Druckansicht der Internetadresse:

Faculty of Languages & Literature

English Literature – Prof. Dr. Florian Klaeger

Print page


Our research focuses on the following areas:

  • literary form
    (visit the DFG network, 'Form in Dialogue', here)

  • early modern British literature and culture

  • the literature of diaspora

  • literature and knowledge (especially literary astroculture)

  • twentieth and twenty-first century British theatre and performance

The Poetics of Astronomy in Early Modern England:

Cosmopoetic form-knowledge: astronomy, poetics, and ideology in England, 1500—1800Hide

(2019—2023, funded by the German Research Foundation)

The project examines the forms by which knowledge travels between the domains of astronomy, poetics, and politics in early modern England (1500—1800). It is based on the observation that knowledge acquires authority through its formal shaping, and that this authority, inherent in the form, will also apply in other domains of knowledge in which similar forms are employed. In this sense, it considers ‘form-knowledge’ a crucial factor in the history of science alongside ‘thing-knowledge’ and ‘people-knowledge’ (cf. Shapin, A Social History of Truth). Specifically, the project studies the ways in which astronomical knowledge and the forms used for its mediation acquire ideological and poetological meaning in early modern England. The textual corpus includes, first, the immensely popular early modern genre of the almanac as well as astronomy textbooks directed at a similarly broad readership – i.e., genres in which astronomical knowledge is presented pragmatically and frequently interpreted ideologically. Their formal strategies are compared, second, to equally evaluative assessments of poetic form in poetics and rhetoric. Third, the genre of didactic poetry self-reflexively (and thus, auto-poetically) mediates astronomical knowledge and its ideological ‘meaning’, thus linking the three domains.

The formal strategies employed in the creation and mediation of astronomical knowledge must not merely seen as symptoms of an external social order, but as active interventions in it. Forms such as the (neo-)Platonic unity of the cosmos, the hierarchy of the heavenly orbs or the harmony of the spheres stake a claim for authority that originally derives not from their astronomic objects, but from the spheres of society and poetry. Astronomical ‘evidence’ then, in turn, corroborates the legitimacy of these terrestrial forms of organization or calls for their re-assessment. The popular genres of the almanac and the textbook are particularly suited for appropriating astronomical knowledge to various ideological purposes. Institutions of the emergent domain of ‘literature’ such as works of poetics and rhetoric enable us to trace how the imagination of other worlds impacted early modern ideas of mimesis, authorship and poetic invention, both in epistemological and ontological terms. Examining texts from this double perspective, which is uniquely merged in the genre of didactic poetry, allows us to describe the formal strategies brought to bear on early modern astronomical knowledge – i.e., to describe the poetic formation of astronomical knowledge. Conversely, we ask which forms of knowledge are drawn from the objects, methods and technologies of the New Science and come to affect early modern English ideas of form. The ideological ‘cargo’ of such forms, and their function for fashioning identities, is examined with a view to gender, class, and religion, as well as constructions of Englishness and Europeanness.

For further information, click here.

Image credit:
Petrus Apian, Astronomicum Caesareum, Ingolstadt 1540 (Bayerische Staatsbibliothek München, Rar. 821 a, fol. F.iii.v)

Scientific Poetry and Poetics in Britain and Germany, from the Renaissance to the EnlightenmentHide

(2024--2027, funded by the German Research Foundation and, for the British partners, the Arts and Humanities Research Council)

The joint project with the University of Marburg (Hania Siebenpfeiffer), the University of York (Kevin Killeen) and Anglia Ruskin University (Cassandra Gorman) investigates the poetic communication of natural philosophical knowledge, such as geology, astronomy and botany, in early modern scientific poetry. When the modern natural sciences emerged in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, poetry was used to convey the new knowledge. The project examines a large number of hitherto largely unexplored English and German scientific poems to shed light on an important facet of culture from the Renaissance to the Enlightenment: the close connection between natural knowledge and poetic knowledge. The latter lent itself to giving form to new ideas and thus legitimising them. Scientific poetry (drawing on ancient models, but also developing distinctly early modern forms) rendered physical and metaphysical knowledge in a way that, it was felt, other textual forms could not. Poetry was not seen as merely ornamental, but a means for revealing the invisible structures of the world.

This function of poetry to express new knowledge poetically was theorised by literary criticism, which developed into its modern form at the same time. The 'reinvention' of scientific poetry with its cosmopoetics, theopoetics and physico-theology thus had a great influence on the development of aesthetics in the eighteenth century. The project aims to shed light on this parallel development between early modern 'literary theory' and the natural sciences. In addition to vernacular and neo-Latin scientific poems, it will unearth a corpus of unknown manuscript poems by women, in which theological and scientific knowledge are employed in often surprising ways. The project thus closes a gap in research, which for all its attention to the 'poetics of knowledge' in recent years has so far focussed primarily on the vernacular prose of later epochs and on male authors. In contrast, this project aims to foreground the poetic-reflexive intrinsic value of scientific poetry for the communication of natural philosophical knowledge as well as the important contribution of female poets and to trace a history of scientific poetry that began in the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries. Another blind spot in research it aims to address is the circulation of poetic and scientific knowledge between England and Germany during the early Enlightenment.

The Bayreuth workstream focuses on the poetics of scientific poetry, i.e., on the way in which the forms and functions of scientific poetry were reflected upon and theorised. On the basis of self-reflexive commentaries in scientific poems, but also in works of poetics, critical writing, and paratextual commentaries, we examine what exactly was seen as the added value of specific forms in scientific poetry, what was expected from the 'poetisation' of natural philosophical knowledge, and how comparisons with the emerging natural sciences influenced the understanding of the nature and purpose of literature.

Visit the project website at the University of York (external)

Webmaster: Univ.Prof.Dr. Florian Klaeger

Facebook Twitter Youtube-Kanal Instagram UBT-A Contact