GRK 2041/2

Research Profile

The research undertaken at the research training group stems from the observation of the cultural practice of calling artefact or lifestyles ‘romantic’ even after the end of the Romantic period. Within the Research Group the continued presence of Romanticism is understood as a distinctive European and transatlantic phenomenon. The concept has been repeatedly reinterpreted and revised up to the present day in various contexts. Even after the end of Romanticism as a historical period, aesthetic products and ways of living are often described as ‘Romantic’. The reference to Romanticism sustained over the last 200 years across a broad spectrum of areas – from philosophical and political thought about morality to emotional and aesthetic experiences – demonstrates the existence of the ‘Romantic’ as a category beyond historical Romanticism. In the present-day Western world, this category is ubiquitous, and is visible in exhibitions on art and design, academic congresses and events, scientific studies and literature, pop culture, dating agencies and the advertising sector.
 Researchers have attempted to account for the persistence of Romanticism with the terms Nachleben [‘afterlife’] (Ziolkowski 1968), Denkform [‘thought form’] (Immerwahr 1972), ‘Romantic ideology’ (McGann 1983), and a Wiederaufnahme ['revival'] (Breuer/Wegmann 2017). They have also posited the existence of ‘Romantic communication’ in the culture of modernism (Reinfandt 2003) and a ‘Romantic world relationship’ (Taylor 1994, Rosa 1998). American philosopher Daliah Nassar mentioned a “romantic model” in 2014 (Nassar 2014). However, the term is not further defined.

We will reassess the issue and determine more precisely in which manner ‘Romanticism’ has become a cultural tool for description and interpretation. In doing so, we assume that the naming of quite diverse ideas, phenomena and attitudes as ‘Romantic’ reveals a ‘model-like’ concept of Romanticism. In this way, the research training group is founded on the notion that historical Romanticism continues to exert an effect up to the present via ‘models’ that can be invoked. Accordingly, a key aspect of our research is the re-examination of new versions to Romanticism while identifying persistent structures that underlie diverse phenomena and thus provide a 'transport' of ideas, forms of representation or practices. The subjective elements of model formation and application reflected in the classical and most recent model theory (Stachowiak 1980, Mahr 2003) enable a far-reaching innovation: previous ‘categorizing’ approaches to the phenomena of ‘the Romantic’ are placed in their proper historical context and rendered dynamic: not by seeking to undercover common features over time but instead by seeking possible common reference points that unite the different versions of Romanticism.

The research groups approach has already proved itself to be suitable for examining a phenomenon of reception which is of international importance for modern forms of viewing the world, self-description, and areas of daily life. It allows us to understand the success of Romanticism more systematically than has previously been possible. With the pragmatic recombination of approaches from model theory, our approach uses impulses which have been developed through cross-disciplinary exchange in the past years.

Those approaches which aims to make a shared academic perspective on diverse cultural areas (religion, the natural sciences, art, day-to-day life) possible are particularly productive for us.

The research training group is investigating the reception and effect of Romanticism in various cultural and national contexts but also in and at the interfaces between various social and epistemic areas. To this end, philology (German studies, Romance studies, British and American Studies and Slavic Studies) are being merged with musicology, theology, history, computational linguistics and sociology. In this way, themes in the history of ideas and political discourse can be dealt with, as can forms of religiosity, aspects of the environmental movement, Romantically inspired art, and phenomena in popular culture.
The research group experienced a decisive extension though the integration of Art History which facilitates an integrative view of different art forms. During the first funding period, our work concentrated on Germany as the birthplace of historical Romanticism, in a European context, on England and, internationally, on North America and Australia, the geographical focus will shift for the second funding period.  By bringing in Slavic Studies, thereby opening up a view to Eastern Europe, processes of cultural exchange with Russia and Poland come into focus. Corporations have provided perspectives on the continent of Africa, which is even more unusual than the reorientation to Eastern Europe. The fundamental question of the role of models in a colonial context arises here.

