Hans Ulrich Gumbrecht – Germany and USA

Hans Ulrich Gumbrecht, best known as “Sepp” Gumbrecht, is a German-born American literary theorist and currently the Albert Guérard Professor on Literature in the Departments of Comparative Literature, French and Italian, German, and Spanish and Portuguese at Stanford University. Born in 1948 in Würzburg, Germany, Gumbrecht received his education in Paris, Munich, Regensburg, Salamanca, Pavia and Konstanz, receiving his Ph.D. at the University of Konstanz in 1971 where he was also an assistant professor from 1971 to 1974. He had appointments at the universities of Bochum, Siegen, and has been at Stanford since 1989 … (full text … his Work, the Honors).

Hans Ulrich Gumbrecht (* 15. Juni 1948 in Würzburg) ist ein deutsch-amerikanischer Literaturwissenschaftler, on de.wikipedia.

He says: … “I arrived from Germany in 1989, knowing I can’t live without team sports. Of course, you can watch soccer here, but you want an environment where people get excited about it and can competently talk about it. I’m an American citizen now and very proud of it, but Americans talking about soccer are as bad as Europeans talking about baseball. They don’t get it. So I made this rational decision. I decided I’m going to become a football fan” … (full text).

Announcement: Schweizer Fernsehen, SF1, Sternstunde Philosophie, 25. Januar 2009 /11.00 Uhr: … über die politische Philosophie Barack Obamas (in german).

At Stanford.edu: his Homepage; his CV.


Hans Ulrich Gumbrecht – Germany and USA

Watch this video in german: Joseph Vogl und Hans Ulrich Gumbrecht, 08.53 min, Aug 29, 2008.

… Ken introduces Hans Gumbrecht, author of many works including “In Praise of Athletic Beauty” and Albert Guerard Professor in Literature at Stanford University. John asks Hans: Don’t people care more about their team winning than looking beautiful? Aren’t championships and goals what attract people to sports? Gumbrecht agrees completely, but thinks that even in the most diehard fans there exists a certain amount of
appreciation for the beauty of the game. Gumbrecht argues that beauty is the least mentioned of the important reasons why people love sports, and that is why it is interesting to discuss … (full text).

… The disastrous term “Leitkultur” (something like, “defining culture”) should therefore be dissociated from institutions of citizenship as soon as possible – and then forgotten, never to be replaced. One can hope that new citizens will be open to the culture of their new country but this can definitely not be forced by means of state institutions, and the word “Leitkultur” seems to mask the wish to implement cultural adaptation through legislation … (full text).

He writes: For a European academic in California, the ubiquitous question “You ok?” typifies self-help culture in which everybody becomes a therapist in need of a patient. Activities that ought to be sheer pleasure, like wine drinking or sex, become opportunities for nursing, while an event such as the timely death of a relative becomes a tragedy. But is the critical spirit of the European tradition not the reverse side of the same desire to take care of other people’s lives, “The surgical mode of the nursing complex”, as the letter-writer puts it? … (full text).

Find him and his publications on Project MUSE; on amazon; on GoodReads; on his current projets at Stanford; on wikipedia /publications; on allBookstores; on Barnes and Noble; on inauthor Google-search; on Google Book-search; on Google Scholar-search; on Google Blog-search.

Left and Right simultaneously will not solve any problems, says Hans Ulrich Gumbrecht on the eve of the German election. What exactly is so irritating about the events leading up to the elections slated for September 18, 2005? Why are we bothered, even after the Federal Constitutional Court decided that the elections, which were precipitated by Chancellor Gerhard Schröder’s purposefully losing a vote of confidence in parliament, could go ahead? It can hardly be held against a government that it “clears the way for new elections”. On the contrary, in the tradition of parliamentary democracy such decisions are generally seen as a sign of statesmanly verve … (full text).

The book: Production of Presence, What Meaning Cannot Convey, by Hans Ulrich Gumbrecht – (It) is a comprehensive version of the thinking of Hans Ulrich Gumbrecht, one of the most consistently original literary scholars writing today. It offers a personalized account of some of the central theoretical movements in literary studies and in the humanities over the past thirty years, together with an equally personal view of a possible future. Based on this assessment of the past and the future of literary studies and the humanities, the book develops the provocative thesis that, through their exclusive dedication to interpretation, i.e. to the reconstruction and attribution of meaning, the humanities have become incapable of addressing a dimension in all cultural phenomena that is as important as the dimension of meaning … (full text).

He writes also: … Why do I say, then, that the question is more interesting as a personal question? Who would care about how I want to have this relationship between Art and Knowledge? Well, first of all it turns out to be interesting to me because, believe it or not, as I am writing along I realize that I have never asked myself this question. Also (and as opposed to the initial, general question which would have entangled me in endless definitions and in an intellectual agenda of the ‚conditions of the possibility-type), the personal question obliges me – more immediately at least than the general question – to talk about aesthetic experience itself. (full text).

