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Eric Santner: “The Weight of All Flesh: On the Subject-Matter of Political Economy”

The Spring 2015 German Department lecture series commences with a talk by Eric Santner, the Philip and Ida Romberg Distinguished Service Professor in Modern Germanic Studies at the University of Chicago.

Santner, whose recent work investigates sovereignty as a political, psychoanalytic, religious, and aesthetic phenomenon, will speak at 4:30PM on Thursday, February 12 in 106 McCormick. His talk pursues the entanglement of the human body in the normative dilemmas of political sovereignty in modernity, a topic which was also subject of Santner’s 2014 Tanner Lectures on Human Values at UC Berkeley.

Eric Santner is visiting Princeton in connection with the seminar “Psychoanalytic Turns in Art History and Literary Criticism,” taught by Brigid Doherty in Fall 2014. Santner’s lecture on Thursday, February 12, will serve as the keynote address for a colloquium on Friday, February 13, in which graduate students from the Departments of German, Art & Archaeology, Comparative Literature, French & Italian, and the School of Architecture will present research projects launched in that seminar. For more information on the colloquium, contact Brigid Doherty.

Santner has authored several important books, including The Royal Remains: The People’s Two Bodies and the Endgames of Sovereignty (2011),On Creaturely Life (2007), On the Psychotheology of Everyday Life: Reflections on Freud and Rosenzweig (2001), My Own Private Germany: Daniel Paul Schreber’s Secret History of Modernity (1996), and Stranded Objects: Mourning, Memory, and Film in Postwar Germany (1990). He also co-authored, with Slavoj Zizek and Kenneth Reinhard, The Neighbor: Three Inquiries in Political Theology (2005).

Eric Santner Flyer

December 9th Mini-Symposium on Heidegger’s Schwarze Hefte with Peter Gordon (Harvard) and Karsten Harries (Yale)

The Fall 2014 German Department Lecture Series will conclude with a mini-symposium at 4:30pm on Tuesday, December 9th in 010 East Pyne on Heidegger’s recently published Schwarze Hefte [Black Notebooks] . The event will consist of lectures by Peter Gordon (Amabel B. James Professor of History, Harvard College Professor, Harvard University) and Karsten Harries (Howard H. Newman Professor of Philosophy, Yale University). Anson Rabinbach (Professor of History, Princeton) will serve as the moderator.

Gordon Thumb
Prof. Gordon describes the stakes of his talk “Prolegomena to any Future Destruction of Metaphysics” as follows:

The official publication of the first set of Heidegger’s schwarze Hefte, or “black notebooks” (originally written between 1931 and 1941) has generated great controversy in the world of Continental philosophy. Composed during the very last years of the Weimar Republic and the formative years of the Third Reich, the notebooks reveal Heidegger’s private and political ruminations on many themes: the “failure” of his rectorship, the future of Germany in an age of technological metaphysics (or “Machenschaft”) and the need for an “other beginning” beyond the errors of the metaphysical tradition. They also reveal a deep and philosophically motivated strain of anti-Semitism beyond what was known before of the philosopher’s prejudices. For those who may still wish to take Heidegger seriously as a philosopher and are unwilling to dismiss his work as hopelessly contaminated by the ideology of National Socialism, the urgent question remains: How should we read him from this point forward, and what model of interpretation underwrites our encounter with his philosophy?

In his talk, entitled “The Most Recent Heidegger Controversy: Missing the Forest for a Few Trees,” Prof. Harries’ will argue that

Heidegger’s recently published Black Notebooks have been said to demonstrate once more his ongoing commitment to National Socialism, an essential connection between that commitment and his philosophical thought, and his obsession with ‘World Jewry,’ reason enough for us to dismiss him as a philosopher to be taken seriously. However, a thorough reading of the Black Notebooks calls all three claims into question. What the notebooks do show, in tiring and repetitive detail, is that Heidegger came to understand himself ever more decisively as an untimely thinker, who found it impossible to make his peace with the modern world, projecting that home of which he dreamed into an indefinite future. At issue is the legitimacy of the modern age.

The mini-symposium will be conducted in English and is free and open to the public.


Thomas G. Schestag Lecture “Zuschreiben” Wednesday, Nov 12th @ 4:30pm EP205

Thomas G. Schestag

Thomas G. Schestag

Thomas G. Schestag (Brown University) will give a lecture in German entitled “Zuschreiben” on Wednesday, November 12, 2015 at 4:30pm in East Pyne 205. The lecture will explore, “how to attribute, how not to attribute, a name to what we see? But what is there to see? Here: in a drawing attributed to Gentile Bellini.”

Prof. Schestag joined the faculty of the German Department at Brown University in January 2014 as an Associate Professor and is currently the Director of Graduate Studies. A scholar of German and comparative literature, he has taught in the United States at Northwestern University, Johns Hopkins, University of Michigan, NYU and the University of Virginia, as well as in Japan, Hungary and in Germany at the universities of Bonn, Frankfurt, Bochum and at the LMU, Munich. In the fall of 2013 he was the John P. Birkelund Fellow in the Humanities at the American Academy in Berlin.

