Literary Studies as
social science

The social movements since the 1960s, and especially the 1968 movement, have always reflected on the relationship between art, especially literature and society, between literature and politics - often without a theoretical background. A radical theoretical approach, on the other hand, is the concept of society as an imaginary institution by Cornelius Castoriadis. For him, the social imaginary is an attempt to give the chaos of human existence a form, “a world for to create society” (Castoriadis). Art, and especially literature, has a special place within the social imaginary. The ability of literature is to make “a universe of prosaic reality appear as an immense web of signs, containing written the history of a time, a civilization, or a society.” (Rancière) This, so Rancière, is often a more profound analysis of the political situation than politics itself is able to provide. Literature does not depict reality, but models its complexity in the complexity of the unfathomable possibilities of interpretation of the text. Literature, like all art, criticizes “society by its mere existence […]. What is antisocial in art is a specific negation of a specific society. Of course, through its rejection of society [...] autonomous art also offers itself as a vehicle of ideology: in the distance it also leaves the society, before which you shudder, undisturbed”. (Adorno) This complex relationship between art, as a special place of the imaginary, and other areas of society is an essential, if sometimes insufficiently recognized, component of every social theory. This also outlines the importance of art for peace research.

My activities are centered on the following areas:

  • A literary didactics understood from a cultural-scientific point of view, which insists on the aesthetic stubbornness of art in contrast to all educational efforts to domesticate literature
  • A political education whose focus is expanded through the inclusion of literary works, currents and initiatives without functionalizing literature
  • The work on the establishment of a cultural-scientific peace research, and within this approach "literature and peace" as a separate research area.  
  • Concrete:
  • The investigation of literary and aesthetic representations of violence, war and peace 
  • Participation in theory building in this field and the connection of literary and social science approaches 
  • The peace education processing of the topic

See the ZFF research program (as of the 2010s): as well as my programmatic text on the occasion of the founding of the peace center (2005/2006):

Examples of this are studies on literature, globalization, multilingualism, world literature, transculturality; on literature, war and peace; aesthetics and politics with Bertha von Suttner; on the writer and philosopher Hermann Broch or on the politics of remembrance and literature.

Important links: