Ahead of the conference The Longing for Time: Ästhetische Eigenzeit in Contemporary Film, Literature and Art, held at the University of Konstanz 15-17 May 2014, a workshop was held for PhD students from the University of Warwick and the University of Konstanz on Wednesday May 14th, 2014. During the morning session of this workshop texts on the experience of time and contemporary digital culture were alternatively introduced by PhD students from Warwick and Konstanz. An introduction to this theme in general was provided by Anne Fuchs (Warwick) and Aleida Assmann (Konstanz), in which they set out the historical background of time as a phenomenon, outlining the western idea of social time and how this regulated society from the 18th century onwards. For modern digital culture the role of agency and subjectivity, new forms of media and the possibility to either participate or resist in this culture were elaborated upon – themes which resurfaced in the subsequent discussion of texts.
Gerhild Krebs and Katharina Karcher (Warwick) introduced a text by Reinhart Koselleck on concepts of historical time, which included his notions of space of experience and horizon of expectations. They criticized the translation and Koselleck’s focus on the western concept of time. Maria Roca Lizarazu (Warwick) and Hanna Schumacher (Warwick) presented John Tomlison’s text on the culture of immediacy as the result of technological innovations of our era and raised a number of questions, some of which had been touched upon already: aside from a discussion of the different meanings and dimensions of immediacy (spatial, temporal, social), they were particularly interested in the specific subjectivities and cultural narratives that might emerge from the new culture of immediacy. They also criticised the implicit universalism of Tomlinson’s concept, which seems to be one-sidedly focussed on the technological developments in Western countries and on a conceptualisation of information technologies that does not rely account for the “Störfall” (systems failure) as an integral part of their performance. Hereafter Eva Rottmann (Konstanz) outlined the arguments of Jose van Dijck’s first chapter of her book on the history social media, The culture of connectivity, and questioned if the internet can be perceived as global in terms of geography and socially as Van Dijck seems to suggest. Finally, Nike Dreyer (Konstanz) discussed Carmen Leccardi’s text on the experience of time and its coalescing with modern capitalism. During the discussion Gerhild Krebs questioned the optimism of Leccardi regarding the use of the internet for political purposes, but maintained that political rights should be claimed in the digital sphere as well.
The afternoon session was used for PhD students from the University of Warwick’s Department of German Studies to hold presentations on the role of time in their research projects. In her paper entitled ‘Trauma Time’, Maria Roca Lizarazu gave a short introduction to the Freudian concept of Nachträglichkeit, concentrating on the idea of latency on the one hand and the concept of retroactivity on the other. Even though the notion of latency disrupts the boundary between past, present and future, it still follows a linear narrative that stretches from an original event to its after-effect. This is very different with the concept of retroactivity, which reverses the arrow of time, so that the effect can precede the cause, as Roca Lizarazu showed through a reading of Freud’s Emma case (1895). The “placelessness” of trauma that comes with the logic of retroactivity also calls into question the notion of an “original” traumatogenic event – a problem that not only vexed Freund throughout his writings (esp. in the Wolfman case”, 1914), but has also haunted the legal, medical and psychological discourse on trauma since the 19th century.
Hanna Schumacher elaborated in her paper on the role of time in speculative fiction, underlining that the linear and chronological progression of time is frequently disturbed in this genre, in order to generate a cognitive estrangement with the reader. In her presentation, she tried to outline and describe narratives of the future in texts of Speculative Fiction. Being a genre dedicated to describing and developing not only future spaces but future times, it is heavily charged with questions of temporality. Especially the notion of linear or historical time is negotiated and, mostly, even denied, since time travel and space travel render this concept meaningless and empty.
In his paper on the use of rhythm as a form of symbolic politics by German emperor William I, Frank Sterkenburgh argued that William deliberately staged himself with a regular rhythm on various temporal levels in order to make himself a stable projection screen upon which the many perceptions of his persona circulating in Imperial Germany could be projected. In this way, William was able to develop into a symbol of the new German state, of which he was to be one of its chief representatives. Sterkenburgh drew on Koselleck’s notions of space of experience and horizon of expectations to argue that this rhythmic self-staging rooted William in popular consciousness and made him a dynamic, national symbol.
Katharina Forster drew in her presentation on M.M. Bakhtin’s concept of the chronotope, which highlights the thickening of time and space, in order to discuss the role of these elements in Alev Tekinay’s novel Der weinende Granatapfel. This novel depicts a young orientalist who undertakes a fruitless search of a supposed Doppelgänger, only to discover that he does not exist and subsequently rejects the idea of individual identity in favour of the notion of universal kinship of all humans. According to Forster, the novel exemplifies Bakhtin’s chronotope in its use of elements of simultaneity and dissolution of spatial boundaries, ultimately resulting in an utopian solution – in this case the idea of unity between all humans.