Cultures of Text and Religion

The project investigates the afterlives of religious interpretive traditions in modernity. It thus scrutinizes the relationship between the religious reading of so-called sacred texts and the emergence of (post)modernist literary theory. Within the cultural areas of Judaism and Christianity, the paradigmatic example is biblical commentary and exegesis. The main hypothesis guiding our research is that notions of reading, interpretation, canon, and meaning traditionally related to sacred texts still persist in philological disciplines, literary hermeneutics, and textual interpretation. This longevity is all the more striking given historical developments, like the decline of the interpretative dominance of theology, the formation of hermeneutics as a »secular« academic discipline, and the replacement of the religious canon by literature.

The project examines 19th- and 20th-century texts from literary studies and critical theory—as well as contributions from biblical studies, theology, and religious studies—which engage with »holy texts.« Exemplary authors include Friedrich Schleiermacher, David F. Strauss, Max Weber, Martin Buber, Franz Rosenzweig, Rudolf Bultmann, Jacques Derrida, and Harold Bloom, among others. We also deal with debates and discourses ranging from the Life of Jesus controversy (1840), to the Bible-Babel debate (1900), biblical politics (circa 1930), and »Midrash and literature« (especially since the 1980s). The textual notions under examination encompass, for instance, critique, commentary, and translation, while the sets of problems germane to the project include the founding of hermeneutics as an academic discipline, the philological study of non-Western religions, and the debates surrounding issues of canon and world literature.

Just like philology, theology situates textual practices among its primary interests, such as reading, understanding, interpreting, and translating texts. Though the disciplines of philology and theology have been conceived as starkly divergent, despite their common and explicit textual-based focus, they actually benefit from reciprocal stimulation. With that aim in mind, the project seeks to deepen the interdisciplinary dialogue between literary, cultural, and biblical studies.

Fig. above: The Talmud, first page of the Tractate Berachot (Benedictions) in the first order Zeraim (Seeds) from the Babylonian Talmud, Source: Wikimedia

Program funding through the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) 2014–2016
Head researcher(s): Daniel Weidner
Associate Researcher(s): Yael Almog, Caroline Sauter

Publications

Yael Almog

Secularism and Hermeneutics

Intellectual History of the Modern Age series
University of Pennsylvania Press, Philadelphia 2019, 216 pages
ISBN: 978-0-8122-5125-8
Yael Almog, Caroline Sauter, Daniel Weidner (ed./eds.)

HEILIGE TEXTE IN DER MODERNE
LEKTÜREN, PRAKTIKEN, ADAPTIONEN

INTERJEKTE 11
Berlin 2017, 100 pages
DOI: 10.13151/IJ.2017.11
Yael Almog, Caroline Sauter, Daniel Weidner (ed./eds.)

Kommentar und Säkularisierung in der Moderne
Vom Umgang mit heiligen und kanonischen Texten

Trajekte-Buchreihe
Wilhelm Fink Verlag, Paderborn 2017, 161 pages
ISBN: 978-3-7705-6140-7
Daniel Weidner (ed./eds.)

Handbuch Literatur und Religion

J.B. Metzler, Stuttgart 2016, 484 pages
ISBN: 978-3-476-05336-7 (eBook); 978-3-476-02446-6 (Hardcover)
Caroline Sauter, Karin Peters (ed./eds.)

Allegorien des Liebens
Liebe – Literatur – Lesen

Königshausen & Neumann, Würzburg 2015, 264 pages
ISBN: 978-3-8260-5448-8

Yael Almog

  • »Sublime Readings: The Emergence of the Aesthetic Bible in Herder’s Writings on Hebrew Poetry«, in: The Simon Dubnow Institute Yearbook, 12 (2013), 337–352
  • Global Religion, Politics and Aesthetics in the Rise of Hermeneutic Thinking, The University of California in Berkeley 2014 (Dissertation, unpublished)
  • (with Caroline Sauter) »Weltliteratur und Weltreligion: Philologie und die Entdeckung fremder Kulturen um 1800«, in: Kritische Ausgabe 28 (2015), 67–72
  • »Public Rituals: Politics and Myth in David Grossman’s To the End of the Land«, in: Politics and Religion, 10:2 (2016), 231–250
  • »Cognition and the Biblical God: Herder’s Response to Leibniz«, in: Beate Allerd (ed.): Herder: From Cognition to Cultural Science, Heidelberg: Synchron Press 2016, 183–196
  • »Die Judenbuche and the ›Judens-buch‹: Hermeneutic Hindrance and Scriptural Reading in Droste-Hülshoff’s Crime Novella«, in: The German Quarterly 89:3 (2016), 328–342

