What is literature about?

Literature as science

In "The Science of Literature", Helmut Müller-Sievers deals with the creation and formation of (literary) scientific objects

By Sandy Scheffler

Discussed books / references

The volume “The Science of Literature. Essays on an Incalculable Difference ”brings together twelve essays by Helmut Müller-Sievers that have been translated into English by Chadwick Truscott Smith, Paul Babinski and himself. Müller-Sievers' concern is the "historically conscious, methodologically precise and culturally sensitive" development of the study of literature in its "three-part space" between 1) "Poetics of the Life Science", 2) "The Science of Reading" and 3) "The Applied Science of Literature". Under these chapter headings, the volume subsumes its essays in groups that deal with the paradigm of procreation, with reading processes and the narrowing of machine technology and literary narration. To begin with, facets of a “simultaneity” with the life sciences are highlighted, which draw on the “discursive assistance” of literature. Then anatomy and physiology are used to show how the writing process of philology is used to record scientific comparative records. Finally, the third part deals with the relationship between the arrangement of “practices and strategies” of machine construction and the “development of the long form of realistic prose”.

The “linking of literary and scientific assumptions about dynamics and procreation is of the greatest importance for the future of both discourses”, that is for “Science other Literature ”because it goes beyond a“ conceptual exchange ”between the disciplines:“ What began as a deep epistemological alliance between science and literature ”(“ Science by Literature ”) insofar as the life sciences fall back on literature had toin order to make use of their “original and creative power”, reached its “peak” with the “institutionalization of philology as literary studies” (“Science of Literature "). This released a new field of research, namely that of literature itself (“A New Field for Literature ").

In “Divining Relations” Müller-Sievers deals with the question of what connects generations with regard to the procreation paradigm. Using the literary example of Gellerts Life of the Swedish Countess by G*** (1750) it becomes clear that the link between generations requires this question context especially when the parentage is kept secret or is simply not known. The similarity mechanism of biological ancestry is a A feature that gives an idea of ​​the origin. It remains to be seen whether it is only one (external) characteristic is. In connection with the anagnorisis topic, Müller-Sievers tries to prove his thesis that the “tendencies” with regard to the “changes in the theories of procreation and generation of the early 19th century” “cross over” in the “literary form”, and that is therefore can be "proven" in this. The mutual recognition of literary figures through certain signs, which catapults them from the "state of ignorance to that of knowledge", usually causes an enormous change in the plot and "breaks" completely the confused "plot knot". The "practice of scattering and commenting on signs" provides the basis for collecting, understanding and implementing a sheer flood of signs with which the characters are confronted. Their desire to act is motivated by random identifying marks that they understand to be directed at themselves. Similarity turns out to be "symbolic" along the line between 'inside' and 'outside', insofar as there are no further or even absolute "explanations" and "truths" that one could fall back on. They are replaced by a “dark” and “pre-discursive foreboding”. For Müller-Sievers there is the chance to understand the anagnorisis not as "artificially coming from outside" and "limited to the text", but rather as "generated and overcome inside", thus dividing the line between "literature" and "non- Literature “would become obsolete.

In Georg Büchner's anatomical writings, which are usually in a substantive or In the formal context of his poetic work, procreation is in turn generated metonymically and readable on the basis of this shift. That you are here with one Or Mueller Sievers' view in “On Nerve Fibers: Rhetoric and Brain Anatomy in Georg Büchner” does not get far. He advocates combining both perspectives by means of the “History of Brain Anatomy in the First Quarter of the 19th Century”. Büchner uses the terms "chiasmus" and "anastomosis" to describe the course of the cranial nerves, which allows orientation. The fish on which he carries out his examinations and observations can thus be divided into “front” and “rear”. Chiasmus and anastomosis are therefore synonymous with Büchner’s characteristic writing. In it there is a metonymic shift between anatomical representability and linguistic reproducibility, which reveals a chiastic legibility. In other words: the "anatomist's scalpel and the pen perform a similar movement". Both processes - the anatomical scalpel guidance as well as the writing that makes thoughts visible - always require some kind of translation. That means in the literal sense: to be located in the metonymy instead of in the metaphor. In other words: The writing is not a spiritual image of thought, detached from any materiality, as Büchner's epoch dictated, but needs it in order to achieve visibility and readability through displacement, just like anatomy.

