various mysteries. Romantics like J.W. Ritter and Novalis learned about hieroglyphics from J.G. Herder and then dreamed of a “Golden Age, when all words become—figurative words—myths—And all figures become—linguistic figures—hieroglyphs—.” (Novalis) While they promised deep wisdom, hieroglyphs remained mostly unreadable, at least until 1822 when J.-F. Champollion published the first decipherments of the Rosetta stone. The Romantic’s desire to relate hieroglyphs to linguistic and therefore comprehensible signs aimed in two directions: to make the world more wondrous and at the same time to find deeper understanding of life’s mysteries. Some of the enigmatic inquiries the Romantics pursued lay in the most advanced sciences of their time and in images and signs they found in nature. A central question was whether and how these signs could be read.

a pfannkuchen2018Antje Pfannkuchen teaches at Dickinson College in Pennsylvania. She has published on Georg Christoph Lichtenberg, Johann Kaspar Lavater, Johann Wilhelm Ritter and works on a book manuscript tracing the connections between Romanticism and the invention of photography. Most recently she coedited “The Technological Introject. Friedrich Kittler between Implementation and the Incalcuable.”



Fall 2017

Tammo Feldmann, Stanford University

"Nature-Reading without Nature-Writing: Poetic Sensibility in Friedrich Schelling's Naturphilosophie"
September 20, 2017, 2pm


Friedrich Schelling and Friedrich Schlegel appear to occupy opposing poles on a spectrum of Romantic worldviews. Schlegel rejected a philosophy based on first principles and relied on the empirical sciences rather as inspiration than taking them to provide objective truth: He saw human experience as context-dependent, situated in the particularities of history and language. He is remembered primarily as a literary critic and aesthetic theorist. Schelling, by contrast, understood himself to be a systematic philosopher in the Kantian tradition—a philosopher who leaned heavily on the findings of the empirical sciences of his time. Yet this familiar dichotomous account of German Romanticism—which places Schlegel, particularity, and poetry on one side, and Schelling, systematic philosophy, and science on the other—overlooks the common intellectual commitments of these strange philosophical bedfellows. Schelling and Schlegel shared the view that the natural world can only be understood relationally: nature is critically received through our sensory faculties and also actively constructed through our intellects. This shared notion of nature as a relational concept engenders and necessitates a particular poetic sensibility in Schelling’s Naturphilosophie. Instead of erecting an opposition between human beings and an external natural world, Schelling, in soaring lyric moments, forges a place for human experience within nature. Schelling's poetic readings of nature resist crude anthropomorphism as much as they resist reductive naturalism and guide us towards poesis, a creative poetic engagement with the natural world that allows us to apprehend nature as simultaneously external and internal, intelligible and unfathomable. 

Feldmann Photo Sep Lecture.smallTammo Feldmann is a fifth year PhD student at Stanford University and visiting research scholar at Harvard University. He specializes in German intellectual history from the late eighteenth to the late nineteenth century with particular attention to the intersection of Continental philosophy and the history of science. He has taught survey courses on German Romanticism as well as courses on Philosophy and Literature. His dissertation, “Humanism without Anthropocentricism” explores the relationship between Romantic Naturphilosophie and German literature of the early 19th century.



Spring 2017

Henrik S. Wilberg, University of Minnesota (Morris)

"Monogrammatology, or: Language before Critique (Kant and Herder around 1774)"
March 8, 2017, 12pm

“Before” indicates how the German eighteenth century comes to summon language in a double sense. In the most straightforward of these, it addresses what is known as the “pre-critical” period in German letters: the period prior to the publication of the first edition of Immanuel Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason (1781). The second sense is topological and incorporates a characteristic feature of “critique” itself: a decisive turn in the thinking of language takes place in what contemporaries themselves clearly recognized as “a critical age”. In this view, the emergence of something like a critical perspective changes the possibilities for thinking language: If language is to appear, it must appear before critique; appearance as such means to appear before what Kant calls the Gerichtshof der Vernunft (tribunal of reason). 

Focusing on the relation between Kant and Herder in the early 1770s, this lecture advances a paradox concerning this appearance of language: language cannot appear unless it does so before critique, yet the critical age is marked precisely by a repeated failure to produce language before the court, to have it come into plain view. 

wilbergHenrik S. Wilberg is Assistant Professor of German at the University of Minnesota (Morris). A native of Norway, he studied at the University of Vienna, the University of Perugia, and the École normale supérieure in Paris before receiving his Ph.D. from Northwestern University in 2016. Recently published articles include “The Forestial Interior. The Dislocation of Language in Walter Benjamin’s Early Writings” (The Germanic Review, 2016) and “Translation as Subversion. Ludwig Tieck’s Don Quixote and the Poetic Logic of Jena Romanticism” (Monatshefte, 2016). He is currently finishing a book-length manuscript called The Anarchy of Language, on letters and figures of subversion in the German tradition from Leibniz to Hegel, and has begun work on a new project, The Aesthetic State. Poetic Language and Statehood in Burckhardt, Nietzsche, Hofmannsthal, and George.


