“Composition!”: On Parts and Wholes in Poetics (ca. 1800)


Carlos Spoerhase
Class of 1932 Visiting Fellow in the Council of the Humanities and the Department of German -Fall 2021
Professor of German Literature Studies, Bielefeld University
September 13, 2021
4:30 pm
Livestream Zoom
Illustration of plantlife with old page edges torn

Des Herrn Trembley Abhandlungen zur Geschichte einer Polypenart des süßen Wassers mit hörnerförmigen Armen […], Quedlinburg 1775.

Well into the present, the idea that the work of art is – at least potentially – a whole has been one of the basic models for understanding literary composition. More recently this model has come in for heavy criticism from literary theorists who argue that the idea of wholeness is freighted with assumptions of totality, unity, and completeness that are suspect not only aesthetically, but politically. My talk aims to contribute to this wider discussion by examining some mereological theories from around 1800.