Life Lessons and the Art of Life. Translating Life into Philosophy and the Arts
The enduring tradition of maxims of ‘worldly wisdom’ (Lebensweisheit) and ‘savoir-vivre’ (Lebenskunst), which today lives on as a seemingly endless flow of DIY and lifestyle magazines, revolves around two poles: On one hand, the notion that life is a school that provides opportunities for instruction and, on the other hand, the assumption that only specific ways of leading one’s life (or the history of lived lives) can be educational. These two notions often overlap and conflate. In spite of their differences, they also have in common the fact that both are dependent on, for the most part, literary models. This project investigated the connections between ‘life lessons’ (Lebenslehre), ‘worldly wisdom’ (Lebensweisheit) and ‘savoir-vivre’ (Lebenskunst) in their many forms. The project took a diachronic approach, but focused in particular on the literary genres that came to be closely associated with these topoi in the 17th and 18th centuries.
A first subproject highlighted structures of temporal and spatial withdrawal and instability: in other words, the fleeting nature of life. These structures are among the most significant operations that underlie the modern mode of organizing knowledge according to a rationalist understanding of what life means and comprises. This kernel of volatility was interrogated, particularly in respect to the discursive, media and technical milieus of the Enlightenment and the representational forms associated with them. The extent to which literature possesses specific means of accessing and narrating characters and contexts and thus its suitability for exploring this fleeting type of knowledge was demonstrated by analyzing different genres such as the epistolary novel, Bildungsroman, occasional poetry, and political drama.
A second subproject explored an exemplary figure, Denis Diderot. The philosopher’s pervasive ethical emphasis and his incredibly wide-ranging use of literary genres make his works an outstanding representation of the poetic conditions of philosophy associated with ‘worldly wisdom.’ Diderot’s materialist and deterministic convictions provide a critical gesture towards the tradition in which he himself wrote. An examination of Diderot’s work in terms of its literary qualities, moreover, cannot be limited to historical and systematic questions about moral philosophy. It also demands that one investigate the complex relationship between philosophical savoir-vivre and self-care, as well as how this relationship connects to biology and natural sciences.
A major impetus for the project was a comprehensive interest in how ‘life lessons’ were passed down over time and how this process intersected with temporal and historical shifts in concepts of life itself: relationships between generations, transfer processes in general, notions of pedagogy and philosophies of education, or concepts of temporal orientation (past and future). These ideas were investigated at the ZfL in a range of previous projects including Concept of Generation (Konzept der Generation); Inheritance, Heritage, and Heredity (Erbe, Erbschaft und Vererbung); Prognostics and Literature, and Security and the Future.
Mareike Schildmann: Mimetisches Begehren. Zu einer ‘Poetik der Kindheit’ bei Robert Walser
Bahnhofplatz Biel, 2502 Biel (CH)
Mareike Schildmann: Puppenspiele. Mimesis der Kindheit bei Walter Benjamin
Universität Bern, Schanzeneckstr. 1, 3012 Bern (Switzerland), R. A022
Patrick Hohlweck: Zur Frühgeschichte der Form (Baumgarten)
Universität Köln, Albertus-Magnus-Platz, 50923 Köln
Patrick Hohlweck: Carl Einstein. Theorie der Kunst und/als Kritik der Geschichte
Helle Panke e.V., Kopenhagener Straße 76 (Hinterhaus), 10437 Berlin
Georg Toepfer: Aitiologie als Methode der historischen Wissenschaften und die Anfangsfrage der Begriffsgeschichtsschreibung
Freie Universität Berlin, Fabeckstraße 23-25, Holzlaube, Raum 2.2051
in dubio pro disco
Acephale, Luxemburger Str. 46, 50674 Köln
Patrick Hohlweck: Ereignis und Archiv
Westfälische Wilhelms-Universität Münster, Germanistisches Institut, Schlossplatz 34, 48143 Münster
Georg Toepfer: Von der Selbstdarstellung zur Kunst? Über die Außerzweckhaftigkeit der Ausdruckstätigkeit
Kunstgeschichtliches Seminar der Universität Hamburg, Edmund-Siemers-Allee 1, 20146 Hamburg
Patrick Hohlweck: »oder«. BEBs Psychogrammatik
ZKM | Zentrum für Kunst und Medien, Lorenzstraße 19, 76135 Karlsruhe, Vortragssaal