Sarah Pourciau, Princeton University

"Schoenberg's 'and': On the Politics of Conjunction in Moses und Aron and the 'Double Monarchy' of the Twelve-Tone Work"
March 29, 2017, 12pm

Arnold Schoenberg’s unfinished masterpiece, the 12-tone opera Moses und Aron, treats the challenge of forging a nation under the aegis of a singular God-idea; his unfinished manuscripts on the “musical idea” treat a parallel challenge with respect to the musical composition. In both cases, the One-over-Many in question is as emphatic as it is problematic. The lecture will examine these contemporaneous projects against the backdrop of the 19th century organicist models of unity to which they respond (Wagner, Hegel), in order to broach the possibility of a particularly Schoenbergian—and, perhaps, peculiarly Austrian—solution to the modernist conundrum of the Work.

PourciauSarah Pourciau is an assistant professor of German at Princeton University. She holds a PhD in German from Princeton (2007) and an M.A. (2001) in Jewish Studies from the Jewish Theological Seminary in New York. Prior to joining the Princeton faculty in 2009, she spent two years at Stanford University as a Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow. Her first book, The Writing of Spirit: Soul, System, and the Roots of Language Science, will appear with Fordham University Press in May, 2017. It seeks to tell a new story about the 19th century emergence and 20th century transformation of a “scientific” approach to language, which has important implications for theories of system formation, poetic structure, and history. Her current book project, under the working title Double Time: Austrian Sovereignty and the Poetics of the Turning Point, examines the process by which a seemingly anachronistic model of political sovereignty—the Hapsburg empire’s failed attempt at constructing a hybrid, trans-national unity—gets reimagined, among Austrian thinkers from Hofmannsthal to Bernhard, as a way of transforming traditional genres.


Manuel Clemens, Rutgers University-New Brunswick

"Politische Unmittelbarkeit. Toleranz als Habitus in Lessings Drama 'Nathan der Weise' "
April 19, 2017, 12pm

Das Anliegen meines Vortrags ist die Verbindung einer Lektüre von Lessings Drama Nathan der Weise mit einer Analyse der gegenwärtigen politischen Landschaft, in der eine als unerschütterlich geltende liberale Ordnung ins Wanken geraten ist. Für diese Analyse steht der Toleranzgedanke des Dramas im Vordergrund und es sollen der Konstitutionsprozess sowie die affektiven Grundlagen von Toleranz untersucht werden. Dabei geraten vor allem die Nebendarsteller als marginalisierte Akteure in den Blick.

Das Ziel des Projekts liegt in der Analyse der affektiven Grundlagen liberaler Gesellschaften, da es davon ausgeht, dass auf dieser Ebene, und nicht erst in der argumentativen Auseinandersetzung, ihre Voraussetzungen verhandelt werden. Politische Unmittelbarkeit drückt ebendiese spontane und ungefilterte Artikulation in der politischen Öffentlichkeit aus. Die übergeordnete Zielsetzung des Projekts liegt in der Frage nach der Konstitution von liberalen Positionen auf der einen und intoleranten und rechtspopulistischen auf der anderen Seite. Es soll einen Beitrag dazu leisten, herauszufinden, vor welchen Proble¬men politische Theorien und intellektuelle Einmischung stehen, wenn sie versuchen, mit anti-populistischen Interventionen in Empfindungswelten einzugreifen, die sie als intolerant und populistisch identifizieren, und im Gegenzug ihre liberalen Positionen verteidigen.

clemensManuel Clemens is a Distinguished Visiting Professor in the Rutgers German Department this year. Dr. Clemens received his Ph.D. in German from Yale University in 2013. He has since taught at Universities in Mexico and Germany. His particular areas of expertise include work on the history of Bildung, aesthetics, and political theory, representations of authority and populism, and Latin American literature and intellectual history from 1750 to the present.

Fall 2016

For the inaugural year of this series, the department is pleased to welcome:

Anna Henke, Rutgers University- New Brunswick

"Beautiful Communities of Souls: The Exception-Become-the-Rule in Butler and Agamben"
October 12, 2016, 12pm-1:30pm

Anna Henke photo 10.12.2016This essay is an exploration of Judith Butler and Giorgio Agamben’s conflicting relationship to the exception-become-the-rule, a turn of phrase that can be traced back to one of Benjamin’s theses in “On the Concept of History” (1940). The juxtaposition is productive because, though both theorists are staunchly left-wing, they adopt opposite positions with regard to it. Agamben, with Schmitt in mind, condemns the exception-become-the-rule while Butler, thinking of reciprocal forgiveness (read: reconciliation between members of her public sphere), lauds it. Indeed, for the former, the exception-become-the-rule points the way to a dystopia that transforms the public sphere into a concentration camp; for the latter, it inaugurates a utopia. 


