Niklaus Largier

 Porträt Niklaus Largier

Niklaus Largier

Professor of German and Comparative Literature

In Residence

May – June 2014

Research Project

Figures of Possibility

In this project I focus on a specific concept of «possibility» that emerges in late medieval religious philosophy (Meister Eckhart, Nikolaus Cusanus) and on the afterlife of this very concept in modern thought and literature. This afterlife includes correlations between so-called mystical traditions, poetics, and experiment in Baroque culture; the invention of modern aesthetics in Baumgarten’s Aesthetica; Herder’s contribution to the theory of aesthetic experience; the understanding of sensation and cognition in Novalis; and dicussions about «possibility» in works of Georg Lukács, Robert Musil, and Michel Foucault. The larger context of this research is my interest in the ways in which both medieval religious practices and mystical tropes informed early modern and modern forms of thought and writing. In Figures of Possibility I will concentrate on one of those tropes, “possibility”, and practices of figuration that are related to its specific character. The very notion of possibility that appears here is different from both the Aristotelian concept of « potentiality » (which is always oriented toward a specific actualization), modern ideas of «utopia» (which tend to be presented in terms of utopian design), and messianic expectations. Instead, the notion of possibility that I am analyzing points towards horizons of emergence where the «real» and the «possible» intersect.

Research Interests

  • mystische Traditionen in der deutschen Literatur
  • Meister Eckhart und sein Einfluss bis in postmoderne Diskurse
  • Zeit und Zeitlichkeit in der spätmittelalterlichen Philosophie und Literatur
  • Fantasie und Emotionen in ihrer historischen Entwicklung


Das Mögliche denken. Musils Möglichkeitssinn, die Mystik und Foucaults Konzept der Kritik, in: Das Mögliche regieren. Gouvernementalität in der Literatur- und Kulturanalyse. hg. v. Roland Innerhofer, Katja Rothe und Karin Harrasser, Bielefeld: Transcript 2011, S. 31-47.

Die Erfindung der Pornographie. Sasha Grey, Pietro Aretino, und das Spiel der Erregung, in: Figurationen der Moderne. Mode, Pornographie und Sport. München: Fink, 2011.

Objekte der Berührung. Der Tastsinn und die Erfindung der ästhetischen Erfahrung, in: Der Code der Leidenschaften. Fetischismus in den Künsten, München: Fink, 2010, S. 108-122.

Mysticism, Modernity, and the Invention of Aesthetic Experience, in: Representations Vol. 105, Nr. 1,  2009, S. 37-60.

Die Kunst des Begehrens. Dekadenz, Sinnlichkeit und Askese, München: C. H. Beck 2007.

Lob der Peitsche. Eine Kulturgeschichte der Erregung, München: C. H. Beck 2001.


Niklaus Largier

Center for Advanced Studies BildEvidenz

Arnimallee 10
14195 Berlin