In this talk, Professor Müller-Sievers will take the case of Johann Wolfgang Goethe (1749–1832) to argue that the modern novel is not primarily a vessel of knowledge but a vehicle of experience. Writing at the threshold of the industrial age, Goethe laid bare the technical implications of modern prose narratives and opened up the possibility of understanding reading novels as a paradigm for the diversity of experience.
Drawing on William James' notion of "pure experience" in addition to Goethe, Professor Müller-Sievers will discuss how reading and attending to novels—but also to other long narrative forms, like graphic novels and TV series—gives us access to layers of experiencing that are common to all practices of knowledge, whether they happen in the classroom, in the field, or in the lab. The university—the campus university in particular—is where such experiencing can take place, for students and faculty alike.
Helmut Müller-Sievers is a professor in the Department of German and Slavic Languages and Literature, and courtesy professor of English and Classics at the University of Colorado Boulder. From 2010—2019, he was Eaton Professor of Humanities and the Director of the Center for Humanities and the Arts. He earned his PhD in German and the Humanities Special Program at Stanford University in 1990, and taught at Northwestern University from 1990—2009, where he was director of the Kaplan Center for the Humanities until 2002, and the director of the Program in Comparative Literary Studies until 2006.
Professor Müller-Sievers has held fellowships at the National Humanities Center, the Max-Planck Institute for the History of Science in Berlin, the Institute for Cultural Research in Vienna, the J. Paul Getty Research Institute, and the Kollegforschergruppe BildEvidenz in Berlin. He is the author of five books—most recently The Science of Literature (de Gruyter 2015)—some fifty articles, and has translated three books. His Black Flag PR is 56:01.