Northwestern Events Calendar


Friedrich Balke on "Excessive Mimesis: From Plato to Burckhardt and Freud"

When: Wednesday, May 22, 2019
4:00 PM - 6:00 PM CT

Where: Kresge Hall, Kaplan Seminar Room, 2351, 1880 Campus Drive , Evanston, IL 60208 map it

Audience: Faculty/Staff - Post Docs/Docs - Graduate Students

Contact: Kathy Leoni   (847) 491-7249

Group: Department of German

Category: Academic


This talk calls into question the widespread opinion that mimesis can be defined, following Aristotle, as imitation of nature or as imitation of human action. In both cases it is considered to be a secondary operation that has to be categorically distinguished from originary poiesis. In the first part I will therefore discuss Plato’s deep rooted reservations against a certain mimetic excess which endangers the ‘nature’ of human beings and the safety of the political order. Mimesis is not restricted to the arts or to aesthetics but since at least the Renaissance also affects modes of historical thinking and the separation of epochs. Cultural historian Jacob Burckhardt defines a “desire to reproduce” as the core of various popular practices which define the Italian revival of ancient remains. These practices use specific media techniques which organize the ‘relocation’ of ancient cultural elements. Relocation and reanimation are also central issues in Freud’s reading of Wilhelm Jensen‘s story Gradiva: The “delusion” (Wahn) in Gradiva turns out to be of mimetic origin because Jensen’s story raises the fundamental question what it means to live in the vicinity of art objects and why the reception of art cannot be restricted to a mere mental process.

Professor Friedrich Balke is Professor of Media Studies at the University of Bochum (Germany) and currently Max Kade Visiting Professor in the Department of German. He is the author of several monographs. Among them: Der Staat nach seinem Ende: Die Versuchung Carl Schmitts (1995); Figuren der Souveränität (2009); Mimesis: Zur Einführung (2018). He also recently co-edited a new edition of Erich Auerbach’s seminal essay “Figura”.


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