Imagining Worlds: Aesthetics and its Institutions in the Age of Goethe

According to the standard critical assessments of the Goethezeit, Goethe and his contemporaries continuously addressed the challenge of their historical moment with appeals to aesthetics and its institutions. From today’s perspective, however, the aesthetically informed self-definitions and practices of the age, as well as its lasting historical significance, can only be fully appreciated by broadly re-evaluating and critically examining its pervasive use of aesthetic categories across the disciplines. To this end, our conference will consider not just the range of theoretical reflections by Goethe and his contemporaries on the nature of the arts and literature, but also the roles they were assigned in the construction of meaningful worlds, or the systems, of nature and science, self and society, culture and politics, etc.

Organized by the Goethe Society of North America, the conference will feature two full days of panels, with keynote lectures by Anne Bohnenkamp-Renken and Jane K. Brown. Additionally, we will continue our highly successful Dissertation Workshop and our Presidential Forum, where Ellis Dye, Simon Richter, and Astrida Tantillo will discuss the current crisis in the humanities from a Goethean perspective and in relation to Goethe Studies. We are also organizing a roundtable discussion with museum, library, and archive directors from institutions whose programs are dedicated to “Goethe & Co” and an exhibition of rare books and Goetheana in the Special Collections Room of the University Library. The conference will conclude on a festive note with a banquet at the internationally renowned Warhol Museum, which will be exclusively opened to our group. All five Goethe serigraphs by Andy Warhol, as well as a newly commissioned Goethe installation, will be on display in the museum, and its Director, Eric Shiner, will offer us some words about the art.

We are extremely grateful to Mr. Stuart Atkins for his generous support of this conference in honor of the memory of his parents, Lillian and Stuart P. Atkins. We would also like to thank The Dietrich School of Arts & Sciences at the University of Pittsburgh for its substantial financial and logistical support, as well as the University of Pittsburgh Library and the Warhol Museum.