17 Jan 2018 · 7.00 pm

John Zilcosky (University of Toronto): Wrestling, or The Art of Disentangling Bodies

Venue: ZfL, Schützenstr. 18, 10117 Berlin, 3. Et., Trajekte-Tagungsraum

Why did Plato write so much about wrestling? One explanation is biographical: he was an avid wrestler; »Plato« was his ring name, describing his »broad« shoulders. But a quick glance at Plato’s writings reveals more than biographical interest. As he knew, wrestling was not just ancient Greece’s most popular sport. It was arguably its most prominent cultural metaphor—used to delineate cunning, sexuality, virtuosity, and more. More than this, wrestling was central to the elementary education of Greek boys—to paideia in all its senses. As Plato understood, controlling wrestling’s meaning meant controlling vital aspects of culture and politics. Correspondingly, he proposed instructing wrestling according to particular precepts that reached well beyond technique – toward a revolutionizing of mythical discourses about the body and the soul. With the stakes around wrestling so high, it is not surprising that post-Platonic writers and thinkers continued to contest its significance—through the Middle Ages, the Enlightenment, and the present day.

The lecture will be held in English.

John Zilcosky is Professor for German and Comparative Literature at the Departments Germanic Languages & Literatures and Comparative Literature at the University of Toronto. He is a member of the editorial board of the German Studies series by Continuum Press and Legenda Books, and of the advisory board of the Kafka Research Centre at the Oxford University. Zicosky is the honorary president of the ICLA Research Committee on Literary Theory.
At the suggestion of Stefan Willer (ZfL)  he received the Friedrich Wilhelm Bessel Research Award by the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation in 2017.

Publications (selection):

  • Uncanny Encounters. Literature, Psychoanalysis and the End of Alterity (Evanston, Ill. 2016)
  • Writing Travel. The Poetics and Politics of the Modern Journey (ed., Toronto 2008)
  • Kafka’s Travels. Exoticism, Colonialism, and the Traffic of Writing (New York 2003)