Participants of a conference organized by the the Research Centre for European Classicism 2010 in the Goethe National Museum Weimar


Conference in 2018

Concepts of the “Classical” in East Asian Cultures

Conference directors: Prof. Dr. Andrea Albrecht, Prof. Dr. Thorsten Valk, Prof. Dr. Wilhelm Voßkamp

The conference organised in 2018 by the Research Centre for European Classicism examined the cultural phenomenon of the “classical” as defined by European scholars since antiquity and the extent to which it exists in East Asian cultures.

In China, the term “classical” was first used during the 17th and 18th century when Jesuit missionaries began translating Confucian and neo-Confusion writings into Latin. In this context, the scholars often described them as “classical” texts. Although initially adopted as a loan word, Asian authors increasingly began using the term “classical” around the 19th century when describing their own cultural background.

The conference focused on four central aspects. The participants first compared the term “classical” from various culturally perspectives and then reflected on its transferability to East Asian cultural history. From there, they addressed the complex relationship of classicity and canonicity against the background of cultural processes of dissemination. A special focus of discussion addressed the “classical” as a category of East Asian art and literary historiography since the end of the 19th century. The concluding lectures shed light on the current value of the “classical” in cultural and socio-political debates in East Asia.

Conference in 2016

The “Other Classical Poet”. Johann Gottfried Herder and the Weimar Constellation around 1800

Conference diretors: Prof. Dr. Hans Adler, Dr. Gesa von Essen, Prof. Dr. Werner Frick

Johann Gottfried Herder’s position to the entire phenomenon of “Weimar Classicism” was ambivalent even during his lifetime and still awaits a more precise definition today. The annual conference of the Research Centre for European Classicism in 2016 aimed to determine the specific place, original profile and singular achievement of this “other” Classical poet within the Weimar constellation around 1800. The goal was not so much to subsume Herder under the concept of Classicism as most commonly defined by Goethe and Schiller. Rather, it aimed to shape and expand the definition of Classicism in such a way that authors and philosophers like Herder could move from the problematic periphery to the centre of attention, and introduce new perspectives and contextualisation to the complex and often conflicting idea-historical relationships between late Age of Enlightenment, Sturm und Drang, Classicism and Romanticism. In view of the representative areas of activity of Weimar’s former general superintendent, the conference offered a long-overdue re-evaluation of Herder in the intellectual force field of the Goethe era. Case studies from the fields of literary studies, theology, philosophy, pedagogy, art and idea history shed light on the multifaceted spectrum of Herder’s influence in Weimar. Furthermore, various “exempla classica” served to emphasise Herder’s lasting impact on the genius loci of the memorial site of Weimar.

Annual conference 2015 - ordo inversus – Forms and Function of a Concept around 1800

26 – 28 March 2015

Chairmen: Prof. Dr. Andrea Albrecht, Dr. Franziska Bomski, Prof. Dr. Lutz Danneberg

This year’s annual conference centres on the concept of the »ordo inversus« around the year 1800. While it guaranteed a certain measure of epistemic security since antiquity, we observe that it underwent a functional transformation at the beginning of “modernity” which coincides with modified forms of the concept. This conference aims to examine and analyse these changes in their historic context. 

The "ordo inversus" refers to a circular movement forward from a starting point to an ending point, from which further movement would lead back to the starting point. Historically the term “ordo inversus” was rarely used as such; equivalent conceptual pairings were more prevalent, for example fluxus (efluxus) / refluxus, exitus / reditus, progressio / regressio, ascensio / descensio or analysis / synthesis and resolutio / compositio.

As early as antiquity, into the Middle Ages, early modernity and well into the 18th century, the "ordo inversus" played a central role as a methodical concept in a broad range of scholarly areas and disciplines (theology, logic, natural philosophy and hermeneutics) and thus is ideally suited for comparative study. Yet its loss of plausibility during the 18th century also resulted in various attempts to counter its obsolescence, particularly in the fields of natural philosophy and hermeneutics, as well as art, literature and aesthetics. 