If you want to learn something about the US, a better conversation partner than Hans Ulrich “Sepp” Gumbrecht can hardly be imagined. He combines attention to the small and local with knowledge of global interrelations. In his scholarly work as professor of Romance Languages and Comparative Literature at Stanford University as well as a commentator in magazines and newspapers such as Merkur, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung und Neue Züricher Zeitung he has time and again connected scholarship with reflections on contemporary culture and political analysis … (full text).

… It would certainly be a plausible first reaction to say that the topic I want to come back to, that is, aesthetic experience in everyday worlds, has the structure of an oxymoron. For when we speak of “aesthetic experience” in the most broadly accepted sense of these words, we imply that its content (whatever “content” may exactly mean here) is something that, invariably and metahistorically, will not be available in everyday situations. If this is true, however, must we then not draw the conclusion that an experience cannot be “aesthetic” and, at the same time, part of an everyday world? And yet, we all know the long, somehow venerable, and consistently unsuccessful tradition of intellectual and sometimes even self-declared “political” resistance against the common-sense argument about the incompatibility between aesthetic experience and the everyday … (full text).

… Philology – the discovery, editing, and presentation of historical texts – was once a firmly established discipline that formed the core study for students across a wide range of linguistic and literary fields. Although philology departments are steadily disappearing from contemporary educational establishments, in this book Hans Ulrich Gumbrecht demonstrates that the problems, standards, and methods of philology remain as vital as ever. For two and a half millennia philologists have viewed themselves as the modest heirs and curators of their textual past’s most glorious periods, collecting and editing text fragments, historicizing them and adding commentary, and ultimately teaching them to contemporary readers … (full text).

The book: In Praise of Athletic Beauty, by Hans Ulrich Gumbrecht – With this study of athletic aesthetics, Stanford literature professor Gumbrecht scores as the sports world’s answer to Marshall McLuhan … Gumbrecht goes beyond the usual conventions of sportswriting to probe the pleasures of sports spectatorship; his centerpiece is a philosophical, historical survey spanning centuries. He looks at the ancient Olympiads, whose champions were elevated to the status of demigods. Gladiatorial games were “metaphors for human existence,” more brutal than the choreographed pageantry of knightly tournaments. After examining bare-knuckled boxing, Gumbrecht segues into the dawn of team sports and the 1896 revival of the Olympics … (full text).

Books written by professional Humanists have almost always been in a precarious situation insofar as circulation and popular demand by readers are concerned. Between the late 17th and early 20th centuries, the consequences of this precarious status were quite successfully balanced by the enormous prestige of academic publishing. Today this old and venerable situation has begun to disintegrate. While good arguments can always be made for the replacement of books by electronic devices, reading using software implies the undoing of the traditional spaces where our teaching and our discussion have  traditionally taken place. Among other things, then, the fate of the academic book in the electronic age has the potential to make us aware, retrospectively, of how much the Humanities, out of all the disciplines, have always depended on physical co-presence in space. Hans Ulrich Gumbrecht is the Albert Guérard Professor in Literature at Stanford University. He is also Professeur Associé in the Département de Littérature Comparée at the Université de Montréal, Directeur d’études associé at the Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales, and Professeur attaché au Collège de France … (full text).

… Two big books before us, by two of the most senior literary scholars in the United States, dramatize our choices. Walter Benn Michaels, a professor of American literature at the University of Illinois at Chicago, has given us The Shape of the Signifier: 1967 to the End of History (Princeton University Press, 2004). It trumpets the party of interpretation. Hans Ulrich Gumbrecht, a professor of French, Italian, and comparative literature at Stanford University, has given us Production of Presence: What Meaning Cannot Convey (Stanford University Press, 2004). It provides a look into the party of affect, emotion, aesthetics. More about the books in a bit. First, though, I should explain that I am not an innocent bystander. I am a publisher, and, like Major Barbara’s father, I sell munitions to all sides. No matter who wins or loses, I stand to gain. One army wants to buy Benjamin, Paul de Man, and other theorists who address the aesthetic experience. Another army wants to reinforce its bunkers with Stanley Fish and Michaels and shoot down the idea that literary theory can ever tell us anything about literature. The New Historicism, which has become an antidote to the dreaded deconstruction of theorists, and the default position for most literature professionals, feeds the second army, reducing a text to its historical and moral significance. Then there are those who find provisions in Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri, denigrating literature by reducing it to the periphery of a theory of transnational capitalism … (full text).


Philosophy Talk;

Présentation: La philologie et le futur de la littérature, not dated;

Neue Perspektiven für die Kulturwissenschaften – Ehrendoktorwürde für Professor Dr. Hans Ulrich Gumbrecht, 16.01.2009;

Der Quanten und der Liebe Wellen, 07. Januar 2009;

Universidade de Lisboa: Cerimónia, 01/20/2009;

IP Internationale Politik, global edition, the journal of the german CFR;

das Buch: Das fremde Wort, Studien zur Interdependenz von Texten. Mit einem Beitrag von Hans Ulrich Gumbrecht: Lebende Vergangenheit, Zur Typologie der ‚Arbeit am Text‘ in der spanischen Kultur;

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