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Abstract to "Sign, Subject, Space: Boundary Semiotics in Romanticism":
A young woman gives birth to the illegitimate child of the village reverend; someone imagines his soul to be flying over a beautiful landscape; a monomaniac desperately tries to kill a white whale; a poet-to-be is transported to magical Atlantis; and a monk is tempted by a devil-like creature. What do these scenes have in common? All are taken from American, German, and English Romantic texts.
They are also all scenes involving different boundary phenomena that can be described with the German term Entgrenzung. This project critically analyses Entgrenzung as it manifests in three different processes: transgression, transcendence, and the dissolution of boundaries. While transgression has strong moral connotations, transcendence as the crossing of boundaries into higher spheres beyond human understanding is connected to very different experiences. Finally, the dissolution of boundaries is a neutral term that describes not the crossing but the elimination of boundaries. The prefix Ent- implies an active process, such as the crossing of a spatial or moral boundary, as well as a passive loss of boundaries.
How can we translate the multiple meanings of Entgrenzung into English? Delimitation as the marking of boundaries can be considered an opposite term to Entgrenzung. A different prefix is therefore needed. In order to capture, describe, and explain the different kinds of Entgrenzung (literary) subjects can experience, I develop a model of Entgrenzung whose English translation into ‘a-limitation’ mirrors the different properties implied in the prefix Ent- through the ambiguous meaning of the prefix a-.
A-limitation/Entgrenzung is connected to a subject that experiences or practices the phenomenon; but this is only one of the three dimensions required to describe a-limitation/Entgrenzung. The notion of boundary cannot be relayed without a spatial concept. The boundary as the separation of two disjunctive spaces is the prerequisite of a-limitation/Entgrenzung. Subject- and spatial a-limitation/Entgrenzung in literary texts are always accompanied by semiotic a-limitation/Entgrenzung. In analogy to Peirce’s triadic model of the sign, the a-limitation model can therefore be imagined as a triad of sign, subject, and space. All three dimensions are held together by the mediating mechanism that Peirce calls transuasion. This means that a-limitation depends on the interaction of the three dimensions.
By comparing key texts from American, English, and German Romanticism I will critically analyse and explain distinct, universal and constitutive a-limitation/ Entgrenzungs- phenomena that are very similar to what has so far been claimed as modernist or postmodernist a-limitation/Entgrenzung. Postmodern theory (Deleuze and Guattari) supplies the terminology for the analysis.
Melanie Lörke was awarded the Ernst-Reuter-Preis on 4 December 2012.
The Ernst-Reuter-Gesellschaft of friends, sponsors and alumni of the Freie Universität Berlin annually honours the best dissertations at the Freie Universität Berlin. FSGS alumna Melanie Lörke was awarded the Ernst-Reuter-Preis 2012 for her dissertation "Sign, Subject, Space: Boundary Semiotics in Romanticism."