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Projects Research Area 3

The Invention of the Modern Religious Bookshelf: Canons, Concepts and Communities (2022-)

The aim of the project is to analyse the formation of ‘religious literature’ as a special case of discursive practices in the transition from traditional to modern knowledge formations. It will reveal the specific ways in which religious literature has been excluded from the canon of “literature” in the narrower sense (especially from the canon of national literatures in the 19th century). More importantly, it will focus on the question how religious literature was given a new, peculiar place in the modern system of knowledge that opened a universal horizon – much in contrast to the new canons of national literatures and in interdependence with the new discipline of general and comparative religious studies that emerged in the 19th century.

The Poetics of Philology - A Case Study of the Babylonian Epic Enuma Elish (2021-)

The past twelve years have seen a true groundswell in the field of philology, with an explosion of books and articles bringing new life to this ancient discipline. This postdoctoral project is part of this world philological current, and it seeks to achieve three main goals. First, it puts forward the claim that philology is characterized by attempts to resolve crises of reading, that is, to undo any obstacle that prevents readers from accessing a given text, all the way from scrubbed signs to obscure ontologies. Second, the project examines the poetological consequences of such an approach to ancient literature, asking how philology differs from related disciplines in its treatment of texts and what forms of aesthetic engagement are afforded by the crises of reading. Third, the project will result in a new English translation of Enuma Elish, which will appear as the first volume in the newly launched Library of Babylonian Literature.

Imperial Fictions (2020-)

Few historical characters had such an impact on the premodern imagination as Alexander the Great. Indeed, the fourth-century Greek Alexander Romance, a highly fictionalized account of Alexander’s conquests and adventures, was probably the world’s most widely read secular text between the 4th and the 16th centuries. Translated into Latin, Coptic, Ge’ez, Syriac, Arabic, Byzantine Greek, Armenian, Hebrew, Persian and Mongolian, as well as the majority of the European vernaculars, this text – and the many adaptations it spawned – enjoyed an unrivalled popularity for more than a thousand years. But even before the Alexander Romance was written, Alexander had long been transformed into the hero of myriad legends, bridging the divide between history and fiction, inhabiting and often conflating such diverse generic and conceptual spaces as fairy tale, imperialist propaganda and religious prophecy.
Imperial Fictions examines this remarkable adaptability with a special emphasis on the ways in which the tensions between the historical and fantastical inherent to so many Alexander narratives generate ever new approaches to the issue of temporality.

Premodern Anthologies and the Selective Fictions of Tradition-Building (2019-)

A self-conscious and very specific kind of selection, the anthology constitutes a typical premodern pattern of con­structing literary history. From late antiquity onwards, there was a growing pressure not only to preserve, but to systematically align and juxtapose literary texts, poems, fragments and exemplary forms of writing through the means of the anthology or florilegium.

Peripety. On the Relation of Tragedy, Time and Theory (2019-)

This project aims at a reconstruction of the theory of peripety in Aristotle as well as in classical and later tragic texts in order to question its function and fungibility within philosophical discourse. In a number of case studies, the project will analyse how (even though it remains mostly unmentioned) the peripety and its temporal-logical structure can be located within metaphysics and the theory of time and history. In particular, turning points from knowledge to non-knowledge, from a happy to an unhappy conscience, shifts of epochs and their dramatisation as revolutions or subliminal processes of reform as well as the conception of the event as peripety in historical time will be scrutinised.

Rewriting the Past, Imagining the Future: Science Fiction as a Self-Writing Genre Community (2019-)

This dissertation argues that genres such as science fiction or detective fiction come into being when communities of production and reception constitute themselves around constellations of texts.