hermeneutic theory

Claudia Löschner

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The PHD project Käte Hamburger’s Philosophy of Literature and the ‘Scientification’ of Literary Studies: The Logic of Literature (1957) in the Context of the History of Ideas (Modern German Literature) focuses the German Jewish philosopher and specialist in German studies Käte Hamburger who has held a guest professorship at Stanford University in 1968.
In 1957 Käte Hamburger published her study The Logic of Literature. This soon became well-known among narrative theory experts, both in German-speaking countries and internationally. It engendered debates beyond the field of narrative theory into the broader realm of methodology and the self-conception of German Studies. Historians have said that Hamburger’s work marked a milestone within the post-war transformation of German Studies, when the discipline was marked by the introduction of new philosophical methodological approaches. Hamburger acquired renown as the precursor to a highly systematic literary theory. New academic values which became an imperative for German studies were severely criticised during the seventies of the twentieth century for being devoid of methodological substance. They were also criticised for being opportunistic between the years 1933 and 1945. However, the canonisation of the Logic of Literature often entailed an oversimplified reading. As a result attributions were made to the work of Käte Hamburger which cannot bear critical scrutiny because they ignore the fact that her perception of literature always remained continuous with the approach of intellectual history.

The aim of this study is to contextualise the work of Käte Hamburger within the much broader debate about scientific standards in philosophy and literary studies that emerged in the twentieth century. The fact that these debates occured at different moments is important because it moots the question as to whether Käte Hamburger should be assessed as a protagonist of the impact of analytic philosophy on the ongoing methodological renewal of literary studies.


Claudia Löschner studied modern German literature and Romance language (French) at Berlin's Humboldt University from the summer semester of 2001 onwards. In her Masters dissertation Ernst Cassirer – A Concept of “Text” between 'Life', 'Literariness', 'Artifice'' (2006; Supervisor: Prof. Dr. Lutz Danneberg), she examined the significance that Cassirer assigns to literature within his system of symbolic forms. In the context of this analysis, Cassirer’s image as a hermeneutic with the aim to create cultural unity faded, as Cassirer's treatment of literature went beyond the limits of his customary point of view. In particular, a deepening of Cassirer’s engagement with literary studies during his exile in Goteborg became visible. In this context, a surprising connection between Ernst Cassirer and Käte Hamburger led to Claudia Löschner’s choice of dissertation project. The 3rd International Summer School Literary Studies "Think Literature! Theoretical Experiments 1945-1989" in July 2007 at the DLA (German Literary Archive) Marbach gave her access to Käte Hamburger’s literary estate and provided her with the opportunity to discuss and develop her thesis. From the summer semester 2007 onwards she gained teaching experience with seminars on recent theories of autobiography (summer semester 2007 and winter semester 2007/08), on the narrative theory of, among others, Käte Hamburger (winter semester 2007/08), on the theory and practice of textual interpretation (SS 2008), as well as on the work of R.D. Brinkmann (winter semester 2008/09).

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