Educated in Paris, Strasbourg, Zurich (PhD, 1988), at the Freie Universität Berlin (MA, 1984), and the University of Frankfurt (Habilitation, 2003), Schestag has published widely on theories of names and naming, hermeneutics and translation, and the intersection of philosophy, poetry, and political theory. An English translation of his 2006 book, Die unbewältigte Sprache (Engeler), on Hannah Arendt’s theory of poetry, is in preparation. He is also investigating the idea of sensus communis (koinē aisthēsis) concerning the existence of a sense for language preceding the pre-conceptual notion of a linguistic “common sense.”

For a PDF of the poster, please click here

Bellini thumbnail

Florian Höllerer – Luncheon Presentation on October 21st

Florian Höllerer

Florian Höllerer

Florian Höllerer, the director of the prestigious Literarisches Colloquium in Berlin, will give a Lunchtime Presentation on Tuesday October 21 @ Noon in 207 East Pyne (lunch provided). Höllerer, a former graduate student in the German Department, will speak about the changing status of the German and European Literaturhaus as institution. He describes his presentation, entitled “‘A House Of One’s Own': Perspektiven des Literaturhausmodells
” as follows:

Literaturhäuser haben in den letzten dreißig Jahren in Deutschland, Österreich und der Schweiz einen wahren Gründungsboom erlebt. Ausgehend von Berlin wurden nicht nur alle Großstädte vom Literaturhaus-Fieber gepackt, sondern auch mehr und mehr mittelgroße Städte wie Kiel, Darmstadt, Magdeburg, Wiesbaden, Rostock oder Nürnberg. Ja, man kann sagen, dass Literaturhäuser ein selbstverständliches Element der urbanen Kulturlandschaft geworden sind – so wie Theater, Museen, Konzerthäuser oder Kinos. Auch in Europa setzt sich das Modell rasant fort, z.B. in Oslo, Kopenhagen, Genf oder London. Über die Jahre hat sich das Selbstverständnis der Häuser – ihre inhaltliche Ausrichtung, ihre Organisationsstrukturen oder ihre Finanzierungsmodelle – mehrfach verändert. Und wie sieht das Literaturhaus der Zukunft aus?

The lunchtime presentation will take place on Tuesday, October 21st at noon in East Pyne 207; please rsvp to if you plan to attend. Click here to download the pdf version of the poster.


Claus Pias to lecture on “Friedrich Kittler and the ‘Misuse of Military Equipment’” on Oct 2 at 4:30pm in 106 McCormick


Prof. Claus Pias (Leuphana University, Lüneburg), one the leading media theorists in Germany today, will give a lecture entitled “Friedrich Kittler and the ‘Misuse of Military Equipment': On the Situation of an Expression 1964 / 1984 /2014″ on Thursday, October 2, 2014 at 4:30pm in 106 McCormick. In his talk, which is co-sponsored by the Program in Media + Modernity, Prof. Pias will historicize Kittler’s media theory of the 1980s by means of its own media-historical conditions. In so doing, the expression “misuse of military equipment” will play a central role: why is media history at the start of the 1980s conceptualized as a history of mis-use? Why was this figure of thought so obvious at that time? What is the relationship of the mis-use theory and the media-technological apriori? And why have their consequences become problematic for the understanding of digital media (or digital cultures) today?

Prof. Pias holds a chair for Media Theory and History at the Institut für Kultur und Ästhetik Digitaler Medien (ICAM) at Leuphana University, Lüneburg where he is also the Director of the Center for Digital Cultures (CDC), the Director of MECS (Institute for the Advanced Study of the Media Cultures of Computer Simulation). His classic 2010 study of gaming Computer Spiel Welten (Diaphanes) will soon appear in a much-awaited English translation.

Claus Poster

Roundtable Discussion of Controversial Berlin Memorial Installation

Berlin event
In 1993 a series of eighty colorful signs were mounted on lampposts in the Bayerischen Viertel [Bavarian Quarter] of Berlin’s Schoeneberg district. On one side of the signs there were simple iconic images and on the other side, printed in black and white, condensed versions of actual anti-Jewish Nazi rules and regulations passed between 1933 and 1945. Together, the words and images served as a striking reminder to contemporary inhabitants of the almost-forgotten history of this formerly largely Jewish neighborhood where Albert Einstein and Hannah Arendt once lived. This memorial installation by the Berlin-based artists Renata Stih and Frieder Schnock, documenting the quotidian humiliation of the Jews and the systematic deprivation of their most basic rights during the Nazi era, was inserted into the very fabric of contemporary daily life and was immediately hailed as a powerful –and controversial—intervention. Entitled “Orte des Erinnerns” [Places of Remembrance] it was widely debated and in 2003/2004 was exhibited at the Jewish Museum in New York in the form of a pair of striking lightboxes documenting the placement and content of the signs. The lightboxes were subsequently given by the artists as a generous long-term loan to Princeton University where they were installed in the “Upper Walkway” of East Pyne, an 1897 collegiate Gothic building that housed the University Library until the completion of Firestone Library in 1948 and is currently home to various European Language Departments as well as Classics.
On Monday, September 22nd at 4:30pm in the East Pyne Upper Walkway , adjacent to the installation, the artists will join Kelly Baum (Kaskell Cuator of Modern and Contemorary Art, Princeton Art Museum), Stanley Corngold (Prof. Emeritus, German Dept.) and Michael W. Jennings (Class of 1900 Professor of Modern Languages, German Dept.) to discuss the complex history and continued vitality of this important memorial project. The roundtable, which will take place in English and is free and open to the public, will be followed by a reception.

