Poetic critique—is that not an oxymoron? Do these two forms of behavior—the poetic and the critical—not pull in different, even opposite, directions? For many scholars working in the humanities today, they largely do, but that has not always been so. Friedrich Schlegel, for one, believed that critique worthy of its name must be poetic. Only then does it stand a chance of responding adequately to the work of art. “Poetic critique,” he noted in his 1798 review of Goethe’s novel Wilhelm Meister’s Apprenticeship, “will present anew what has been presented; it will wish to shape once again what has already been shaped; [the poetic critic] will complete the work, rejuvenate and refashion it.” It is an audacious notion of critique, one that has inspired thinkers such as Walter Benjamin. Yet it is also a notion that has failed to gain a firm foothold in literary studies as it transformed itself into an academic discipline.
Our conference seeks to put new life into the idea of poetic critique, but also to ask about its limits and limitations. What forms might critique take when practiced poetically? What is revealed by it and what concealed? Would it make a difference to speak of poetic criticism rather than of poetic critique? Can this practice be rigorous enough to maintain a right of citizenship in the academy? Might it open the way to modes of inquiry that leave behind suspicion and righteousness? How can it keep faith with the meaning of a work of art? Are there other ways of renewing critique? We invite scholars in the humanities to reflect on the promises and pitfalls of critique, and to consider whether a concept such as poetic critique (or poetic criticism) lends itself to enriching our intellectual practice. We welcome perspectives that not only contemplate poetic critique, but which also practice it.
The conference is open to the public and will take place at the Indiana University Europe Gateway, Gneisenaustraße 27, 10961 Berlin-Kreuzberg. It is funded by Einstein Stiftung Berlin, Freie Universität Berlin and Indiana University.
15:15-16:45 Panel 1
Eli Friedlander (Tel Aviv Univ.): “'Can Truth do Justice to Beauty': Walter Benjamin on Plato’s Symposium and Goethe’s Elective Affinities”
Stephen Best (Univ. of California, Berkeley): “Acts of Critical Complicity”
17:15-18:45 Panel 2
Jeff Dolven (Princeton Univ.): “Poetry, Critique, Imitation”
Jennifer Ashton (Univ. of Illinois, Chicago): "Why Adding ‘Poetic’ to ‘Critique’ Adds Nothing to Critique"
11:15-12:45 Panel 3
Bettine Menke (Univ. Erfurt): “Theater as Critical Praxis. Gesture and Citability”
Alexander García Düttmann (Univ. der Künste Berlin): “Echo Reconciles”
14:00-14:45 Panel 4
Dennis Tenen (Columbia Univ.): “The Hermeneutics of (Algorithmically) Reconstructed Texts”
15:00-16:30 Panel 5
Jonathan Elmer (Indiana Univ.): “On Not Forcing the Question: Criticism and Playing Along”
Walter Benn Michaels (Univ. of Illinois, Chicago): “Historicism’s Forms, or, the Aesthetics of Critique”
17:00-18:30 Panel 6
Yi-Ping Ong (Johns Hopkins Univ.): “Poetic Criticism and the Work of Fiction: Goethe, Joyce, and Coetzee”
Amit Chaudhuri (Writer, Univ. of East Anglia): “Storytelling and Forgetfulness”
The talk of Winfried Menninghaus has been cancelled.
12:00-12:45 Panel 7
Viktoria Tkaczyk (Humboldt Univ. Berlin): “Critiques of Broadcasting and the Making of Radio: A Challenge for the Humanities”
14:00-15:30 Panel 8
Amanda Goldstein (Univ. of California, Berkeley): “Relief Poetry and Material Revenge: The Other Darwin”
Joshua Kates (Indiana Univ.): “The Silence of the Concepts”
15:45-16:30 Panel 9
Anne Eusterschulte (Freie Univ. Berlin): “La chambre poétique: A critical debate between Søren Kierkegaard, Theodor W. Adorno and Roland Barthes”
16:45-17:30 Final discussion with Sharon Marcus (Columbia Univ.) and Michel Chaouli (Indiana Univ.)