Between Boom, Bust and Bildung. Entrepreneurship and Imagination in the German Merchant Novel
Tuesday, 17 January 2017, 6:30 – 7:30pm
The inaugural lecture by Professor Jürgen Barkhoff (Professor of German and Head of the School of Languages, Literatures and Cultural Studies) organised by the Faculty of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences.
Abstract: The lecture discusses the role of the imagination and its relationship to an entrepreneurial spirit in four canonical, highly influential and bestselling German merchant novels of the long nineteenth century, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe’s Wilhelm Meister’s Apprenticeship (1796), Gustav Freytag’s Debit and Credit (1855), Gottfried Keller’s Martin Salander (1886) and Thomas Mann’s Buddenbrooks (1901). Against the background of the dominant German tradition of the Bildungsroman or novel of self-cultivation, these texts not only portray, but through this portrayal also influence and shape the formation of German merchant identities during the bourgeois age. They thematise the interrelationships between the business world with the spheres of culture, society and politics and are complex explorations of dispositions, attitudes, values and behaviours of their time.
It will investigate its theme both at the level of plot and character, but also structurally and aesthetically. These texts posit imagination as a unique and indispensable, but also problematic tool for vision and ambition, identification and critique, self-awareness and civic responsibility. What lessons, if any, can be drawn from these literary explorations across cultures and epochs for educational and entrepreneurial aspirations today? The lecture will conclude with some reflections on the specific contribution of literature to our efforts to make sense of the world and position ourselves in it.
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Type of Event: One-time event
Audience: Undergrad, Postgrad, Alumni, Faculty & Staff, Public
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