Exploration of the Carlo Barck Archive. Extra-European Relations in the Conception of the “Basic Concepts of Aesthetics”

Alongside Reinhart Koselleck’s Basic Concepts in History and Joachim Ritter’s Historical Dictionary of Philosophy, the historical dictionary Basic Concepts of Aesthetics (Ästhetische Grundbegriffe) that was developed at the ZfL between 2000 and 2005 and published in seven volumes is regarded as one of the most important 20th century dictionaries of its kind. Starting in the 1980s, the Basic Concepts of Aesthetics became one of the few scientific projects that were conceived in the context of the GDR and continued after 1989. It is thus a significant testimony to the history of science between East and West Germany, and its managing editor Karlheinz “Carlo” Barck (1934–2012) was the project’s central figure from the very beginning.

In contrast to the other two dictionary projects, the Basic Concepts of Aesthetics seeks a reconstitution of the order of knowledge. The focus is not on the historical explanation of concepts, but on the examination of current conflicts through the identification of “basic concepts.” In the introduction, these are understood as “semantic sites of the formation of social values” and “evidence of social contexts,” and they are described in regard to their “interdisciplinary and European perspective.” Contrary to this explicit European frame of reference, however, it is surprising how many references to extra-European concepts and authors are featured not only in the printed work, but also within the archive materials. A first sample has yielded numerous references and contacts to many South and Central American authors.

What role did these authors and concepts play in the making of the dictionary project? To answer this question, this project analyzed materials on the conception and the editing process of the Basic Concepts of Aesthetics that are held at the ZfL but have so far remained unexplored. This includes correspondences between the editors (Martin Fontius, Dieter Schlenstedt, Burkhart Steinwachs, and Friedrich Wolfzettel), correspondences with authors, and draft papers. By exploring the potential of these archive materials, this project seeked to lay the ground for a larger research project.

Head researcher(s): Lydia Schmuck


Lydia Schmuck

previously published articles relating to the project:

  • Der Nachlass Karlheinz Barck im Deutschen Literaturarchiv Marbach: erste Einblicke, in: Geschichte der Germanistik 53/54 (2018), 167–171


04 Nov 2022 · 5.00 pm

Lydia Schmuck: Maria Bambergs Übersetzungen von Carlos Fuentes zwischen Ost und West

Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, Institut für Slawistik und Hungarologie, Dorotheenstr. 65, 10117 Berlin, Raum 5.57

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23 Sep 2022 · 9.45 am

Lydia Schmuck: Ästhetik als “Denkweise und Denkstil”. Die Ästhetischen Grundbegriffe und das Konzept transversalen Wissens von Carlo Barck

University Erfurt, Audimax-Gebäude (AMG), Nordhäuser Str. 62, 99089 Erfurt

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02 Sep 2022 · 3.30 pm

Lydia Schmuck: Avantgarde als ‘neue Ästhetik’. Zur Bedeutung des Begriffs in der Konzeption der ‘Ästhetischen Grundbegriffe’ von Carlo Barck

Universidade Nova de Lisboa, Faculdade de Ciências Sociais e Humanas, Avenida de Berna, 26C, Lisbon

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