In the second part of the collection, “The Science of Reading”, Müller-Sievers takes Immanuel Kant's question, “What does it mean: to orient oneself in thinking”, as an opportunity to consider “orientation” as a spatial and intellectual reading process in which literature is entangled as and With Science becomes evident. As a spatial concept, neither the earth nor man have an objective pole that would allow a final and objective orientation. The “spatial finiteness” of humans “prevents a rotating ball from being grasped as a whole”. Therefore, both "sphericity" and "earth rotation" make "disorientation the fundamental condition under which we live on earth". So what remains if there is no objective spatial orientation? The attempt remains to orientate oneself in thinking. However, it literally stays that way attempt, because here, too, there is no “unmistakable pole, no demonstrable principle” from which it would be possible to read “what and how to think”. Interestingly, in this phenomenon, Müller-Sievers implies two elements of the Kantian question that are more than just semantic relevance to meaning. The first traces the word “hot”. In it, on the one hand, its three meanings “name”, “mean” and “request” are interlaced. On the other hand, however, the question also has its own philosophical claim in that it already contains its answer and the "search for knowledge" is a "transition (transitus) from question to answer, from emptiness to fulfillment, from search to goal ”. It is crucial that the question itself offers a directional orientation. In order to avoid senseless and endless repetitions, Kant wants to develop a "model of philosophical questioning"; “The critique of reason must define the limits of the questions that concern it”, which in turn means that “it itself as Being able to ask a question “must.

Müller-Sievers comes to the significant conclusion that orientation cannot be understood as a “metaphor”, but rather as a “name” “which the critique of reason gives itself”. The basis for this intelligent highlight is provided by the title of the essay, through a metonymy taken literally in the punctuation: “What does it mean: orientate yourself in thinking?” The colon behind “itself” instead of “means” allows a translation of the leading Question about in: "What does: Critique of Reason mean". The importance of "Kant's points" lies in the "self-citation" and "questioning" of the question, because "the questions arise" and are in this respect already "as to take what has been said". Müller-Sievers draws attention to an exciting discovery: “Nobody asked what it means to orient oneself in thinking? In this form. Kant himself questions something to which he then has no answer, but rather a kind of perseverance strategy. ”A final answer cannot be expected, since there is no objective authority that provides a spatial and spiritual orientation. So it remains with an orientation that is “given to man” and appears as a “condition” of his “spatial and spiritual existence”.

The conclusion from “A Tremendous Chasm: Nietzsche, The Birth of Tragedy‘, and the Measure of Poetry ”could be:“ Everything is procreation. ”The 19th century shows itself to be fertile and furious. That seems to be Friedrich Nietzsche's title Birth of Tragedy to be synonymous with an era, with a “self-birth of the tragic language from mysticism”, with the “generation of the tragic scene from the vision of the lyric poet” and with the “new creation” of a “future philology”. Müller-Sievers is mainly concerned with the latter aspect, the "philological method" of the Birth of Tragedyto the “discovery” of the “incompatibility of ancient and modern metrics”. Just as Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel and Friedrich Wilhelm Joseph Schelling recognize the philosophical meaning of the rhythmic phenomenon, Nietzsche later discovered the peculiarities of the rhythm in “interruption” and “evenness”, which expresses “will” and in the Schopenhauerian sense "Presentation" device. The rhythmic regularity is equally inherent in pausing, listening and a desire for imitation. It becomes evident how the rhythm is “product” and “productive” at the same time: its genesis is the movement and (creates) new movement. The ever new "birth" is virtually inscribed in the rhythm. "Movement" and therefore literally generated “Liveliness” should be able to be described strictly quantitatively, as Müller-Sievers states in “Torque: Life and Motion”, which introduces the third, application-related part of the collection. The mechanical engineers of the 19th century were particularly interested in developing tools and devices whose rotation could be calculated in order to force a desired and useful movement into a fixed sequence, into a form. While in the aesthetic theory around 1800 the sphere was granted symbolic “beauty” as an ideal-typical image of the perfect rotary movement, with the rotation of the movement there is an aesthetic shift towards a, as Müller-Sievers reveals, hardly admitted machine aestheticization.

