The thematic network “Literature – Knowledge – Media” is a binational exchange and research program funded by the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD), and launched in the summer semester 2015.


Coordinated by the Humboldt-Universität, the network aims to establish close cooperations on both a professional and thematic level with the American partner institutions of literary and cultural studies, the history of science, art history, and media studies. Participating in the network are Cornell University, Humboldt-Universität, Harvard University, Johns Hopkins University, New York University, Princeton University, the University of California/Berkeley, and Yale University.


An exchange of scholars takes place in the framework of a joint interdisciplinary research program examining constellations of literature, knowledge, and media.

Literature – Knowledge – Media


Since the 1990s the continually expanding research fields of literary studies have been marked by constellations of literature, knowledge, and media. On the one hand, questions about the role of poetic texts in the genesis, circulation, and transformation of knowledge as well as about the observation relations they adopt for orders of knowledge have provided important impulses for the current orientation of literary studies, for its approaches and subjects. The same applies, on the other hand, to the role of media in the processes of literary communication and transmission.

Both a media-historical orientation of perspectives in the history of literature, and the interaction or competition of literatures with other arts and medias have opened up research questions that correlate the genesis, status, and dissemination of literary texts with an extensive complex of conditions made up of technical media, symbolic forms, and cultural practices.

The relation between oral and written culture, the relevance of media technologies such as printing, analogue and digital media, as well as the role of educational institutions and pedagogical practices, and the founding of archives and libraries point to elementary operations which determine the significance of literary cultures, their position in historical orders of discourse and knowledge.

The thematic network “Literature – Knowledge – Media” takes as a starting point these recent orientations and research approaches from literary, cultural, and media studies, as well as from the history of knowledge and science. At the same time, the cross-disciplinary investigation of the problems presented in the history of knowledge and media leads to new advances in this research field.

Key topics


The research program of the thematic network “Literature – Knowledge – Media” is structured through an examination of four key topics. Within these general topics the themes and the program of the summer schools and international conferences will be concretized.


1. Practices / Praktiken (year 1): 

This section focuses on historical and methodological dimensions of cultural techniques and their relation to literary and scientific forms of representation. Of particular interest is the question of the materiality of literary productions. Here, the genesis of texts and the craft of writing, techniques of transmission and distribution, methods of communication and different types of media are understood as procedures and agents that directly affect the character of literary genres and modes of writing, the constitution of meaning in texts, and the status of the literary in general.


2. Resources / Ressourcen (year 2):

Dealt with here are, on the one hand, questions of source and narrative in the broadest sense: from the philological analysis of textual sources to the question of the function of phantasies of origin and source, as well as genealogical concepts within cultural orders. On the other hand, special attention is paid to the “raw materials” of literature and knowledge, their medial and institutional modes of production, formats and reciprocal exchange.


3. Transformations / Transformationen (year 3):

This section deals with the perception and coding of changes, ruptures, and transformations in the history of literature, knowledge, and media. Of particular interest here are among other things processes of transfer involving the migration and re-import of theories, practices, and persons within scientific and cultural systems. Knowledge turns out to be inextricably linked to diverse and complex processes of the transfer, reception, adaptation, and modification of knowledge and methods.


4. Expertise / Expertise (year 4):

This section focuses on questions about the hierarchization of knowledge, the relation between expertise and dilettantism, and practices of inclusion and exclusion in scientific and artistic processes. Linked with the hierarchization of structures and processes is the emergence of a whole series of (popular) figures and narrations: the intellectual, the nerd, the whistle blower, and the elder statesman, etc.



The measures of the thematic network “Literature – Knowledge – Media” set out to combine reliable and stable cooperation structures with flexible support instruments. Measures take place on three complementary levels:


1) Regular strategy meetings of the participating professors and coordinators.


2) Measures to increase the mobility of researchers at different stages in their careers, complemented by a joint agenda for events such as summer schools, conferences, and (graduate) workshops, whose content should be oriented to the year’s key topic.


3) A third research-related level should promote an internationalization of the curriculum on the one hand, while also aiming to develop broader research perspectives on the other.


Promoted are research and teaching stays at the partner universities, intensive seminars, and guest lectures by researchers participating in the exchange.

 Project aims


The aim of the thematic network “Literature – Knowledge – Media” is to establish an international cooperation in research and teaching that profits from the different priorities in the American humanities on the one hand, and in the German Geisteswissenschaften and Kulturwissenschaften on the other.


While especially American science studies provides important impulses for the understanding of the cultural- and social-historical dimensions of the modern sciences and orders of knowledge, German cultural studies with its focus on the theory and history of media offers fertile perspectives for new work. This has led to a field of productive exchanges in which a central position is claimed for the question about the formation of literary cultures, about their relation to orders of knowledge and media conditions.


Against the background of this thematic accent, the program is concerned with the long-term internationalization of teaching in the participating departments of the Humboldt-Universität, and the systematic involvement of neighboring disciplines in the partner universities, especially science and media studies, and the history of art.


The main focus here is on a sustained increase in mobility at graduate, doctoral, and post-doc levels, as well as for experienced academics. In addition to the support of young researchers in their mobility and their international network- and profile-building, this should also encourage the setting up of a stable, non-personal, and multilateral structure.