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In close cooperation with a group of scholars from various disciplines, the workshop aims to counter the outdated narrative of loss with new fundamental research on the riddle in the modern age.