Michael Auer

"di Leier, die keine Kringe sang": Aesthetics and Politics in Klopstocks Ode "Der Jezige Krieg"
November 7, 2016, 12pm-1:30pm

Klopstock’s marginalization in German Studies is greatly due to the persistence of a powerful narrative linking literary autonomy and de-politicization. And indeed, his revolutionary odes, and the free rhythmic Der jezige Krig in particular, challenge such a narrative inasmuch as they engage an alternate paradigm of autonomy, one whose scope remains expressly socio-political. The talk will explore the subversive potential this paradigm has for the tradition of panegyric amplification as well as for the politics of Klopstock’s time. And it will show that the metrical irregularities of the free rhythms give rise – and ‘voice’ – to an unprecedented form of both lyrical and political self-organization.

Michael Auer photo 11.07.2016Michael Auer is Wissenschaftlicher Assistent in German at the LMU in Munich currently visiting as an Assistant Professor at Harvard. His present book project examines the aesthetic and political commitments of lyrical poetry, with a particular focus on the 18 th century ode (working title: Autonomie als Anlass. Die Ode zwischen politischer und ästhetischer Moderne). He is co-editor of Metzler’s forthcoming Klopstock Handbuch and author of the monograph Wege zu einer planetarischen Linientreue? Meridiane zwischen Jünger, Schmitt, Heidegger und Celan as well as the award winning article “Auf die Verlierer! Heines Nordsee-Oden.”

David Kim, University of California, Los Angeles

"Kafkas private Öffentlichkeit: Kritik einer politischen Imagination"

November 16, 2016, 12pm-1:30pm

Why is it that Kafka's works repeatedly serve as inexhaustible fictional backdrops against which writers and scholars alike denounce basic human rights violations in modern society? From Walter Benjamin and Hannah Arendt to J.M. Coetzee and Ayten Gündoğdu, countless thinkers turn to Kafka for inspiration, as they criticize totalitarian regimes. The aim of this lecture is to explain this intellectual genealogy by taking a close look at theblurring of boundaries between private and public in Kafka's novel Der Prozess and other fictional and autobiographical texts. Scholars have long explained this negotiation as Kafka's writerly attempt to overcome personal struggles and redefine himself in the world. Instead of reiterating this claim, I demonstrate how an even more paradoxical phenomenon--that is, a private public--constitutes the core of Kafka's significance for political imagination in (post)modernity. Lecture in German, discussion in English.

David Kim photo 11.16.2016David D. Kim is Assistant Professor in the Department of Germanic Languages at UCLA. He is the author of Cosmopolitan Parables: Responsibility and Trauma in Contemporary Germany (Northwestern University Press, 2017). His publications include, among others, Imagining Human Rights (De Gruyter, 2015 with Susanne Kaul) and The Postcolonial World (Routledge, 2016 with Jyotsna Singh). Kim received his Ph.D. in German Studies from Harvard University.


Spring 2016

For the inaugural year of this series, the department is pleased to welcome:

Barbara Natalie Nagel, Princeton University

"Coquettish Sovereigns - Flirtation and Gender Inversion in German Realism (Storm, Fontane)"
January 27, 2016, 12pm-1:30pm

"In saying no and saying yes, in surrendering and refusing to surrender themselves, women are the masters," Georg Simmel marvels in his seminal essay On Flirtation (1909). According to Simmel, this female empowerment is the result of a queer role-switch occurring in heterosexually-structured scenes of flirtation: the woman "takes on his decision, even if only in a symbolic and approximate fashion." The talk on Coquettish Sovereigns traces the literaray-historical emergences of this complex constellation in realist German language writers and shows that to some men these role-switches can be quite unsettling if also erotically intriguing.

Barbara NagelBarbara Natalie Nagel is an Assistant Professor at Princeton's German Department. At the moment, Barbara is working on a monograph Ambiguous Aggression. Flirtation, Passive Aggression, and Domestic Violence in Realism and beyond. She has published articles, book chapters, and handbook entries on authors including Tacitus, Luther, Jean Paul, Büchner, Melville, Fontane, Jensen, Kafka, Stifter, Hauptmann, and Robert Walser. Her book publications include Der Skandal des Literalen. Barocke Literalisienungen in Gryphius, Kleist, Büchner (2012) and Flirtations: Rhetoric and Aesthetics This Side of Seducation (2015).