The comparative, interdisciplinary and historic examination of these processes will be the centre of discussion at the conference. An essential goal will be to highlight the phenomena of the "ordo inversus" in its various fundamental academic areas and disciplines as well as its radical forms and functions, and in so doing, provide a cross-disciplinary view of its historical transformation as it transitioned into "modernity". The conference will place particular emphasis on antiquity, the Middle Ages and early modernity as traditions relevant to the history of ideas which influenced the deliberation of the concept in the late 18th and early 19th century.

Annual conference 2014 - Genealogies of Nature and the Mind

27. – 29. March 2014

Chairmen: Franziska Bomski and Prof. Dr. Jürgen Stolzenberg

The 2014 annual conference of the Research Centre for European Classicism directs attention to a central issue of modern scientific and cultural history: the virulence and increasing significance of genealogical thought in the second half of the 18th century. Genealogical thought first began forming in the natural sciences. It then spread to philosophy, art and literature and expressed itself in the form of evolutionary study and the idealistic concepts of a history of consciousness. 

The conference shall examine the following thesis as the starting point for investigation of this history of ideas: The innovative, enlightened, epistemological project to portray a history of nature was first examined with reference to the contemporary theory of the mind (Etienne Bonnot de Condillac: Traité des sensations, 1754, et al.). This novel genealogical concept thus became a system-constitutive model in the form of a history of consciousness for all of classical German philosophy following Kant (Fichte, Schelling, Hegel). Though post-Kantian idealism undoubtedly influenced aesthetic and poetological concepts around 1800, the question is (according to this thesis) how strongly these concepts were also inspired by genetic models and methods of scientific research, and vice versa, i.e. to what extent scientific research was animated to investigate the formation of genealogical thought by philosophy and the arts. 

The conference will be divided into three sections based on the respective areas of investigation. The first section will examine the conditions, repercussions and magnitude of the upheaval in scientific research theory in the mid-18th century. The discussion will focus on the scientific-historic and historiographical aspects of a thesis proposed by Wolf Lepenies, in which he observes the "end of natural history" in the 18th century marked by a transition from a classification-based conceptualisation of nature to that of historic-genealogical one. The second section will examine the subject from a philosophical-scientific perspective. Participants will begin by addressing genealogical models in the theory of the mind during the respective period, and then inquire into the relationships between genealogical figures of thought in descriptions of nature and the philosophy of the subject. The third section will shed light on evolutionary histories in art and literature around 1800, address the genealogical models proposed by contemporary natural research and philosophy, and present them in a specifically aesthetic manner.

Annual conference 2013 - Die Rede vom Klassischen im 20. Jahrhundert

21. – 23. March 2013

Chairmen: Dr. Martin Dönike, Prof. Dr. Michael Gamper, PD Dr.Thorsten Valk

The annual conference of the Zentrum für Klassikforschung examines the concepts and rhetoric of Classicism which became increasingly prevalent in the aesthetic programmes and scholarly discourse of the 20th century. The discussion will focus on the occasions, motives and functions of these references to Classicism. 
The first part of the conference explores the scientific conceptualisations of Classicism in writings of literature and art history. A topic of particular interest is the Nuremberg conference of 1930, organised by Werner Jaeger, titled "The Problem of Classicism and Antiquity", as well as the categorisation of Classicism in Heinrich Wölfflin’s art-historical works. The conference will also examine the German literary concepts of Classicism put forth by Fritz Strich and Hermann August Korff as well as the term 'Classical modernity'. The second part reconstructs Classicism as the guiding principle in a variety of aesthetic programmes in philosophy and literature. The discussion will centre on the philosopher Hans-Georg Gadamer as well as on artists such as Ferruccio Busoni and T. S. Eliot. Their statements demonstrate that references to Classicism during the 20th century were by no means limited to Germany, but were persistently virulent in an international context as well.The third part of the conference concentrates on how the term 'Classicism' was used in the 20th century to influence various scientific and cultural currents for specific purposes – for example, in architecture, physics, economics and even sports.

To promote participation by young scholars, the Klassik Stiftung Weimar announces ten travel grants for the purpose of participation in the annual conference of the Zentrum für Klassikforschung. For more information, please see download-centre in the right column.

