Indiana University Bloomington


(For an archive of events, see here)


Fall 2014


Symposium: Hans Blumenberg's Concept of Modernity

Patricia Ingham & Johannes Türk, Conveners

Friday, Oct. 31, Faculty Club, Indiana Memorial Union.

3 p.m.: Rüdiger Campe (German, Yale University):
“The Background of the Metaphor: Historicity Through Implication.”

Abstract: The Legitimacy of the Modern Age (1966) has often been seen as a deviation from Blumenberg’s earlier critical study of metaphor in philosophy and science (Paradigms of Metaphorology). According to this interpretation, Legitimacy amounts to a turn to history. I will argue that this is not the case. On the contrary, with regard to the understanding of modern history as a process of secularization, Blumenberg addresses not only a specific (theological and substantialist) candidate for historical transformation, but the nature of historical transformation as such. Read with an eye to this meta-critical argument, The Legitimacy of the Modern Age may turn out to be a daring manifesto for the critical reading of metaphor as a way of doing philosophy.

4:30 pm: Coffee Break

5 pm: Reading Blumenberg Today

John Arthos (Communication & Culture)
Patricia Clare Ingham (English)
Joshua Kates (English)
Sonia Velázquez (Theater Studies; Religious Studies)
Constance Furey (Religious Studies), Modertor


Saturday, Nov. 1, Oak Room, Indiana Memorial Union

10 am: Jane O. Newman (Comparative Literature, University of California, Irvine):
"Early / Modern: Augustine between Blumenberg and Auerbach."

Abstract: I explore the mechanics of the historical narrative – and of the history of modernity as narrative – that grows out Blumenberg’s version of the saint, who is made to cut a somewhat peculiar figure as both an “early” inspiration for modernity’s all-important “humanist” “self assertion” and as the inhibitor of its true, final arrival. Casting the fifth-century Augustine in this role creates the kind of telic narrative of which Blumenberg himself would have to disapprove. We may thus want to consider whether there might not be something like a “re-occupation” of earlier accounts of Augustine in the works here, given the fact that the bishop of Hippo played an equally as central, yet exceedingly different role in what we may want to think of as the competitor arguments about modernity developed by other notable German thinkers, particularly Erich Auerbach, but also Hans Jonas, Martin Heidegger, and Hannah Arendt.

11:15 am: Coffee Break

11:45 am: Kirk Wetters (German, Yale University):
"Science or Philosophy? – Blumenberg's Critical Anti-Anti-Positivism."

Abstract: My paper analyzes Blumenberg's Legitimacy of the Modern Age in its genesis and reception in the 1960s and beyond. It seeks to reconnect Blumenberg to Max Weber, an evidently crucial figure who plays almost no direct role in Legitimacy. There are a number ways of explaining Blumenberg's implicit dialogue with Weber. One way relates to the hyper-prevalence of Weber's thought in the 1960s. During the same years when Blumenberg was writing and revising his Legitimacy, Weber's legacy was being hotly contested in the so-called "positivism debate" (Positivismusstreit), a clash between academic sociology and the philosophically inflected Marxism of Adorno and Habermas. Already in 1964, Blumenberg's critique of secularization opted for a metaphorological historiography with more in common with the Weberian idea of "science" (Wissenschaft) than with the philosophy of history.

1 pm: Lunch (area restaurants)

2:30 pm: C.D. Blanton (English, University of California, Berkeley):
"Reoccupying Metaphor: On the Legitimacy of the Nonconceptual."

Abstract: From his earliest work on "absolute metaphors" and "background metaphorics" to his late intimations of a metaphorically grounded practice of "nonconceptuality," Hans Blumenberg’s work turns on the figurative and formal mechanism of metaphor. This paper revisits Blumenberg’s epochal and epoch-making account in The Legitimacy of the Modern Age, seeking to account for its powerful but often elusive sense of rhetoric: no longer fully opposed to dialectic, no longer fully reducible to linguistic or figurative invention. Ultimately, it suggests, Blumenberg’s notion of legitimacy depends on this rhetoric’s capacity to enact a mode of provisional negation that mimics the logical work of the concept by way of the power of misunderstanding.

3:45 pm: Coffee Break

4:15 pm: Reading Blumenberg Today

Hall Bjørnstad (French & Italian)
Jennifer Fleissner (English)
Johannes Türk (Germanic Studies)
Michel Chaouli (Germanic Studies), Moderator

The symosium is generously supported by the Departments of Germanic Studies and English, and by the College Arts & Humanities Institute, Indiana University.


Forum: Discussion of Work in Progress

Jennifer Fleissner (English): "The Embarrassment of Being a Subject: From St. Paul to Internet Porn" (PDF).

Thursday, Nov. 13, 2014, 8 pm; discussion at 8:30 pm. 1220 E. 1st Street, corner of Highland.

Abstract:This paper considers the possibility that the current theoretical turn toward objects, and away from subjects, may in part derive from the fact that being a subject is, frankly, embarrassing. Through attention to the Augustinian dimensions of the novel, it constructs an alternate genealogy of the trait often preeminently associated with modern subjectivity, the will, in which it stands for anything but the usual faith in rational autonomy.


Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Marx (But Were Afraid to Ask)

A Conversation with Benjamin Robinson (Germanic Studies)

Wednesday, Nov. 19, 7 - 8:30 pm, Edmondson Formal Lounge, Collins Living & Learning Center. Refreshments will be served. (The event was originally planned for Nov. 5.)


For older events, see here.