Gabriel Trop, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill

Attraction, Individuation, Indifference in Goethe and Schelling
March 23, 2016, 12pm-1:30pm

Schelling's Naturphilosophie construes nature as a system characterized by localized physical-semiotic operations: movement, resistance, attraction, repulsion, expansion, contraction, binding, dissolution, permeability, and passage through zones of indifferentiation that make possible state changes or changes of identity. This talk proposes that some key works by Goethe—above all, Die Wahlverwandtschaften and Faust II—aestheticize and existentialize the representational strategies of Schelling's Naturphilosophie. Identities become consolidated—and in certain cases, suspended or transformed—through a series of naturphilosophical operations that transcend subjectivity and that nevertheless become constitutive for a subject's sense of self.

Gabriel TropGabriel Trop is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Germanic and Slavic Languages and Literatures at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. In addition to articles about Hölderlin, Goethe, Wieland, and other authors, he has written a book entitled Poetry as a Way of Life: Aesthetics and Askesis in the German Eighteenth Century, published by Northwestern University Press (2015).



Annie Pfeifer, Rutgers University-New Brunswick

Talking Trash: A Genealogy of the Ragpicker
April 6, 2016, 12-1:30pm

In her 2001 film, The Gleaners and I, Agnès Varda redefines "gleaner"—a person who collects leftover crops from farmers' fields after they have been commercially harvested—to include anyone who thrives off something others leave behind. Varda herself proclaims to be a gleaner, inserting herself into a rich artistic tradition of ragpicking or junk collecting which already begins with Walter Benjamin and Charles Baudelaire. Analyzing the ragpicker as an important critical and creative force, the talk makes a case for gleaning as a practice of redeploying waste with transformative aesthetic and political implications.

1-Annie PfeiferAnnie Pfeifer is a Visiting Lecturer in the Department of Germanic, Russian, and East European Languages and Literatures at Rutgers University-New Brunswick. Her research focuses on twentieth-century German and comparative literature, with a special interest in the areas of literary theory, aesthetics, visual and materials culture, new materialism, and museum studies. She is currently completing her book manuscript on modernist practices of collecting. In 2014-2015, she was a lecturer in German Studies and Comparative Ltierature at the University of Bern, Switzerland. She has forthcoming articles in The New German Critique, as well as in the edited volume Que(e)rying Consent.


Kristina Mendicino, Brown University

Undoing—Creating—Anew: One Else Lasker-Schüler's Der Siebente Tag and the Neue Gemeinschaft
April 20, 2016, 12pm-1:30pm

Before the avant-garde movements with which Else Lasker-Schüler would be associated during and after her collaboration with Herwarth Walden on Der Sturm, she participated in the Neue Gemeinschaft, a collective that should have been, as its members repeatedly proclaimed, at the vanguard of a new life, and at a nigh-immeasurable distance from the political and physical spaces of contemporary Wilhelmine Germany. Unlike her contemporaries Gustav Landauer and Martin Buber, Else Lasker-Schüler never presented a programmatic statement for the Neue Gemeinschaft, nor did she share its participants' emphatic insistence upon the new. But in Der siebente Tag, the cycle of poems she published one year after the collective had dissolved, she poetically engages some of the main preoccupations of the group, setting the collection under the auspices of the second book of Genesis, which beings on the seventh day, when Creation would have been complete and set to rest—only to be told yet again, differently, and to become profoundly troubled. Through close readings, the talk will trace how Lasker-Schüler's poems expose alternative ways of thinking through the aporias of the former avant-garde movement and impart some of the most radical articulations of the problems of creation and novelty at the turn of the century.

1-Kristina MendicinoKristina Mendicino is an Assistant Professor for German Studies at Brown University and former Assistant Editor for The German Quarterly. She has published articles on Brecht, Hegel, Celan, Nietzsche, and Hölderlin. Most recently, she completed a monograph on the rhetoric of prophecy in eighteenth- and nineteenth-century German writing entitled Prophecies of Language: The Confusion of Tongues in German Romanticism, which will appear with Fordham University Press.




“Beautiful Communities of Souls: The Exception-Become-the-Rule in Butler and Agamben”

“Before” indicates how the German eighteenth century comes to summon language in a double sense. In the most straightforward of these, it addresses what is known as the “pre-critical” period in German letters: the period prior to the publication of the first edition of Immanuel Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason (1781). The second sense is topological and incorporates a characteristic feature of “critique” itself: a decisive turn in the thinking of language takes place in what contemporaries themselves clearly recognized as “a critical age”. In this view, the emergence of something like a critical perspective changes the possibilities for thinking language: If language is to appear, it must appear before critique; appearance as such means to appear before what Kant calls the Gerichtshof der Vernunft (tribunal of reason).

Focusing on the relation between Kant and Herder in the early 1770s, this lecture advances a paradox concerning this appearance of language: language cannot appear unless it does so before critique, yet the critical age is marked precisely by a repeated failure to produce language before the court, to have it come into plain view.