Caroline Sauter

  • »In Babel: Kon(tra)fusion der Sprache in Joyces Finnegans Wake«, in Héctor Canal/Maik Neumann/Caroline Sauter/Hans-Joachim Schott (eds.): Das Heilige (in) der Moderne. Denkfiguren des Sakralen in Philosophie und Literatur des 20. Jahrhunderts, Bielefeld: transcript 2013, 255–277
  • »Hebrew, Jewishness, And Love: Translation in Gershom Scholem’s Early Work«, in: Naharaim 9:1–2 (2015), 151–178
  • »The Ghost of the Poet: Lament in Walter Benjamin’s early Theory, Poetry, and Translation«, in: Ilit Ferber/Paula Schwebel (eds.): Lament in Jewish Thought: Philosophical, Theological, and Literary Perspectives, Berlin/New York: de Gruyter 2014, 205–220
  • »Engel: Figuren der Sprache«, in: Weimarer Beiträge 60:2 (2015), 568–580
  • »The Diabolic Logic of logos: Towards a Hermeneutics of Hell in Goethe’s Faust«, in: Gregor Thuswaldner/Dan Russ (eds.): The Hermeneutics of Hell: Visions and Representations of the Devil in World Literature, New York: Palgrave Macmillan 2016


Daniel Weidner

  • »›Movement of Language‹ and Transcience: Lament, Mourning, and the Tradition of Elegy in Early Scholem«, in: Ilit Ferber/Paula Schwebel (eds.): Lament in Jewish Thought: Philosophical, Theological, and Literary Perspectives, Berlin: de Gruyter 2014, 237–254
  • »›Weh über euch Götzendiener‹: Georg Büchner und die prophetische Rhetorik im Vormärz«, in: Weimarer Beiträge 61:3 (2015), 325–341
  • »›Nichts der Offenbarung‹, ›inverse‹ und ›Unanständige Theologie‹: Kafkaeske Figuren des Religiösen bei Adorno, Benjamin, Scholem und Agamben«, in: Manfred Engel/Ritchie Robertson (eds.): Kafka und die Religion der Moderne / Kafka: Religion and Modernity (Oxford Kafka Studies 3), Würzburg: Königshausen & Neumann 2014, 155–176
  • »Die Gewalt der Schrift. Biblische Erzählverfahren in Patrick Roths‘ Sunrise. Das Buch Joseph«, in: Michaela Kopp-Marx, Georg Langenhorst (eds.): Die Wiederentdeckung der Bibel bei Patrick Roth: Von der Christus-Triologie bis Sunrise. Das Buch Joseph, Göttingen: Wallstein 2014, 189–208
  • »Der Tod und der Text. Dtn 34 als kulturtheoretische Urszene«, in: Paul-Gerhard Klumbies/Ilse Müller (eds.): Bibel und Kultur: Das Buch der Bücher in Literatur, Musik und Film, Leipzig: Evangelische Verlagsanstalt 2016, 9–34
  • »Gleichnisse, Typen, Hieroglyphen, Machtworte. Umschriften der Allegorie in der Bibelexegese des 18. Jahrhunderts«, in: Ulla Haselstein (ed.): Allegorie (DFG Symposion 2014), Berlin: de Gruyter 2016, 158–180
  • »Jenseits, Umkehr, Heilige Schrift. Erzählen im Zeichen der Rückkehr der Religion«, in: Corinna Caduff/Ulrike Vedder (eds.): Gegenwart schreiben. Zur deutschsprachigen Literatur 2000–2015, Paderborn: Fink 2017, 75–84

Older publications:

Events

Conference
15 Jun 2016 – 17 Jun 2016

»Heilige Texte«. Fortleben und Wiederkehr einer Denkfigur in der Moderne

ZfL, Schützenstr. 18, 10117 Berlin, 3. Et.

read more
Conference
25 Jun 2015 – 26 Jun 2015

Texte über Texte. Säkularisierung des Kommentars in der Moderne

ZfL, Schützenstr. 18, 10117 Berlin, 3. Et.

read more
Workshop
13 Oct 2014

Resurrections. The Politics of Paul’s Afterlife

ZfL, Schützenstr. 18, 10117 Berlin, 3. Et., Seminarraum 303

read more