851-0101-91L  Modernity and its Other: Fantastic Literature and Occultism ca. 1900

SemesterAutumn Semester 2019
LecturersA. Kilcher
Periodicitynon-recurring course
Language of instructionGerman

AbstractThe course focuses on the complex relation between the Fantastic and Occultism, which is understood as part of the history of knowledge of the imaginary after the 18th century.
ObjectiveThe course aims at conveying a general overview on various theoretical and literary conceptions of the Fantastic. At the same time it wishes to transmit the knowledge of occultism and its forms of representation.
ContentThe Fantastic may be understood as the conflictual surpassing of the fundamental literary function of fantasy during the modern age. Fantasy no longer structures an autonomous wonderful world, but it breaks in on the real as the imaginary. After 1800, and in the form of the imaginary, the fantastic breaks into a world that is thought to be rational and scientifically explainable while dissolving the causative correlations of the Enlightenment. In the backdrop of such tensed evolution, the Fantastic establishes itself within the context of the secularisation and of the scientification of knowledge. Yet, the Fantastic also promotes new forms of knowledge that come into conflict with the academic sciences during the 18th and 19th centuries and assert themselves as counterknowledge. This becomes evident and comprehensible in relation to occult sciences, namely theosophy, occultism, spiritism etc. With reference to the Fantastic counterknowledge becomes evident in a wide variety of distinctive images, and narratives, that relate of the uncanny, the gothic, the grotesque, the demonic, the surreal etc. At the same time, occult sciences look for the proximity to the arts of the Fantastic, that promise a new aesthetic -- as well as their possibilities in the media -- for the representation and the narration of the imaginary and the obscure.

The course has a twofold goal. It wishes to understand the notion and the history of Fantastic literature beginning with the 19th century, taking as case studies crucial and intriguing writers such as E.T.A. Hoffmann, Gustav Meyrink and Jorge Louis Borges. At the same time, the course aims at ascertaining the notion "occult knowledge" (resp. occult sciences) and its epistemological aspiration in conflict with academic knowledge. The lecture, therefore, aims at the reconstruction of the complex interrelation between the Fantastic and Occultism as a part of the history of knowledge of the imaginary right up to Psychoanalysis.