Concepts of Aesthetic Form
January 13-15, 2017

The Concepts of Aesthetic Form conference was devoted to the concept of form in humanistic inquiry. It was especially interested in the kind of formal generality at issue in humanistic disciplines, and the differences between such formality and, for example, the concept of scientific law. Our approach is exploratory, and we began with no fixed commitments. Our initial orientation assumed that what distinguishes objects of study in the humanities — literature, art objects, music, etc. — is that they are the objects they are by virtue of the self-understanding embodied in these objects, and that humanistic inquiry attempts to articulate the self-understanding and purposiveness that is the basis of the distinct unity of the objects themselves.

We are interested both in basic transformations in the history of philosophical thought about these issues, from Plato and Aristotle to Kant and Hegel and many others, as well as in the embodiment of different alternatives of such formal unity in various art works and in critical thinking about these works.

This conference is a sequel to the Revolutions in the Concept of Form conference.


The Activity of Being
July 1-7, 2016

Workshop with Aryeh Kosman (Haverford)
July 1 and 3, 2016
Leipzig University, Institute for Philosophy


„Schlusspoetik“.  Goethes Spätwerk/ On late Goethe
March 14-15, 2016

An international conference devoted to the concept of “late style” as it applies especially to Goethe’s work. Papers and discussions were in English and German.

Because the category of ‘late style’ is extremely common in literary studies, it is often used uncritically. This is indicated by the simple fact that the relevant reference books have no entries on the concept. The upcoming Humboldt-Kolleg aims to delineate the (literary) phenomenon of late style as sharply as possible. Above all, we hope to go beyond the widespread use of the term as a biographical or epochal benchmark in order to determine the structural, aesthetic, and functional principles that govern its application. In this connection, Goethe’s work provides an outstanding field for theoretical exploration. This is not only because Goethe’s work was essential for the emergence of a discourse of ‘late style’ in the early twentieth century. On the contrary, research on Goethe’s late style continues to be – at least in some respects – a desideratum. Although scholars have examined the motifs, themes, and topics of most of Goethe's later works throughout the last sixty years, the question of lateness as a literary characteristic has rarely been raised. Within this framework, three aspects are of particular interest: 1) the intricate temporal structure of late style; 2) the specific literary form in which the author commits his life’s work to the ages to come; 3) the relationship between late style and a changing cultural understanding of time structures around 1800.

The Humboldt-Kolleg will combine intensive close readings of Goethe’s works with more general, problem-oriented reflections on the concept of late style.


An Almost Unknown Masterpiece: Cecco del Caravaggio’s Resurrection
May 12, 2016

Michael Fried is a poet, art historian, art critic, and literary critic.  He has written extensively about abstract painting and sculpture since World War II, about French painting and art criticism from the mid-eighteenth century to the advent of Edouard Manet and his generation (and beyond), about Thomas Eakins and Stephen Crane, about the great nineteenth-century German painters Caspar David Friedrich and Adolph Menzel, about Charles Baudelaire, Joseph Conrad, and Søren Kierkegaard, about Gustave Flaubert’s novels Madame Bovary and Salammbô, about Bernd and Hilla Becher, Jeff Wall, Jean-Marc Bustamante, Thomas Struth, Thomas Ruff, Andreas Gursky, Thomas Demand, Luc Delahaye, James Welling, and other contemporary “art” photographers, about Caravaggio and the transformation of Italian painting around 1600, and about the contemporary artists Anri Sala, Charles Ray, Joseph Marioni, and Douglas Gordon (among others).  He has long been engaged by prob­lems of modern­ism, abstraction, realism, theatri­cality, objecthood, self-portraiture, embodiedness, and the everyday.  Thinkers who particularly interest him include Diderot, Kierkegaard, Merleau-Ponty, Wittgenstein, and Cavell. _________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Revolutions in the Concept of Form Conference
October 29-31, 2015

Are the humanities a form of knowledge? What is the object of such knowledge? Is this form of inquiry autonomous?