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Stefan Keppler-Tasaki (The University of Tokyo)

Stefan Keppler-Tasaki

Stefan Keppler-Tasaki
Image Credit: Seiko Tasaki

Fellow in Research Area 2: "Travelling Matters"

February – March 2022

The Temporal Community of Exiles: Representation of Sanctuaries during War and Refuge

Exile is a phenomenon found throughout history. The particular period of German exile from the 1930s to the 1950s can be located within the temporal community of exile writers that emerges from the tradition of figures such as Laozi, Confucius, Ovid and Dante. Exile writers are in a difficult private and public position. They are usually in need of self-justification, having fallen into disgrace with their home country's government. In addition, they have to re-balance their lives and careers in a context broader than their culture of origin. Against this background, a major strategy of self-legitimation as well as of self-assertion has been to join the fellowship of exiles from all periods. In that vein, Brecht dedicated one of his most efficient exile poems to Laozi, Döblin edited a highly successful anthology of the writings of Confucius and Thomas Mann opened his exile novel Doctor Faustus with a quotation from Dante’s exile work Divina Comedia.

Those educated and 'idealistic' practices of exile writing coincide with its heightened sense for material culture. Exile literature reflects massively on the material challenges of refuge and of building sanctuaries. Poems by Brecht such as "Place of Refuge" and "Workroom," exile autobiographies such as Döblin's Destiny's Journey and Lion Feuchtwanger's The Devil in France or Thomas Mann's diaries, essays and novels are fundamentally informed by views on material infrastructure. This involves to properly materialise intellectual traditions, as Brecht did by collecting scroll paintings of Chinese sages, Feuchtwanger by curating his huge private library and Mann by shielding his study with hundreds of Goethe volumes. Prof Keppler-Tasaki's project revisits German exile literature from the perspective of the entanglement of imagined communities and of building of sanctuaries.

Stefan Keppler-Tasaki specialises in the works and continuing impact of Goethe as well as of German exile writers such as Brecht, Döblin and Thomas Mann, particularly from the perspective of intellectual history and intermedia studies. He was a scholarship holder of the Studienstiftung (1993–1999, 2000–2003), an Assistant Professor for Modern German Literature at the Julius-Maximilians-Universität Würzburg (2002–2005) and the Freie Universität Berlin (2005–2008), as well as a Junior Professor for Modern German Literature at the Freie Universität Berlin (2008–2012). In 2012, he was appointed to a tenure-track professorship for Modern German Literature at the University of Tokyo, Faculty of Letters / Graduate School of Humanities and Sociology. Most recently, he was awarded an Einstein Visiting Fellowship from the Einstein Foundation Berlin (2014–2019), a Thomas Mann Fellowship from the Thomas Mann House Los Angeles (2019) and a Max Kade Distinguished Visiting Professorship from UC Davis (2020). Since the founding of the EXC 2020 Temporal Communities in 2019, he has served as a member of its International Steering Committee.