On the 500th anniversary of Luther’s 95 theses, the Binghamton University German Studies Colloquium (BUGSC) will explore the shifting constellations of spirituality, religion, and individual quests in German literature, philosophy, culture, and history.

Discourses that have conjugated ideas of “truth” with notions of “purity,” “sacrifice,” and religiosity or quasi-religiosity have been prominent in German-speaking cultures for centuries. Such discourses link, for example, the biographies of individuals such as Luther, Kant, and Bach, situating them as figureheads of their moment or even symbolic figures of a “German spirit.” The concept of “Bildung” as a foundational value that links knowledge and spirituality, as well as the idea of a particular “German depth,” have contributed to this constellation. What does it mean that meaning, quest, and spirituality have often been defined in terms of one another in German culture and thought? How do ideas of the spiritual and the transcendent interact with and inform other discourses, knowledge practices, and areas of culture? How has the “individual quest for meaning” shaped such disparate domains as philosophy, literature, political thought, and the like? What can the shifting configuration of spirituality among diverse discourses tell us about its central role in the history of German culture and thought?


BUGSC VIII is made possible by generous support from the Department of German and Russian Studies, the Harpur College Dean's Office, the Convocations Committee, the Department of Comparative Literature, the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD), Binghamton University Alumna Doris Braun and the Wells Family.


All events take place in the Engineering and Science Building (room ES 2008) at the Binghamton University Innovative Technologies Center (ITC) on Murray Hill Road.

Friday, April 28, 2017

8:30 Breakfast

8:45 Opening remarks

Harald Zils, Binghamton University

9:00–10:30 — Jewish-Christian Dialogues

Rudolf Otto, Martin Buber, and the Science of Religion in the Weimar Republic – Objectification of the personal quest for God — Cohen Tzemach Yaron and Yekutiel Shoham, Tel Aviv University

Sacrifice and Redemption in Albrecht Goes’ Das Brandopfer — Mary Boldt, York College

Juden und Judentum in Franz Werfels Barbara oder die Frömmigkeit — Helga Schreckenberger, University of Vermont

Moderator: Harald Zils, Binghamton University

10:45–12:00 — What Do The Classics Mean?

Romanticizing the Spirit: The Legacy of Luther in Lessing and Novalis — Matthew Stoltz, Cornell University

Der Sinn von Unsinn: The Function of Nonsense in Goethe’s Faust — Arthur Salvo, Columbia University

"'Seid ihr in Nöten, geht doch zu Goethen': Goethe as Savior of the 1932 Weimar Republic — Thomas Beebee, Pennsylvania State University

Moderator: Neil Christian Pages, Binghamton University

12:00–1:30 Lunch

1:30–2:45 — Reformative Truth

Heilige Ansichtssache? Lucas Cranachs Bibel-Illustrationen — Julia Ludewig, Allegheny College

Religious feelings, emotional communities, the search for meaning in sixteenth-century Protestantism — Sean Dunwoody, History/Medieval & Early Modern Studies, Binghamton University

Eine Revolution der Reformation? Evolution und Auswirkungen der Texte Johann Valentin Andreaes — Marie-Christine Merdan, University College, London

Moderator: Carl Gelderloos, Binghamton University

3:00–4:00 — Leaps of Faith

Religion without Content in Musil’s Mann ohne Eigenschaften — Thomas Bell, University of Washington

The Divine Spark: Origin Stories of Electricity from Christian Mysticism to Wireless Technology — Erik Born, Cornell University

Moderator: Carl Gelderloos, Binghamton University

4:15–5:00 Wine and Cheese Reception

5:00–6:30 Keynote Address

Albrecht Classen, University of Arizona: “The Individual Quest For Meaning in the Humanities”

8:00 Dinner for registered participants at P.S. Restaurant

Saturday, April 29

9:00 Breakfast

9:45–10:45 — Movements of Meaning

Somatic Wisdom and the Power of the Metaphor — Cara Tovey, UC Berkeley

The Quest for Meaning in War: Walter Flex and World War I — Eckhard Kuhn-Osius, Hunter College, CUNY

Moderator: Rosmarie Morewedge, Binghamton University

11:00–1:00 Lunch & Roundtable Workshop: "The Meaning of Angelus Silesius"



For questions, registrations and more information, please contact Harald Zils, Department of German and Russian, Binghamton University.