Material Practises of Literature

Material Practises 
of Literature

Summer School 2015 of the thematic network “Literatur – Wissen – Medien” and the PhD-Net “Das Wissen der Literatur”


Dorothea Walzer



The question of the materiality of literary production has become the subject of comprehensive and expanding research for quite some time now. In these inquiries, the genesis of texts and the craft of writing, techniques of transmission and distribution, means of communication and different types of media are conceived of as processes and agencies that determine the characteristic of literary genres and writing styles, the constitution of meaning of texts and the status of the literary in general.


The 2015 Summer School of the thematic network “Literature – Knowledge – Media” is dedicated to the substantive, historical, and methodological dimensions of material practices of literature. With the working themes Media of Literature, Writing, Praxeology and Archives, the focus will be on the one hand on the medial, material and cultural-technical conditions of writing and the poetic processes of literary knowledge production. On the other hand, the philological, editorial and archival practices of passing on that organize the literary field will be up for discussion. These practices shape its boundaries and thereby determine what becomes visible and articulable in the field of literature, what can be remembered in it and what will be forgotten.


July 17, 2015
Media of Literature

Under the theme Media of Literature, the media of literature as well as media in literature will be examined. Thus, it will not only be about which medial requirements – such as handwriting and printing, letter and postal communication – enable the formation and transformation of literary cultures. Through the thematization of media in literature, aspects of how literature delineates and reflects its own function, its aesthetic self-understanding and its communicative capability can be recognized.


10:00 – 10:15

Welcome and introduction by Joseph Vogl (HU-Berlin) and Dorothea Walzer (HU- Berlin)


Reading with Joseph Vogl (HU-Berlin) and Karin Krauthausen (HU-Berlin)

Peter Gilgen (Cornell): Die Literatur im Zeitalter der Massenmedien: Form, Medium, System (research report)


Paul Fleming (Cornell): Pens, Tongues, Words: The Media of Mistakes (Freud) (research report)

July 20, 2015

In the second theme on Praxeology philological practices that can be interpreted as the expression of practical knowledge or “know how” will be discussed. In contrast to a knowledge of rules, such a knowledge of praxis is determined by unconscious routines of dealing with literature, its habitual, internalized and artisanal character. Particularly interesting in this regard are the practices of handling texts, the concept formation and problem formulation, the objectification and validation or displaying claims to validity that regulate and differentiate the disciplinary field of literary studies from other realms of knowledge production. At the same time, this brings up the question of the acquisition of practical skills and of the meaning of observation and imitation that are implied in their implementation.



Reading with Steffen Martus (HU-Berlin) and Pál Kelemen (HU-Berlin)

Carlos Spoerhase (HU-Berlin)/Kaspar Renner (HU-Berlin): Nachlassen als Praxisform. Literatur, Archiv, Philologie (research report)


Thomas Wiemer (DFG, Bonn): Wie sich eine scientific community organisiert. Beobachtungen aus der Binnenperspektive einer Selbstverwaltungsorganisation der Wissenschaft (research report)


Nikolaus Wegmann (Princeton): Mediengebrauch: Ein Grundbegriff der Philologie?

July 21, 2015

The theme Writing will consider the cultural techniques and procedures that organize the writing process: starting with manuals and private exercises that facilitate the stimulation of thoughts, moving on to the slips of paper for managing ideas, up to the performance of writing acts, specifically the involvement of concrete utensils – stylus, scissors, paper and so forth – in the gradual manufacturing of thoughts and texts. A special emphasis will be put on writing in small forms, on the examination of material, (temporal-)economic and situational conditions that force a formal reduction and can just as well be expressed in the extreme strictness of form as in its renunciation.



Reading with Ethel Matala de Mazza (HU-Berlin)

Patrizia McBride (Harvard): Embodied Writing: Constructivism and Literary Activism in Benjamin’s Einbahnstraße (research report)


Lothar Müller (Berlin): Die stilbildende Kraft von Raum und Zeit. Über das Schreiben in vordefinierten Formaten (research report)


Andrea Krauß (Hopkins): Schriftkörper. Materialität in Jean Pauls Leben Fibels

July 22, 2015

A forth theme is concerned with the dispositifs of collecting, storing and passing on, as well as of sorting out, throwing away and drafting, particularly as they were in the long 19th century, but also in the digital present with its new storage capacity and threat of loss that are virulent and discussed in literature. With the question of what is considered antique, worth collecting and archiving, emerges the problematic of cultural inheritance, of storage mediums and the organizing principles of collections (in museums, libraries, archives, but also in conglomerations, albums, slip boxes), the materialities and the functions of memory.



Reading with Ulrike Vedder (HU-Berlin) and Burkhardt Wolf (HU-Berlin)

Judith Ryan (Harvard): Tiefseefischen im Archiv:  Über Durs Grünbeins Vorlaß in Marbach, mit einigen Gedanken zu seinem Gedicht ‚Remora‘ (research report)


Nicolas Pethes (Universität Köln): Archivfiktionen: Zählen und Erzählen in der Literatur des 19. Jahrhunderts (research report)


Stefan Willer (ZfL): Familienerbe und Literaturarchiv: Nietzsches Sterben und Nachleben im Archiv seiner Schwester



Humboldt Universität zu Berlin
Philosophische Fakultät II
Institut für deutsche Literatur


Dorotheenstraße 24
10099 Berlin


We thank all contributors of the 2015 Summer School.

Photographer: Dorothea Walzer