Research Agenda

Though the materialities and medialities of film, theatre and visual art each have a logic of their own, they all show points of contact and exchange with literature – as when literary texts become involved in theatrical performances, supply the motifs for paintings or are adapted as films. As well, through literature the manifestations of visual and performing arts are retrospectively documented, commented on or transformed anew. Research Area 2, Travelling Matters is attentive to the many ways in which different art forms interact with, adopt, and translate elements from literature. We are also interested in the transformations of literary styles and principles as they come into contact with the material conditions and practices that shape other art forms - as happens with literary texts specifically produced to serve other art forms, such as libretti or screenplays. Thus, we will test and challenge the Cluster's core concept of an intermediary literary practice.


'Travelling Matters' refers to the circulation of objects and materialities, but it also stresses that objects and materialities are themselves always in motion. When a text travels, a whole variety of people, objects, media and material conditions participate in constituting a “temporal community”. A community's inception and its persistence therefore are always shaped by the diverse transformations of the human and non-human agents involved (e.g. artists, audiences, objects, materials and media).

Literature's transmission through space and time must be seen as a series of shifts from one type of materiality to another, as a series of adaptations, each of which transforms the temporal relations of the object adapted. In these shifts between media, we argue, literature and other arts engage with each other most intensely, creating new communities; and it is also in such shifts that the various media themselves are consistantly re-constituted.

Matter and Mediality

Within the spatio-temporal entanglements of temporal communities, materiality assumes the role of a powerful node or pivot. We do not conceive of materiality as simply given that is thus waiting to be decoded or transformed, but instead focus on its processual and performative aspects. On the one hand, this processual notion of materiality is manifest within activities that shape and produce material phenomena. On the other hand, it is also within the practices of responding to, (re-)interpreting and (re-)contextualising such material phenomena. The idea of 'material interaction' is thus explored in RA 2 as key to a deeper understanding of how the temporal mobility of materialities manifests in relation to literature.

Whenever material objects and physical media participate in transmitting meaning, that meaning will inevitably be affected by the nature of the medium and material employed, since media and materiality possess a semantic potential of their own. The interface between the medium and its materiality constitutes one of RA 2’s central foci. These relations are rapidly gaining in importance, as the digital is becoming a fundamental dimension of aesthetic production, especially in visual art. However, the notion of medium/media relevant to our context does not primarily refer to technological media; indeed, RA 2’s aim is to address all processes of semantic encoding. We therefore have to question whether genres or art forms themselves ought to be regarded as media or even as materials.