641207 Intercultural Analysis: An Introduction to Literary and Cultural Plant Studies

winter semester 2018/2019 | Last update: 11.12.2018 Place course on memo list
Intercultural Analysis: An Introduction to Literary and Cultural Plant Studies
EU 2

This seminar is an introduction to the new research area of literary and cultural plant studies. We will read paradigmatic literary, scientific, historical and rhetorical texts in order to find out what kind of plant knowledge (i. e. knowledge both about and mediated through plants) is being transmitted. In doing so, ‘classical’ plant themes such as the garden, the flower, or the ornament will be discussed alongside theoretical concepts such as hybridity, adaptation, or plant agency.

Almost twenty years ago, biologists James H. Wandersee und Elisabeth E. Schussler deteted a growing “plant blindness” in their current age: Plants are everywhere and central to our survival on earth, yet the knowledge about them is in decline. Literary studies are no exception here since contrary to animals, plants have not received much attention even though they populate the world’s literatures. Recently, this blind spot has been addressed by literary and cultural plant studies, dedicated to researching the vegetative. Their predecessors are, amongst others, Linné, Rousseau, Goethe and Darwin but the French theorists such as Derrida, Ponge and Kristeva have also dedicated important texts to plants. In them, they discuss fundamental themes such as language, sex/gender, and order, topics that are central to this seminar. Participants will be required to discuss theoretical texts in German and English and read a complete novel (Thomas Hettche’s Pfaueninsel). Mandatory excursions to the botanical garden and archives/libraries will ensure that the discussions about plants are also linked to concrete aesthetic experiences.

Students are responsible for preparing the relevant texts beforehand and will each present one text to the seminar participants. We will discuss the texts intensively in class. The seminar leader will contextualize the theoretical texts and give some background on basic concepts of literary studies in order to ensure the relevance of this new area of research for students of comparative literature.

Each participant is responsible of presenting one text orally in class. General knowledge of texts will be ensured via the completion of multiple-choice quizzes. All excursions are mandatory. In order to successfully complete this course, students will have to write a short essay (approx. 4–5 pages) on one of the seminar texts. Active participation in discussions will be part of grading.

1.    Benjamin Bühler, Stefan Rieger: Das Wuchern der Pflanzen. Ein Florilegium des Wissens. Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp, 2009.

2.    Michel Foucault (1966): Die Ordnung der Dinge. Eine Archäologie der Humanwissenschaften, aus dem Französischen von Ulrich Köppen, Frankfurt a. M.: Suhrkamp, 1971.

3.    Isabel Kranz, Alexander Schwan, Eike Wittrock (Hg.): Floriographie. Die Sprache der Blumen. München: Fink, 2016.

4.    Francis Ponge: L’Opinion changée quant aux fleurs/Änderung der Ansicht über Blumen, aus dem Französischen übersetzt, kommentiert und mit einem Essay versehen von Thomas Schestag, Basel/Weil a. R./Wien: Urs Engeler, 2005.

5.   Claudette Sartiliot, (1993): Herbarium, Verbarium: The Discourse of Flowers, Lincoln, NE: U of Nebraska P.

6. Elaine Scarry: „Imagining Flowers: Perceptual Mimesis (Particularly Delphinium)“, in: Representations 57 (1997), 90–115.

Vormittags oder Nachmittags (halbtägig, 3 - 4 Stunden), Botanischer Garten
Group 0
Date Time Location
Fri 2018-11-09
13.45 - 17.00 40123 40123 Barrier-free
Fri 2018-12-14
08.30 - 20.30 40123 40123 Barrier-free
Sat 2018-12-15
08.30 - 20.30 40123 40123 Barrier-free
Fri 2019-01-25
08.30 - 20.30 40123 40123 Barrier-free
Sat 2019-01-26
10.15 - 13.30 40123 40123 Barrier-free