Emphatic reading

"Emphatic reading" is a Seminar initiated by Dr. Thomas Hettche, which is made possible by a collaboration of TU Berlin and UdK Berlin. It starts in the summer term of 2018 and will be continued in summer term 2019.

Question and Content

When Walter Höllerer was appointed to the TU Berlin in 1959, he wrote that he welcomed the opportunity to teach at a Technical University. He knew, in light of the tension in which he perceived contemporary literature to be, that he was in the right place, and until he retired in 1988, he repeatedly understood how to make productive use of this tension, which was already expressed in the name of the Institut für Sprache im technischen Zeitalter (“the Institute for Language in the Technical Age”) which he founded. Language in the technical age: this formula still describes the valid paradigm for any consideration of the literature of our times, more than ever in the face of rapid technological development.

The innovative core of all technology involves the questioning of existing cultural technologies, establishing new practices, and causing others to disappear. Walter Höllerer was convinced that literature continued to play a central role when calculating the profits and losses of these processes. He could not even have guessed how deeply the medial changes that we are experiencing are altering not only our apperception of literature, but its formats themselves, and that the literary public is even questioning our understanding of fiction in general.

The téchne of reading is an interface art, which is initially created by two elements: the text and its reader. First and foremost, reading creates the space in which literature is possible. In our technical age, however, the element is increasingly being lost which formerly constituted reading: the breaching of the reader’s integrity. However, literature which itself aims to be more than simply a depiction of reality is fundamentally dependent on such a breach. Only if the reader is prepared to throw themselves, reading, into the balance, as a whole person with all their prejudices, yearnings and desires, is a literary text realised and reading yields more than merely an aesthetic judgement.

Target Group

Emphatic readings aims to enable such as reading practice. Here, the focus, respectively, is on a novel, a novella, a short story, to which reading impressions and students’ questions are directed on the one hand, while on the other, poetic and poetological interventions are made by authors who are invited to attend a workshop. The invitation comes with a request to formulate their own poetic extensions and reflections on the work questioned. The event itself then consists of shared reading by students and writers, during which we explore the text together, prolong it and edit it, in order to write ourselves into it as readers. The location of the workshop is the geodata laboratory, which has listed building status, on the roof of the main TU building. This is a measurement laboratory, the floor of which is supported in an entirely vibration-free way in order to prevent the transfer of shocks and to conduct highly precise measurements of distances, angles, run times and radiation. The floor contains instrument positions, the coordinates of which need to be determined to the highest degree of precision, while the ascending roof enables certain astronomical measurements. While reading a text does not constitute a measurement of the text, the reader proceeds like a geodesist, who in the literal sense divides up the visible world by adopting perspectives, fixing horizons and steps outside of the text. However, emphatic reading sees as an opportunity the fact that in the case of literature, the reader themselves is a measurement instrument, and therefore, the creation of a cadastre in the sense of a valid interpretation of a literary text is at the same time possible and impossible. Unlike with the geodesist, it regards confusion as being the goal.

Support by the Hybrid Plattform

Support and accompaniment