The essay “A Doctrine of Transmissions” focuses the application-oriented debate about the relationship between art and nature, which will be re-negotiated by 1800 at the latest. At this turning point, "the walls between life and art" are actually and irrevocably torn down by "the machines". "Living beings and works of art" - these are the two areas whose rigid dichotomy dissolves in favor of a chiastic reference and influenceability: "Works of art become organic, objects of nature become beautiful and significant." The focus is on the particularity revealed in the machine discourse that even the simplest " Machines ”, such as a screw or the instruments that make them, firstly consist of several interacting parts and, secondly, it is primarily the element of“ movement ”that characterizes them in their properties. The (turning) movement removes the rigidity of the machine-like and brings it into close connection with other natural movement processes, such as are characteristic of the "motor - man", the "animal" and the elements "wind, fire and water".

The attempt to derive the machine motor skills from the movement processes in nature may appear logically comprehensible, but the “gap between reading and looking, between deduction and empiricism, calculation and enumeration” cannot be resolved. Only the realization that the machine is exclusively connected to nature as a “consumer of energy”, but not as a natural “musculoskeletal system”, because all of its movements are always “unnatural” and actually correspond to theirs nature. This also means: only the appearance of the machine parts in pairs ensures the machine character. Even more, the “pair constellation” also opens up “the possibility of having machines built machines”. Müller-Sievers even speaks of a “machine park” that is becoming possible, which “becomes an epigenetically reproducing phylum”. In this sense, machines create their own evolution and lead to the birth of "ever new classes" of machines. "Movement", "rotation" and "translation" are recurring mechanisms with which (generation) procreation is continued. It is the “momentum of its own” that is related to “biological evolution” that is located at the interface between nature / art and technology.

Embedded in the frame formed by two stone figures of knowledge, namely Johann Wolfgang von Goethe's “Agathe Tyche” in the Ilmpark and the Fröbeldenkmal, which in addition to the cuboid and sphere has a mediating cylinder as an intermediate component, Müller-Sievers developed one in “The Novel Machine” interesting interlinking history of roller industrialization and novel machinery in the 18th and 19th centuries. Symbolized in the cylinder, a so-to-speak evolutionary "movement" is generated, which "forces" the "rotation" of the sphere and the "translation" of the cuboid together. This constraint transferred to machine technology extends not only to the machine industry, but also to the cultural sector. Industrial rotary printing enables a printing culture that at the same time finds its discursive expression in the co-creating triangle of author, publisher and recipient. Based on the narrated and written serial narrative of the 19th century, such as the example of Charles Dickens The Pickwick Papers clarifies, Müller-Sievers shows clearly and vividly how in the term “upheaval” in a literal, technical and cultural sense, roller and narrative innovation come together. The “genealogy of movements” finds its dynamic content both in the manufacturing factories and in the narration of the (novel) texts. Characteristic for both movements is their incompleteness, the darkness of their possible or impossible end, which brings them close to the “pre-discursive ancestor” of the generation. Müller-Sievers wants realistic literature to be understood as the literary connection “to the dominant movement of its epoch” instead of as an image of “direct reality”. In this way, the roller-stamped forwards movement becomes a literary “participation” and the literary “enjoyment” becomes a “surrender” to one and the same movement.

The (cross) crossing of the three generating forces "generation", "movement" and "rotation", which are evolutionarily dependent on one another, shows how their fields of activity mutually reinforce one another in terms of the history of knowledge. Such an influence is not a question of voluntariness, but one of descent and in this respect self-generating. Müller-Sievers uses an impressive, broad spectrum of knowledge to show how molds are produced.Literary generation does not take place in a split-off fictional field, but rather is itself part of the birth of knowledge. This chiasmus is particularly clear in the description of the broad scope of the cylindrical printing press, which creates the incompleteness of the newly emerging sequel and moved in one - both machine and literary. Literature and technology, mechanics and (natural) science intertwine, so that in the common point of contact “movement” the status of literature as science (science) takes place. The texts of this selected collection of essays always point to movement as an all-determining form of liveliness that is present in literary narration. The touch of movement overcomes the dichotomy of the fictional and factual field in favor of a science of Literature.