CFP: GSA panel 2019 "Literature and the Possibility of Transcendental Critique: Käte Hamburger’s Legacy" (29.1.2019)

Kristina Mendicino's picture

GSA Panel Proposal for 2019


Literature and the Possibility of Transcendental Critique:

Käte Hamburger’s Legacy


Conveners: Rochelle Tobias and Kristina Mendicino


Käte Hamburger’s contributions to literary criticism spanned 60 years and covered every genre from lyric poetry to film and drama with emphasis on narrative theory, aesthetics, and linguistics. Yet for all her breadth, she had a consistent interest throughout her career that has never been explored as such. It is the belief that every interpretation should probe the conditions that make a work possible and determine its form. Hamburger’s brand of literary criticism is the ‘transcendental critique’ inherited from Kant, as seen in her essay on Novalis in which she notes the poet’s debt to the notion of the infinitesimally small for his aphoristic writing. In her analyses of Rilke, she likewise shows how the intentional structure of consciousness formulated by Husserl fuels his poetry. The proposed panel will consider the implications of Hamburger’s oeuvre for the revival of a critical method attuned at once to specific works and to their ontological foundations.


The panel will address three related themes:


(a) The Formal Imperative

In Die Logik der Dichtung (1957), Hamburger identifies the ‘logic’ or ‘grammar’ specific to fictional narration. Fictional utterances take as their point of departure the subject in the third person, as indicated by the use of the ‘epic preterite,’ which allows for the representation of other minds.  Here, as elsewhere, Hamburger combines a formal approach with an analysis of ordinary language, which places her work at the juncture between an Idealist model of science and analytic philosophy. Her indebtedness to ordinary language philosophy is also evident in her late text Wahrheit und ästhetische Wahrheit (1979), where she analyzes how we use the word truth and whether it can apply to literature as the realm of semblance.


(b) Literary Ethics

In her studies of Mann and Tolstoy, Hamburger turns from the question of Sein to Sinn in her analysis of love, law, and empathy. In contrast to being, sense is subjectively based, and this insight enables her to connect the ethical theories of Paul Hofmann and Buber with Husserl’s account of experience. The balancing act Hamburger performs between Hofmann’s and Buber’s dialogical philosophy and Husserl’s egological or monadological phenomenology finds its most forceful articulation in her final study Das Mitleid (1985), in which she argues counter-intuitively that it is the distance between individuals that allows for intersubjective relations and constitutes the condition for Nächstenliebe.


(c) Weltliteratur

Exile turned Hamburger into a comparatist. Her publications cover Greek, German, French, Swedish, Russian, and English literature and provide an occasion to reflect on the link between transcendentalism and the notion of Weltliteratur. Hamburger wrote a number of essays in Swedish which have yet to be explored and could provide a key to understanding the relation of formalism to literary-historical and linguistic concerns in her writing.


Please send an abstract (ca. 300 words) and brief biographical statement in German or English to Rochelle Tobias ( and Kristina Mendicino (Kristina_Mendicino@Brown.Edu) by 29 January 2019. 


Redaktion: Constanze Baum – Lukas Büsse – Mark-Georg Dehrmann – Nils Gelker – Markus Malo – Alexander Nebrig – Johannes Schmidt

Diese Ankündigung wurde von H-GERMANISTIK [Alexander Nebrig] betreut –

Categories: Announcement
Keywords: call for papers