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Beginnings in/of Modernity

Focussing on different concepts and constructions of beginnings, the interdisciplinary research unit Beginnings in/of Modernity explores processes of modernity in terms of cultural discourses, genres und texts from the 18th to the 20th century, including investigations of beginnings in pre-modern and ancient times. This approach concentrates on the various concepts, semantics and formal devices that are used to shape different functions of beginnings and aims at analysing the role which the concept of beginning plays within self-descriptions of modernity.

The collaboration of the individual research groups is based on five general topics which do not only conceive of beginnings as formative devices for cultural and textual practices, but can also be held accountable for the specific tensions within the process of modernization which narratives of modernity often fail to grasp:

  • How is the modern fascination with origins related to the modern narrative of disenchantment and demythologization of the world?
  • In how far can contingency be considered a key trope of beginning(s)?
  • In what ways are the modern concepts of innovation and invention, and its paradoxical entanglements with the old and the  new, connected to the problem of beginning?
  • What is the temporal structure of beginnings, and what are the specific concepts of time they are based on?
  • Finally, are there specific characteristics of beginnings in literary texts, and is literature,  compared to other orders of knowledge, endowed with an epistemological privilege concerning its aesthetic performance and its perception of beginnings?

The research unit comprises the following subject areas: American literature, Comparative literature, English literature, French literature, German literature, Nordic literature, philosophy, Slavic literature, and theology.

Research projects School of Arts: