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Durham University

Institute of Advanced Study

Past Events

Forms of Time Public Lecture: ‘Mastering time and space around 1800: Humboldt's 'Cosmos' and contemporary reflections on Caspar David Friedrich's 'The Monk by the Sea’

4th March 2013, 18:15 to 19:15, Room 140, Elvet Riverside Building, Dr Claudia Nitsche, Department of German, MLaC, Durham University

Romantic concepts of progression and longing are inextricably linked to notions of space (traveling, wanderlust). This chronotope seems particularly tangible in Clemens Brentano's famous review of Caspar David Friedrich's 'The Monk by the Sea' (critically revised by Heinrich von Kleist). The sustained irritation caused by Friedrich's radical painting throws one aspect of Romantic time concepts into sharp relief: space as a seminal ancillary dimension that helps cope with the impact of temporalisation (Reinhart Koselleck) around 1800. This paper will then move on to discuss a complementary form of 'time management': in Alexander von Humboldt's encyclopaedic travel project the spatial exploration via traveling stabilises the threatening experience of time and transforms it into a (pre-)stabilised order: the Cosmos.


Claudia Nitschke is Lecturer in German in the School of Modern Languages & Cultures. Before coming to Durham, she was a Praelector (DAAD) at Lincoln College, Oxford and lecturer at the University of Tübingen, where she also completed her M.A., PhD, and Habilitation. She has worked on war and utopia in German Romanticism and on concepts of fatherhood and sovereignty in German literature from the 18th to the 20th centuries. Currently she is pursuing a project on concepts of justice and statehood in German literature/film.

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