Georg Büchner and the Science of Life. Ed. by Roland Borgards, Johannes Lehmann

Roland Borgards's picture
Call for Publications
November 30, 2015
Subject Fields: 
Literature, History of Science, Medicine, and Technology

Call for Contributions:

Georg Büchner and the Science of Life (Georg Büchner und die Wissenschaft vom Leben)

Ed. by Roland Borgards, Johannes Lehmann


Büchner was a zoologist. To call him a physician misses the textual facts of the Mémoire and the ‘Probevorlesung’; to generally refer to him as a scientist does not do justice to the conceptually clear questions of these two texts which mainly focus on and discuss problems of comparative anatomy: the study of bodyplans, developmental history, the relationship of neuroanatomy and osteology. This empirically profound research is accompanied by methodological reflections, especially on the opposition of the teleological and genetic method.

As a zoologist, Büchner is chiefly concerned with neither classificatory nor ethological, but above all foundational biotheoretical questions. This interest corresponds with the contemporary scientific field in which his research is situated: Biology has only been established recently as a separate discipline, and Büchner belongs to the first generation of researchers who are able to grapple with the theoretical presuppositions of a science of life, without needing to constitute the discipline at the same time (as was the case hitherto with Cuvier, Goethe, Lamarck, Oken etc.).

This particular situation in the initial phase of biology as a distinct academic discipline shall be the basis for the contributions to the planned collection of essays on “Georg Büchner and the Sciences of Life”. In doing so, the collection pursues three goals:

First, it is concerned with a description from the perspectives of the history of science and the history of knowledge in the sense of a historical epistemology: How do Büchner’s zoological writings correspond with the foundational questions of biology as for instance teleology (Kant and Cuvier), neurology (Animal Cerebralis), the theory of conditions of existence  (Cuvier and Goethe) or morphology (Goethe)? Which references to and demarcations from philosophical conceptions of the animal and the anthropological difference may be determined (e.g. in comparison with the Spinoza and Descartes papers in the ‘Philosophische Scripte’)? And what is the relationship between these biotheoretical questions and the reception of specific ethological experimental arrangements like the free falling cat in ‘Woyzeck’? 

Secondly, the collection is concerned with the relationship between the in such a manner conceptualized sciences of life and an understanding of the political in keeping with the period: Does Büchner formulate something like a biotheoretically informed Anthropopolitics? How are the analytical perspective on nature and the literary negotiations of a politicized life related? To what extent are biotheoretical questions in themselves political?

Third and last, the collection is concerned with the question to what extent semiological and aesthetic problems – as they are characteristic for Büchner’s oeuvre and the historical situation in science, literature and politics – may be extrapolated from Büchner’s examination of the sciences of life?

We are looking for submissions that – in keeping with the three perspectives of a historical epistemology, a political biotheory or a biological aesthetic – deal with Büchner’s reflection on the science of life. The contributions may be based on any of Büchner’s texts (zoology, philosophy, drama, prose, pamphlet, letter, school writing); the integration into historical contexts is desirable. 

Please submit a short exposé (max. one page) until November 30, 2015. Out of the submissions approximately ten will be selected. The deadline for the finished contributions is May 1, 2016. The collection is supposed to be published in the Winter of 16/17 by Rombach/Freiburg in the Cultural Animal Studies series. Exposés and contributions may be written in German or English.


Please submit Exposés to

Contact Info: 

Please submit Exposés to Roland Borgards