Detail of black and white photo of stacked magazines.

Exploration of the Personal Archive of Hildegard Brenner, Literary Scholar, Cultural Historian, and Editor

This project is dedicated to the intellectual biography of Hildegard Brenner (born in 1927), whose scholarly and journalistic activities played a decisive role in the West German debates over literary and cultural theory in the 1960s and 1970s. Brenner, who began her career as a journalist and a non-fiction writer and later became professor of literary studies at the University of Bremen, also published the journal alternative from 1964 to 1982. This publication became widely known for its contributions to materialist aesthetics and French structuralism, but it also prominently treated East German and exile literature, as well as the labor movement.

Beyond her own theoretical and historical works on Hölderlin, Benjamin, Brecht, and the National Socialist art policy, Brenner also initiated the book series collection alternative and published the only German-language translation of texts by Latvian theater actress and director Asja Lācis (1891–1979), with whom she actively corresponded. The extensive networks from which Brenner drew can be reconstructed through her personal archive, which includes, among other artifacts, letters to and from Étienne Balibar, Roland Barthes, Wolf Biermann, Volker Braun, Lucien Goldmann, Julia Kristeva, Claude Lévi-Strauss, Pierre Macherey, Heiner Müller, and Helene Weigel, as well as correspondences with numerous publishers, magazines, and the radio stations for which Brenner produced programs that took their cues from the humanities.

The diverse contexts of her publications emphasize the need to discuss the significance of non-canonized writing and publishing in the history of theory. Journalistic writing and different forms of publishing mediate between academic, mass media, and political contexts but often escape the attention of intellectual historiographies. Furthermore, both Brenner’s career and her work provide an opportunity to inquire into the history and historiographical representation of female intellectuals in the 20th century.

Brenner’s papers and recordings, which were handed over to the ZfL in 2019, complement the editorial archive of alternative at the German Literature Archive in Marbach. The aim of the project is to develop an intellectual biography that approaches her life and work from diverse perspectives and understands academic, journalistic, and publishing practices as pivotal points for problems in the histories of theory, media, and gender.


Fig. above: © Moritz Neuffer

2021–2023 funded by the German Research Foundation (DFG)

since 2021
Head researcher: Moritz Neuffer


see also


Moritz Neuffer

  • Im Nebeneinander der Aufarbeitung. Hildegard Brenner und die Kunstpolitik des Nationalsozialismus, in: Maria Neumann, Felix Vogel (eds.): Bruch und Kontinuität. Kunst- und Kulturpolitik nach dem Nationalsozialismus. Berlin: Hatje Cantz 2024, 54–61
  • Politischer Stil. Hildegard Brenner, in: Zeitschrift für deutsche Philologie 140 (2021), special issue: Der Stil der Literaturwissenschaft, ed. by Eva Geulen and Claude Haas, 207–221
  • Prekäre Theorie, oder: Wer ist Hildegard Brenner?, in: ZfL Blog, 14 Jan 2021


Lecture | Lecture time in EDT
01 Nov 2023 · 4.00 pm

Moritz Neuffer: Periodical Studies as Intellectual History: The Case of 1968

Centre d'études allemandes et européennes, Université de Montréal

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26 Jun 2023 · 11.15 am

Moritz Neuffer: ‘Berufsmäßige Grenzgängerin.’ Hildegard Brenners Arbeiten zur Kunstpolitik des NS, der DDR und der BRD

documenta Institut Kassel, Wachsendes Haus am Lutherplatz, 34117 Kassel

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23 Jun 2023 · 11.15 am

Moritz Neuffer: “nicht abgeschlossen”. Hildegard Brenners und Helga Gallas’ Editorials für die Zeitschrift alternative und die Buchreihe collection alternative

Freie Universität Berlin, Habelschwerdter Allee 45, Raum JK 31/121, 14195 Berlin

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10 Mar 2023 · 2.00 pm

Moritz Neuffer: Revolutionärinnen im Beruf. Asja Lācis und Hildegard Brenner

Literaturforum im Brecht-Haus, Chausseestraße 125, 10115 Berlin

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20 Oct 2022 · 11.15 am

Moritz Neuffer: ‘Memory Still Haunts History’s Sleep’. Poetics and Politics of Remembering ‘1956’ and ‘1968’

Universiteit Utrecht

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08 Jul 2022 · 2.00 pm

Moritz Neuffer: The Movement and the Model. Forms of Compression in Theory Journals

Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, Unter den Linden 6, 10117 Berlin, Room 2249a

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31 Mar 2022 – 01 Apr 2022

Wandlungszonen: Zeitschriften und Öffentlichkeit 1945 bis 1969

Deutsches Literaturarchiv Marbach, Schillerhöhe 8–10, 71672 Marbach am Neckar, Tagungsraum 2-3

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Lecture and Q&A
14 Jun 2021 · 3.45 pm

Moritz Neuffer: From Chronopoetics to Anachronisms: Economies of Timeliness in Modern Intellectual Journals

online via Zoom

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