The theses produced by the research training group are examining the extent to which Romanticism acts as a model while also seeking to identify the discontinuity and overlap between various notions of ‘Romanticism’.
Networking different areas of society and scholarship is part of the research groups profile. For this reason, the dissertations explore Romantic forms of thought and art, as well as patterns of behaviour, lifestyles, and social practices. The research group reacts to insights from sociological praxeology (Bourdieu 1980, Reckwitz 2006) and is working on closing the gap between text-based subjects and the social sciences equally. The research group works in three areas: Romanticism as an interpretative model, a model of representation and perception, and a model of action. Romanticism appearing semantically/as a term is differentiated from where is appears aesthetically/in the form of representation or as a practice/action.
Our research also focuses on the question of how, “Romanticism” was able to attach itself so strongly to cultural constructs which offer options for self- and world interpretation. This is about the analysis of the conditions of life and perception facing the modern individual. Models are not ontologically invariant but are bound to a history of science and social formations at a certain point in time and under certain conditions. Over the course of the second funding period, the historical-social framework of Romantic model building with become increasingly central. The question of the continued presence and force of Romanticism will be connected to macro epoch of the Modernity in literary studies and social sciences in our ever-virulent discussions. Alongside this, confrontation with competing models will also come into focus. A transdisciplinary international conference on this topic is planned for the summer semester of 2022 and will be accompanied by a summer school.

The term model is used in a number of ways in everyday language and in the sciences – in logic, mathematics, physics, biology, economy, sociology and theory of art. Because the term includes different types of models (scale models, analogue models, theoretical models), it is necessary to undertake a pragmatic analysis of the term. In the ‘Encyclopaedia of Philosophy and Philosophy of Science’, a model is discussed as a ‘concrete, because of its “idealising” reduction to relevant characteristics, more comprehensible and more easily realised representation of unclear or “abstract” subjects or topics’ (our translation, Mittelstraß 1984). Daniela Bailer-Jones and Stephan Hartmann define models by the fact that they capture ‘the properties of an object or system that are considered essential with the smallest possible bundle of assumptions’ (our translation, Sandkühler 2010). Accordingly, ‘Romanticism as a Model’ is an idealising abstraction that refers to the essential features of historical Romanticism.
Like many proponents of the sciences that currently utilise ‘models’, the encyclopaedia definitions draw on the ‘general model theory’ of the mathematician and philosopher Herbert Stachowiak (1973). He lists the following characteristics of models as being fundamental: ‘Models are always mappings of something, images, representations of natural or artificial originals (which can in turn be models themselves). But they generally do not capture all the original attributes but instead only those that the creator and/or user of the model consider to be relevant. Models are hence not uniquely assigned to their originals per se; they always satisfy their replacement function for particular subjects of perception and/or action, within particular time intervals and restricted to particular purposes and goals that underlie the creation and operations of the model’ (our translation, Stachowiak 1980, 29). Even if he specifically refers to the subjectivism and perspectivism of all types of model creation and application, Stachowiak proceeds from a representation that preserves attributes, a representation that in recent times has become increasingly problematic.

A new research direction, one that is central for the research training group, deals with the question of the ontological status of models in that they do not primarily query the ‘from relationship’ (the relationship between ‘original’ and ‘model’) but instead the ‘for relationship’, the effect and application of models (Mahr 2003). (The use in everyday language of the term ‘model’ also recognises the two modes of application: the model as a ‘copy’ and the model as a ‘pattern’). The computer scientist and philosopher of science Bernd Mahr and art historians such as Horst Bredekamp and Reinhard Wendler do not consider models solely as abstractions of something given. Rather, models have their own active life with a function that gives meaning and guidance for action. Models only become models when they are considered as such by subjects. For our research group, it is a critical idea to consider a model as a ‘tool for thinking and acting’ (Wendler 2013, Mahr 2008), providing options and proposals that always enable new and different forms of reference. The diversity of the phenomena being investigated, as is expected in a research training group, is revealed in a new context if one questions the issue of whether they are new variants to a model that present specific patterns of thinking and behaviour.

  1. Taking the Romanic period around 1800 as a starting point, model building processes are examined as driving forces of a history of reception.  The formation of incisive models is analysed in respect to their part in the continuation of Romanticism (in reduced, abstract, subjective form).
  2. Perspectives from the history of reception allow texts, artefacts, and practices to be examined for patterns of thought, representation, and action which may be identified as being Romantic. Is there a set of characteristics from the Romantic period and specific social interactions or forms of artistic production which can be expressed as abstract models? Could, for instance in the case of ‘romantic love’, structured possibilities of though (as a conglomerate of observations, terminology, and ideas) be updated without having to fall back on their historical matrix?  
  3. Models are not only objects of study. They also serve as heuristics. In a scientific-theoretical model, foundational historical facts are abstracted and summarized. A ‘Romantic model’ stands in place of the complex historical Romantic period. This approach makes it possible to concentrate on specific structural characteristics and to free oneself from the discourse surrounding the use of the term. Certain characteristics of the original system are made visible and highlighted. This creates a basis for comparison, with which the plethora of Romanticism’s actualisations can be examined in reference to the history of its reception.

