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Critical Time in Modern German Literature and Culture


Dirk Göttsche

The fleeting nature of time is a defining feature of modern and postmodern existence. Identified by Reinhart Koselleck as the temporalization («Verzeitlichung») of all areas of human knowledge and experience around 1800, the concept of critical time continues to intrigue researchers across the arts and humanities. This volume combines theoretical and critical approaches to temporality with case studies on the engagement with the modern sense of time in German literature, visual art and culture from the eighteenth century to the present. Contributions explore key areas in the cultural history of time: time in art and aesthetic theory, the intellectual history of time, the relationship between time and space in literature and visual art, the politics of time and memory, and the poetics of time. Essays question the focus on acceleration in recent critical discourse by also revealing the contrapuntal fascination with slowness and ecstatic moments, notions of polyphonous time and simultaneity, the dialectic of time and space, and complex aesthetic temporalities breaking with modern time-regimes.
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Sabine Zubarik – The Ethics of Time: Stasis and Dilation in Thomas Lehr’s 42 and Svend Age Madsen’s Days with Diam


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The Ethics of Time: Stasis and Dilation in Thomas Lehr’s 42 and Svend Age Madsen’s Days with Diam

The conjunction of time and ethics into a genitive compound seems to establish an odd semantic alliance that raises questions: is time an ethical category? Are ethics dependant on a fixed concept of the nature of time? Does the notion of “good/bad behaviour” and “proper conduct” exist outside of any temporal dimension? Dealing with the relationship between ethics and time, as the various essays do in the anthology Time and Ethics,1 for example, instantly makes clear that our whole belief system of practical ethics and moral conduct is connected exclusively with the supposition of a constant, unidirectional and one-dimensional timeline, objective and independent of the observer, and hence with clear distinctions between past, present and future. Our social apparatus of judging, punishing and regulating behaviour relies on the laws of causality and identity: how could deeds be punished if we could not claim certainty about the existence of cause and effect and the one-ness of an individual in his or her vectorial timeline? Concepts of time and temporality that differ from these assumptions (cause and effect due to an objective, one-dimensional timeline) render the application of our established ethical system difficult or even impossible.

Meanwhile, during the last century, new physics have postulated various alternatives to the understanding of time: the relativity of time is proven, quantum physics have...

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