Interdisciplinary Research Centre of Enlightenment Studies in cooperation with the Francke Foundation,
Chairs: Frauke Berndt (Tübingen) & Daniel Fulda (Halle)
Narrating means to arrange an amorphous cluster of incidents into a logically understandable story with an ‚event’ and a specific perspective on the story. This act is not an objective reproduction of reality but a way to order and explain the world. The same can be said for the narration of Enlightenment, including both the narratives by Enlightenment scholars and narratives on Enlightenment ideas. The stories of the 18th century are told in specific modes – bound by the constraints and possibilities of the age. Narration shows itself as a localized factum, that can, however, make far reaching claims, which shows in its impact on the history of philosophy: By narrating Enlightenment, both champions and antagonists of the new philosophy create the narrative „The Enlightenment“. Between narrations that constitute the forming of identities of single individuals and the „great narratives“ which constitute intersubjective communication and the formation of socially relevant meaning, the term „event“ forms the relay which marks the change of state and is related as a turning point of the narrative. (see W. Schmid: Elemente der Narratologie, 22008). Especially the narration of such events helps to form narratives „that determine a culture, which can be understood as institutions within the realm of Semantic“.(A. Koschorke: Wahrheit und Erfindung. Grundzüge einer allgemeinen Erzähltheorie,22012, 293).
Within the treasure trove of European narration, the metanarrative of the Enlightenment plays a central role. On one hand it does not only connect Europe and America until today, but all cultures that commit to the project of Enlightenment and its values, such as freedom of every single individual, the separation of state and religion and the principle of the separation of powers. On the other hand, the meta-narrative of Enlightenment as well as the most important modern forms of narration have their origin in the Age of Enlightenment. There, they are exercised and reflected in various media, especially in literature. Is the Age of Enlightenment a genuine epoch of storytelling? Is the enlightenment movement chiefly and genuinely determined by narration, as it defines itself by distinguishing from a past that is understood as worse? Does Enlightenment have to be narrated? And if the „grand narratives“ allegedly meet their end: can one only refer to many small narratives of enlightenments? These problems will be addressed from an international and interdisciplinary point of view.
I Enlightenment Narration and Narrative
Section 1: ‚The Enlightenment‘: Historical Narrations (Chair: Iwan-M. d’Aprile)
‘The Enlightenment’, no matter if it is understood as a movement or an epoch, has always been the product of a historical narration of which it is the subject. Those narrations first formed during the late 18th century and have been reproduced and rewritten – not always critically reflected – ever since. This section will examine the connection between enlightenment descriptions of the self and description by others in historical narratives and enlightenment narratives of later epochs up to the present.
Section 2: Voice(s) of Reason: Philosophical Narrations (Chair: Heiner Klemme)
Over and over again, Enlightenment philosophers tell tales. On one hand, they pick specific forms of narration such as variations of the narrative example, the fable or the allegorical narration. On the other hand, specific settings and situations are favored. Not just indebted to their various philosophical systems, those narrative stand-ins can generate epistemic knowledge in a unique narratological way. Those voices of reason that are reflected in the contemporary poetics of the novel, are the focal point of this section.
Section 3: Superstition and Belief: Religious Narratives (Chair: Sabine Volk-Birke)
Religious knowledge is transported for the most part by narratives: Acts of God, the life of the founder of the religion and his followers, the possibility of good and bad conduct within the moral framework of the belief system in question. The growing skepticism for dogma within the course of the Enlightenment further enhances this aspect. Yet, the religious criticism of Enlightenment makes good use of narratives as well, commenting on the historical determinism of forms of faith or rising superstitions. The topic of this section will be the narrative structures which can be found in the various uses and which dynamics are created hereby that may even transgress mere religious functionality.
Section 4: Narrative Traditions: Telling of the Other and Others. (Chair: Birgit Neumann)
Enlightenment scholars who seek dialogue with cultures from different geographic regions or ages inevitably have to relate the meeting of the familiar and the foreign. Cultural values, norms and relations of meaning are dependent on narrative mediation. This section will examine narrations of explorers and travel literature of the 18th century as well as narrative reflections on antique art. Which roles do European Enlightenment concepts play when it comes to rendering the Other into narratives and what new concepts are formed by the contact with the Other? Where do the established forms of narrations reach their limits? A special interest is placed on new forms and modes of narration inspired by the contact with the Other and others. On one hand, the contingency of factual and fictional narrations that share an ensemble of distinct topoi will be discussed. On the other hand, the section will focus on the role of the Other and others for the development of the novel in the 18th century.