Natalie Binczek (Bochum) to lecture on Roland Barthes’ “The Preparation of the Novel”

barthesIn conjunction with the 2014 Princeton-Weimar Summer School for Media Studies, Natalie Binczek, Professor of Neugermanistik, insbesondere Theorie und Geschichte literarischer Kommunikation und ihrer Medien at the Ruhr-Universität Bochum and Visiting Professional Research Associate at Princeton’s German department will give a lecture on Roland Barthes’ “La Préparation du Roman.” The talk will explore how this late work by the renowned French literary theorist reflects on both the form of the lecture as well as the relationship between the lecture and literature. Binczek’s talk will take place on Wednesday, June 18th at 7pm in the Rocky/Mathey theater, Rockefeller College and is free and open to the public.

Renowned Filmmaker Harun Farocki to Discuss Recent Work June 17th at 8pm

parkplAs part of the 2014 Princeton-Weimar Media Studies Summer School, the fourth instance of this annual event that brings together graduate students from around to world for a series of intense seminars and workshops, the renowned German filmmaker Harun Farocki will screen and discuss some of his recent work. The event, which is free and open to the public, will take place Tuesday, June 17th at 8.00pm in the Rocky/Mathey Theater, Rockefeller College; early arrival is encouraged as seating is limited.

Harun Farocki, undoubtedly one of the most renowned filmmakers in the field of experimental political documentary, has written, directed and produced a total of over ninety films whose influences can be felt across a wide range of disciplines. Born in 1944, he began his studies at the Deutsche Film- und Fernsehakademie in 1966. Simultaneously he began to do free-lance work for cinema, television, and art spaces, a tri-pronged production strategy he has pursued to this date. The editor of the important German film journal Filmkritik from 1974-1983, Farocki has held numerous academic positions including a visiting professorship at UC Berkeley (1993-1999), a professorship for Media Studies at the Universität der Künste, Berlin (2000-2001), a professorship for Media Arts at the Akademie der Bildenden Künste, Vienna (2004-2011), and a guest professorship at Harvard University in 2011. Farocki’s work has been shown in a wide variety of spaces including the most renowned art museums of the Western world. The influence of his films, writings and multi-screen video installations –which have been shown to date in over three hundred exhibitions – 40 solo shows and over 270 group shows – have made Farocki into an important voice in contemporary art, cinema, and media theory.

Following his participation in CTRL [Space], a vast interdisciplinary exhibition at the Zentrum für Kunst und Medien (ZKM) Karlsruhe curated by Thomas Y. Levin (one of the co-founders of the Princeton-Weimar Summer School), Farocki’s work was also part of another exhibition curated by Levin at the Princeton University Art Museum entitled “Anxious Omniscience: Surveillance and Contemporary Cultural Practice” (January -April 2002).

May Day Lecture by Jürgen Habermas

HabermasThe theorist of communicative rationality and the public sphere, and heir to the project of the Frankfurt School Critical Theory, Jürgen Habermas (Johann Wolfgang Goethe-University, Frankfurt/M.) will give a lecture on International Worker’s Day entitled “The Transnationalization of Democracy: A European Experiment.” The lecture, which will take place on Thursday, May 1, 2014 at 4:30 p.m. in McCosh 50 is sponsored by the Program in Contemporary European Politics and Society and co-sponsored by the European Union Program; the Program in Russian, East European, and Eurasian Studies; and the University Center for Human Values. It will be streamed live at

Paul Fleming (Cornell) to lecture on Exemplum & Anecdote

The final lecture in the Spring Term 2014 Departmental Lecture Series will be given by Prof. Paul Fleming Prof. of German and Comparative Literature, and the Director of the Institute for German Cultural Studies at Cornell University. The lecture is part of Prof. Fleming’s current research project, tentatively titled “The Perfect Story,” which examines the philosophical use of the anecdote with respect to questions of exemplarity, evidence, and contingency. Fleming describes the stakes of his talk as follows: “In Futures Past, Reinhart Koselleck famously argues that only in the eighteenth century does the collective singular, die Geschichte, emerge to replace the older plural form, Geschichten, the reservoir of exempla by which history served as a ‘teacher of life.’ The demise of exempla, however, also gave rise to the anecdote as a genre uniquely poised at the nexus of the historical and the literary. While equally no longer a ‘teacher of life,’ the anecdote repeatedly challenges the integration of event into a larger context that makes modern universal history possible. This paper investigates the tense relation between the exemplum’s successors, history and anecdote, around 1800, particularly in the work of Heinrich von Kleist.”