11 Nov 2022 · 9.00 am

Das Rätsel in der Moderne

Venue: Leibniz-Zentrum Allgemeine Sprachwissenschaft, Schützenstr. 18, 10117 Berlin, staircase B, 4th floor, Seminarraum 403
Organized by Dana Steglich (Johannes-Gutenberg-Universität Mainz), Eva Stubenrauch (ZfL)
Contact: Eva Stubenrauch

The heyday of the riddle is usually located in the Middle Ages and the early modern period. The riddle flourished where it was needed: as a form of competition at court, in children’s games, or in the social space of private salons. However, according to a dominant academic thesis, the decoupling of literature and usage in the 18th century led to the riddle losing its significance. After the end of the First World War and the many profound changes that followed in Europe, the riddle became irrelevant (Schittek), or it only remained in its “naked structure” (Schupp) in the form of the crossword puzzle.

This workshop will fundamentally revise this narrative. In view of the riddle’s constitutive function for literary genres of the 19th century (the Gothic novel, the fantastic tale, the detective novel), due to its significance in 20th century art and cultural theory (from Nietzsche to Plessner to Adorno) and the multitude of different variants of riddles to be found in contemporary entertainment and event culture (Escape Rooms, computer games), the workshop will focus on the specifically modern forms of the riddle. Instead of disappearing or becoming superfluous, so the workshop presumes, the riddle went on to become a cornerstone of modern forms of perception and social interaction. Since it radically questions the status of reality, the riddle provokes the search for theoretical, psychological, social, and aesthetic solutions while repeatedly (re)setting society’s self-assurance into motion.

In close cooperation with a group of scholars from various disciplines, the workshop aims to counter the outdated narrative of loss with new fundamental research on the riddle in the modern age.


Fig. above: Sam. Source: Unsplash.



  • Dana Steglich (Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz), Eva Stubenrauch (ZfL): Introduction


  • Doren Wohlleben (Philipps University of Marburg): Rätselkonzepte in der Literatur: Von der Antike in die Moderne


  • Charlotte Coch (University of Cologne): Von der Expansion und dem Ungenügen an der kleinen Form. Zum Verhältnis von ‘Rätsel’ und ‘Rätselhaftem’


  • Dina Bijelic (Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin): Das Rätsel als Denkform religiöser Wahrheit


  • Oliver Precht (ZfL): Rätsel in der Revolutionsgeschichtsschreibung


  • Eva Axer (ZfL): “What am I?” – Rätselformen und nicht-menschliche Sprecherpositionen im Gegenwartsroman


  • Friedrich Balke (Ruhr-Universität Bochum): “6,9 Sekunden Hitze und Licht”. Wirklichkeitsbegriffe und die Rätsel des Dokumentarischen


  • Johannes Bennke (The Hebrew University of Jerusalem): Krypto-Ikonizität in der Moderne. Medialität und Ästhetik von NFTs


  • Markus Wiemker (TH Köln – University of Applied Sciences): Rätsel im Escape-Room


  • Melanie Fritsch (Heinrich Heine University Düsseldorf): Musikalische Rätsel in digitalen Spielen


  • Discussion of materials


  • Dana Steglich (Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz), Eva Stubenrauch (ZfL): Abschluss