On the one hand, there is the question: at which points can idealised and reduced continuations of Romanticism be found in art, music, and social life? On the other hand, the research ground stands before the shared task of developing a scientific-theoretical model of Romanticism, which stands behind the individual studies and which can be offered as a heuristic. The ‘model of Romanticism’ which the research group offers forms the foundation of what we do. Before outlining this model, it is worth noting that every conventionalisation is based on observation of an object but idealises and reduces it to a certain structure.

Working from this background, the research group works with the following modelling assumptions:
historical Romanticism is geared toward problems that begin at the start of the modern era and culminate in the period around 1800 which is understood from an historical-sociological perspective here and as being particularly determined by what Niklas Luhmann described as functional differentiation. In their texts, Romantic authors reflected the collapse of a metaphysical monopoly on meaning, a devaluation of essentialist statements about God, and the disintegration of the border between nature and human order. On the basis of Kant’s and Fichte’s philosophy, subjectivity was recognised as the modern guiding principle and the world-construction role of the subject described. Romantic authors bear witness to a modern subjective, fragmentary, and decentralised movement. At the same time, texts and artefacts bearing the stamp of Romanticism articulate a desire to understand the world, not only as conceived of by the subject, but also conditions which may be described by the natural sciences or competing social and cultural practices. What is expressed is often a leading concept, grounded in Christianity, of a meaningful organic whole. Different universalistic approaches are not only spread in religious philosophy, but also in concepts from natural philosophy or political science (cf. Matuschek/ Kerschbaumer 2015, Kerschbaumer 2018, p. 111 onwards).
English Literary Studies that link to Luhmann’s sociology (represented at our research by Mercator Fellows Christoph Bode and Christoph Reinfandt) also understands Romanticism as a ‘compensatory update or revision of passed down unifying semantics […] under new conditions’ and Christoph Bode speaks of an ‘integration of the now functionally disintegrated subdomains of human existence’ (Reinfandt 2003, 56f., Bode 2010, 91). The diagnosis of our associated scholars of English Literature overlaps partly with the position that Charles Taylor takes. For the Canadian philosopher, Romanticism serves a complementary function
that compensates for a ‘lost unity’ of the pre-Enlightenment community of faith via linguistic and artistic meaning creation (Taylor 2009, 630).
The heuristic which the research group offers highlights the internal contradictions of Romanticism: the “simultaneous recognition and synthesisation of diversity” (Reinfandt 2003, p. 43).

The participating academics assume that the tension between holistic concepts of meaning and a modern awareness of contingency is a fundamental feature of the Romantic period and contributes to its ability to connect, its continued productivity and effect as a model. This dual orientation enables aesthetic structures and figures of thought that try to correspond to ideological holism as well as to the fragmentation and relativism of the modern era. Statements of totality are formulated and simultaneously retracted. The status of Romanticism’s semantics of unity and meaning-making remains ambivalent: Because it includes self-reflection in its regulatory character, it becomes a tipping point between assertion and retraction. This is precisely where – we assume – the potential of Romanticism to be used as a model lies (cf. Matuschek/Kerschbaumer 2015, Kerschbaumer 2018, 110ff).

A central aspect of the approach taken at the GRK is our aspiration to develop scholarship in connection with the cultural sphere. Through our PhD students’ residencies in Frankfurt am Main, the GRK’s research programme was incorporated into discussion on the structure of the German Romantic Museum there. Through residencies at Maison Chateaubriand and the Walden Woods Institute in Concord, Massachusetts, we were able to develop our research in cooperation with institutions internationally and test its cultural relevance. Our research programme has a corresponding professional development programme. Alongside the programme of study, we offer practical training opportunities which have to do with models of Romanticism. There have already been project and internships in cooperation with writer’s houses, museums, foundations, and in the area of cultural journalism, as well as city marketing, art galleries, theatre, musical theatre, publishing houses, and academic organisations. und

The creation of the digital forum “Gestern | Romantik | Heute” likewise stemmed from this double lens. The forum for Romanticism is aimed at both academics and culturally interested users. It aims to brings together different forms of engagement with Romanticism. To this end, three elements are available:  

  1. The international “Netzwerk” provides information on events, projects, institutions, and people who engage with the topic of Romanticism.
  2. The section “Wissenschaft” contains the “Rezensionsportal” with an overview and reviews of new releases on the subject, “wissenschaftliche Impulse” (short academic texts) offering food for thought, and “Berichte” with reports and information on conferences and recent research results.  
  3. The area “Kultur” creates a space for aesthetic products and a dialogue reflection on newly released literature, art, and music. “Berichte” (reports) from the world of culture are completed with romantic/Romantic observations of daily life.

