Time and Form in Motion. Goethe’s Morphology and Its Afterlife in 20th-Century Theory

Mandelkow and others have thoroughly researched the historical reception of Goethe’s morphology. But a certain anxiety still lingers around the more or less underground reception of Goethe’s theory of temporalized forms and its role in the development of 20th-century theory. In the wake of the “foundational crisis” of the sciences during the early 20th century, a holistic-monistic understanding of form co-opted almost all references to Goethe, implicit or explicit. This homogenizing approach was meant to compensate for and ward off the crises that supposedly characterize modernity.

But what kind of picture emerges when Goethe’s morphology is considered in connection with the changes that the concept of form was undergoing at the beginning of the 20th century and continued to experience up through to Niklas Luhmann’s time? “Time and Form in Motion” launches an interdisciplinary investigation into the untold history of Goethe’s theory. The project further examines his impact on 20th-century theory and its engagement with questions of form. The alternative perspectives studied help expose, for example, the underlying similarities behind structuralist and “holistic” approaches as well as the problematic premises involved in comparing 1800 with 1900. Nothing less than the very foundations of theory in the 20th century are at stake in the project’s efforts to articulate alternative descriptions of modernity.

Subproject of the German Research Foundation’s Priority Programme 1688 »Aesthetic Proper Times. Time and Representation in Polychronic Modernity« 2013–2017
Head researcher(s): Eva Geulen
Associate Researcher(s): Eva Axer, Alexandra Heimes

(in German)


Eva Axer, Eva Geulen, Alexandra Heimes
Unter Mitarbeit von Michael Bies, Ross Shields und Georg Toepfer

Aus dem Leben der Form
Studien zum Nachleben von Goethes Morphologie in der Theoriebildung des 20. Jahrhunderts

Wallstein, Göttingen 2021, 400 pages
ISBN 978-3-8353-3880-7

Deutsche Vierteljahrsschrift für Literaturwissenschaft und Geistesgeschichte

Vol. 94, Issue 2, June 2020
ISSN 0012-0936 (Print), 2365-9521 (Online, mehrere Beiträge im Open Access)
Michael Gamper, Eva Geulen, Johannes Grave, Andreas Langenohl, Ralf Simon und Sabine Zubarik (ed./eds.)

Zeit der Form – Formen der Zeit

Ästhetische Eigenzeiten vol. 2
Wehrhahn Verlag, Hannover 2016, 344 pages
ISBN 978–3–86525–535–8
Eva Geulen

Aus dem Leben der Form
Goethes Morphologie und die Nager

August Verlag, Berlin 2016, 160 pages
ISBN 978-3-941360-40-2
Ernst Müller, Gastherausgeberinnen dieser Ausgabe: Eva Axer, Eva Geulen, Alexandra Heimes (Zentrum für Literatur- und Kulturforschung Berlin) (ed./eds.)

Forum Interdisziplinäre Begriffsgeschichte (FIB)

5. Jg. (2016) • 1
Berlin 2016, 124 pages
ISSN 2195-0598

Eva Axer

Eva Geulen

Alexandra Heimes


Book presentation at the Walther König Book shop Berlin
14 Feb 2017 · 7.00 pm

Alexander García Düttmann & Eva Geulen

Buchhandlung Walther König an der Museumsinsel, Burgstraße 27, 10178 Berlin

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11 Nov 2016 – 12 Nov 2016

Goethes Zeitkonzepte

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

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Annual Conference of the DFG Priority Program 1688 Aesthetic Proper Times
04 Feb 2016 – 06 Feb 2016


ICI Berlin Institute for Cultural Inquiry, Christinenstraße 18 – 19, Haus 8, 10119 Berlin und Dock 11 Berlin

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03 Sep 2015 – 04 Sep 2015

Theorie und Begriffsgeschichte des Modells

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

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Media Response

01 Mar 2023
Aus dem Leben der Form. Studien zum Nachleben von Goethes Morphologie in der Theoriebildung des 20. Jahrhunderts

Review by Jan Kerkmann, in: Zeitschrift für philosophische Forschung 77.1 (2023), 115–116