Section 5: ‚Enlightenment‘ in the Present (Chair: Stephan Kammer)
Narrating Enlightenment, with its adversaries and heroes, its successes and fights, aporias and commitments, remains a popular pattern of self-communication and mobilization, in spite of all criticism and historization „on Enlightenment“.Postulates for the ‚project‘ Enlightenment , for a ‚second’ and even a ‚third’ enlightenment may be regarded as symptoms of the topic value of a narrative that is often instrumentalized in political debates – one only has to think about the discussion on the lecture series on Enlightenment in dialogue with the Mercator foundation in Beijing (2011/12) –, the impact of which can, however, be offered up to debate in other contexts: What do these narratives contribute to research on the history of Enlightenment? What is to be expected of literary, artistic and theoretical cultural varias of such narratives? What legitimization does this updating of Enlightenment give to those narratives – and what perspectives on Enlightenment do they offer?
II 18th century Narratology
Section 6: Theories and Models of Im/possible Worlds (chair: Martin Mulsow)
The differentiation of narrative forms in the 18th century is accompanied by reflections on possible, invented and fictional worlds. Every narration is a doubling of reality that is used – much as non-textual forms of fiction such as probability calculation – as a means of coping with contingency. This section deals with the specific truths of fiction, its reliability and unreliability, which is dependent, on one hand, on an epistemological framework of narration – liars lie, dreamers dream, critics criticize –, on the other hand on the logical structure of the specific doubling.
Section 7: Media of Narration: Inter- and Transmediality (Chair: Jörg Robert)
18th century narratives make use of various media: Besides text-to-text relations, that are transported by quotes, allusions, translations, genre-dependent adaptions of entire texts as well as other intertextual processes, this section will examine the numerous media shifts and media combinations which is made possible by technical developments in the field of popular print media. In this context, the share of transmedial and serial forms of narration is also growing.
Section 8: Narration, Perspective, Ambivalence: Scenes and Roles of Narration (Chair: Fritz Breithaupt)
Enlightenment narration does not speak with one voice, but with many. Seemingly similar events can be related differently from various perspectives. And one narrative can be understood in different ways, depending on the recipient. Doubt, wit and morals are only some of the elements of the new narrative. Several new roles such as the ‚Enlightener’, the ‚(Soul) Healer/Doctor’, the ‚Moralist’ or the ‚Mother’ emerge and give account of events dependent on their different motivations. These shifting perspectives establish clear aims of narration while at the same time undermining them, as they offer the space for other perspectives. The section observes how pluralism and ambivalence of narration are discovered and processed from a historical point of view. Narration is detached from clear instrumentalizations. But what functions are ascribed to it? And how do contemporaries cope with this new freedom and lack of clarity?
Section 9: Narration, Cognition and Affect: Feeling, Sensing, Realizing (Chair: Yvonne Wübben)
Along with the revaluation of subconscious cognitive faculties and the discovery of sensuality, the establishing of modern esthetic and the evolution of poetics into literary theory, new techniques of narrations evolve. Characters and narrators are depicted with a capacity to feel, sense and realize; the psychological concepts ascribed to them constitute themselves within a framework of focalization (inner monologue, free indirect speech and autonomous direct speech). These new modes of narration that evolve especially in literature and their epistemological prerequisites are the topic of this section.
Section 10: Narration in Science – Scientific Narration (Leitung: Anita Traninger)
None of the sciences emerging and specializing during the Enlightenment – Empiricism, Economy, Ecology, Psychology, Pedagogy, etc. – can exist without narration. The hierarchy of text modes is sorted into new structures and responsibilities are newly distributed: In literary texts, knowledge of men and scientific topics are told; new functions are ascribed to narrative techniques in science texts: The Encyclopédie or Bayle’s Dictionnaire find new uses for narration, while fictional texts and novels become the vehicle that transports the new ideas of Enlightenment. This section, which will focus on texts of various generic origins, raises the question how narrative order is newly constituted with regard to Enlightenment science.