Members and authors of the platform for Romanticism include academics, representatives from cultural institutions, and creatives. For more information see

  • Auerochs, Bernd/von Petersdorff, Dirk (Hg.)(2009): Einheit der Romantik? Zur Transformation frühromantischer Konzepte im 19. Jahrhundert, Paderborn.
  • Bailer-Jones, Daniela/Hartmann, Stephan (2010): Art.: „Modell“ in: Enzyklopädie Philosophie, Bd. 2, hg. von Hans-Jörg Sandkühler, Hamburg, S. 1627-1632.
  • Berlin, Isaiah (2004): Die Wurzeln der Romantik, hg. von Henry Hardy, übers. von Burkhardt Wolf, Berlin.
  • Bode, Christoph (2010): Romantik – Europäische Antwort auf die Herausforderung der Moderne? Versuch einer Rekonzeptualisierung, in: Anja Ernst/Paul Geyer (Hg.): Die Romantik: Ein Gründungsmythos der europäischen Moderne, Göttingen, S. 85-96.
  • Cunningham, Andrew/Jardine, Nicholas (Hg.) (1990): Romanticism and the sciences. Cambridge u.a.
  • Immerwahr, Raymond (1972): Romantisch. Genese und Tradition einer Denkform, Frankfurt a.M.
  • Kerschbaumer, Sandra/Matuschek, Stefan (2015): Romantik als Modell, in: Aufklärung und Romantik. Epochenschnittstellen, Paderborn, S. 141-156.
  • Mahr, Bernd (2008): Ein Modell des Modellseins. Ein Beitrag zur Aufklärung des Modellbegriffs, in: Ulrich Dirks/Eberhard Knobloch (Hg.): Modelle, Frankfurt a.M., S. 187-218.
  • Mahr, Bernd (2003): Modellieren. Beobachtungen und Gedanken zur Geschichte des Modellbegriffs, in: Horst Bredekamp/Sybille Krämer (Hg.): Bild – Schrift – Zahl, München.
  • Matuschek, Stefan (2012): Romantik als literarischer Idealismus. Über eine mittlerweile 200jährige Gewohnheit, über Literatur zu sprechen, in: Deutsche Vierteljahrsschrift für Literaturwissenschaft und Geistesgeschichte 86, S. 396-418.
  • McGann, Jerome (1983): The Romantic Ideology: A Critical Investigation, Chicago/London.
  • Reckwitz, Andreas (2006): Das hybride Subjekt. Eine Theorie der Subjektkulturen von der bürgerlichen Moderne zur Postmoderne, Weilerswist.
  • Reinfandt, Christoph (2003): Romantische Kommunikation. Zur Kontinuität der Romantik in der Kultur der Moderne, Heidelberg.
  • Rosa, Hartmut (1998): Identität und kulturelle Praxis. Politische Philosophie nach Charles Taylor, Frankfurt a.M.
  • Poggi, Stefano/Bossi, Maurizio (Hg.) (1994): Romanticism in Science. Science in Europe, 1790-1840, Dordrecht.
  • Stachowiak, Herbert (1980): Modelle und Modelldenken im Unterricht, Bad Heilbronn.
  • Stachowiak, Herbert (1973): Allgemeine Modelltheorie, Wien, New York.
  • Taylor, Charles (1994): Quellen des Selbst. Die Entstehung der neuzeitlichen Identität, Frankfurt a.M.
  • Taylor, Charles (2007): A Secular Age, Cambridge.
  • Vaillant, Alain (Hg.) (2012): Dictionnaire du Romantisme, Paris.
  • Wolters, Gereon/Schroeder-Heister,Peter (1984): Art.: „Modell“, in: Jürgen Mittelstraß (Hg.): Enzyklopädie Philosophie und Wissenschaftstheorie. Bd. 2, Mannheim, S. 911-913.
  • Wendler, Reinhard (2013): Das Modell zwischen Kunst und Wissenschaft?, München.
  • Ziolkowski, Theodore (1969): Das Nachleben der Romantik in der modernen deutschen Literatur. Methodische Überlegungen, in: Wolfgang Paulsen (Hg.): Das Nachleben der Romantik in der modernen deutschen Literatur, Heidelberg, S. 15-32.