Annual conference 2012 - The Colours of Classicism

The focus on form and design were arguably the most influential legacy of the classical period and central element of Classicism. In this context, colour plays a seemingly minor role; in classical programmes, colour was often dismissed as contrary to the pure marble-white ideal. These positions stand in opposition, however, to two significant observations. First, the view of antiquity began changing around 1800 with regard to chromatics, and secondly, the transformation in the knowledge and perception of colour began to influence artistic practice and everyday life in a variety of ways. The epochal excavations of mural paintings in Herculaneum and Pompeii revealed antiquity has being brilliantly coloured, which challenged classical art theory, as well as contemporary painting, sculpture, architecture and general artistic work. Goethe’s "Theory of Colours" (Farbenlehre) marked several simultaneous and spectacular attempts to integrate the physical, physiological, chemical and aesthetic aspects of colour into one comprehensive concept. Around 1800, colour became an extremely virulent issue as thinkers and scientists assessed its interaction in many areas of knowledge and practice. Their common focus was on the "language of colour", whose use was reflected in philology and philosophy, and which theorists and practitioners of the time attempted to codify.

The annual conference aims to focus on the manifold significance of colour as a material and element of discourse, an aesthetic value and scientific object of interest for Classicism around 1800. The goal is to reveal once again the wealth and sensual vitality of a colourful classical period.

Annual conference 2011 - Constellations of the Arts around 1800

One of the central debates in aesthetic theory and artistic practice around 1800 concerned specific differences between various artistic genres. A half a century earlier, Charles Batteux had unequivocally asserted that all of the "fine arts" were related and shared analogous approaches. However, by the time Lessing published "Laokoon", differentiation between word- and image-based forms of expression had established itself, along with temporally and spatially defined modes of representation. As aesthetic autonomy became more prevalent around 1800, so did the divergence of the arts, which were no longer perceived as competing forms of expression that imitated reality, but rather autonomous and self-referential symbolic systems. Of course, the aesthetic debates around 1800 not only led to a stronger delineation between various artistic genres, but also emphasised the possibilities of mutual combination and transformation. Consequently, repeated cross-genre forays were spawned through art-theoretical reflection on the relationship between literature, graphic art and music.

The annual conference by the Research Centre for European Classicism sheds light on the diverse constellations of the arts around 1800. It not only examines the points of interference between discursive positioning and artistic practice, but also explores cross-genre aesthetics through the combination or transformation of literary, artistic and musical design elements. The presentations in the area "Exempla classica" illustrate the formation of theories and artistic practices around 1800 on the basis of paradigmatic works from the collections of the Klassik Stiftung Weimar.

Annual conference 2010 - Delicate balance – Weimar Classicism in the process of modernity

In literary and art historical research, Weimar Classicism is increasingly being seen as the phase which shaped aesthetic modernity. The works created in Weimar in around year 1800 can indeed be understood as discursive approaches to a modernity which was felt to be in a state of crisis: they reflect the loss of legitimation of traditional social orders in the context of the French Revolution, react to the irreversible breakdown of class barriers following on from industrialisation and respond to the increasing differentiation between knowledge and work.

Weimar Classicism counters the social and cultural turbulence prevalent around year 1800 with an aesthetic coping strategy. This is characterised by the effort to strike a balance between the opposites making themselves increasingly felt during the process of modernisation. It seeks to mediate between rationalism and emotionality, sense and sensibility, idealism and reality, nature and art, ancient and modern. As this type of mediation is bound to be tricky, the ongoing endeavours to find balance leader to ever more new artistic and philosophical experimental designs, ultimately giving rise to the works which seem to do justice to the title "classical".

The first annual conference of the Research Centre for European Classicism stages interdisciplinary dialogues reflecting on the artistic understanding of Weimar Classicism as it fluctuates between normativity and historicity, its specifically modern references to antiquity and Goethe’s morphological understanding of nature. Developments in aesthetic theory and material tradition are mutually connected in "repeated reflections".

Projects of the Klassik Stiftung Weimar are funded by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) and the Free State of Thuringia, represented by the State Chancellery of Thuringia, Department of Culture and the Arts.

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