Research Projects

Excellence Cluster Temporal Communities – Doing Literature in a Global Perspective (EXC 2020) (Cluster Director) (2019-)

The principal aim of the Cluster is to create a novel theoretical and methodological take on literature in a global perspective; a global perspective defined most significantly through its ineluctable links to temporality. This take moves beyond the traditional categories of nation and era, conceiving of literature instead as a transcultural and transtemporal phenomenon in deep time. Assuming that literature is a fundamentally performative and intermedial phenomenon – rather than a merely textual one – a form of social action taking place in complex networks of human and non-human agents, something that humans do and that exists only because humans do it, the Cluster studies how literature becomes global through its temporal entanglements.

Introducing the notion of “temporal communities,” the Cluster investigates the ways in which literature reaches out through space and time by establishing extensive transtemporal networks, networks in which the very notion of literature itself, both as an aesthetic and a social praxis, is constantly re-constituted as it interacts with other arts and media, with all manner of institutions and material conditions. “Temporal Communities” thus are the sites where the multifarious entanglements that literary phenomena enter into resonate in and through time, sometimes even spanning millennia.

Moderator and Member of Research Area 3, “Future Perfect”:

The research area explores literature’s ability to construct complex temporalities of its own, shaping temporal communities potentially over long expanses of time. RA 3 focuses on literature’s involvement in imagining as well as participating in diverse, often multiple temporalities. It studies how literary texts imagine their own reception in the future and forge temporal communities for themselves. How do cultural practices such as philology construct temporalities, e.g. by establishing chronologies or freezing textual objects in zones of radical synchronicity? How is literary history constituted through teleological narratives?

DEEPDEAD: Deploying The Dead: Artefacts and Human Bodies in Socio-Cultural Transformations, HERA-Project (Humanities in the European Research Area) (2016-2019)

The past persists in material objects, perhaps most profoundly in the bodies of the long-dead and the artefacts associated with them. Such bodies, like those of Richard III and Cervantes, are erupting into view in contemporary Europe with increasing frequency. Whilst offering opportunities for education and the promotion of heritage, such encounters with the dead can also pose unsettling questions about cultural identity, the collective past, and the shape of time.

Why do the long-dead become flashpoints of identity for the living? Harnessing the disciplines of literature and archaeology, DEEPDEAD will examine historic and prehistoric encounters with human remains and related artefacts in England and Central Europe in order to shed light on their cultural and social power. Through a series of case studies juxtaposing distinct eras, cultures, and modes of recording the encounter, the project will reveal what is constant and what is locally and historically specific in our ways of interacting with the long-dead. Our research will explore the relationship between long-dead bodies and myths of national or community origin, and the ways in which they have been used to reinforce or challenge historical narratives. The project will thus lead to a better understanding of why these forms of matter provoke such a range of responses, and how stakeholders including archaeologists, curators, policy-makers, and the public might better anticipate and understand the reactions they elicit.

Discursivizations of the New. Tradition and Renewal in Medieval and Pre-modern Texts, DFG-Research Project (2016- )

The discussion about the authority of the Past and the right of the New has been repeatedly marked as the watershed moment between pre-modernity and the modern.Pitted against this backdrop several individual studies have suggested that, rather than presuming a radical break, longer periods of time and complex agency would also have to be considered.

The research unit The Discursivation of the New. Tradition and Renewal in Medieval and Pre-modern Texts aims to create a systematic foundation for individual research. By analysing predominantly literary texts of differing European language and cultural spheres - ranging from the 12th to the 18th century - the question of how these texts negotiate the relationship between Old and New will be explored, theoretically and in practice.

Collaborative Reasearch Centre (CRC) 980 Episteme in Motion. Transfer of Knowledge from the Ancient World to the Early Modern Period (2012- )

Project B01: “Artefacts, Treasures and Ruins - Materiality and Historicity in the Literature of the English Middle Ages”, Head of Concept Group II: “Time and Historicity”

It is the central hypothesis of the project that the representation of archaeological objects – ruins, treasures and especially (fragmentary) archaeological artefacts – in the literature of the English and Scottish Middle Ages generates alternative discourses of historical knowledge which are not voiced in the historiographical grands récits of the Christian Middle Ages. They go beyond these master narratives and potentially question them in the form of a counter-discourse.

DFG-Project Ekphrasis and Literariness (2008-2011)

Ekphrasis: Literariness and Tradition in Late Medieval and Early Modern Literature

The literary studies project, which is part of the work of the ‘Topics and Tradition’ interdisciplinary research group, examines the topos of ekphrasis in late Medieval and Early Modern literature.

The focus is the question of how ekphrasis generates new and theoretical, yet largely implicit knowledge of representation. It examines how this knowledge, which is developed by making conscious use of tradition, plays a vital role in staging literariness in English language writing in the late medieval and Early Modern periods, and how this knowledge can be used in the discussion of tradition itself.

Project in the Excellence Cluster Languages of Emotion (2008-2010)

Passion and Distinction: Functions of Love in English Literature in the Late Middle Ages and Early Modern Period

The 14th century witnesses the development in England of a literary field in Bourdieu’s sense. Central issues of literariness are negotiated via a discourse of courtly love which finds its most ambitious expression in Geoffrey Chaucer’s romance Troilus and Criseyde (c. 1385). Here love is established as a kind of umbrella emotion which integrates and generates other emotions, such as fear, hope, or mourning. Chaucer’s text scrutinizes love both in terms of its textual and narrative genesis and in terms of its being socially and culturally constructed. Moreover, the romance elevates love to a privileged site for discussing the problem of subjectivity.

As we see how the generation, development and encoding of the emotion are placed at the centre of attention we understand how the narrative production of complex emotional phenomena turns into a marker of literariness as well as into an element of social distinction. It does not, therefore, come as a surprise that Troilus and Criseyde succeeds in retaining its status as a model text for questions of courtly love until well into the Renaissance.

This project seeks to analyse first, the process according to which a broad Chaucerian textual tradition makes use of Troilus and Criseyde for the purposes of giving expression to and critiquing increasingly complex notions of emotion, and second, how that same tradition becomes the site on which the emotions are conceptualized not only as literary phenomena but also as phenomena which participate in defining the very idea of literariness.