Contact Address:
Prof. Dr. Klaus Mecke
Institut für Theoretische Physik
Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg
Staudtstraße 7
91058 Erlangen
Phone: +49-9131-85 28441
Fax: +49-9131-85 28444

Contact Address:
Dr. Aura Heydenreich
Germanistik und Komparatistik
Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg
Bismarckstraße 1b
91054 Erlangen
Phone: +49-9131-85 22978

Working Group I:

Discourses of Knowledge in the Early Modern Period on the Threshold between the Philosophy of Nature and Literature


  • Freiburg (Anglistik)
  • Wilms (Astronomy)

Research goal

The working group focuses the ‘threshold period’, when the paradigm of physical knowledge is just being established and is negotiated between various natural philosophical, theological, epistemological and social discourses.

With regards to physical phenomena, we will be focussing on questions concerning the nature of “movement“ and „force“. The transition from Aristotelian theory of impulse to Galilean theory of inertia is strongly connected to the conceptual and pictorial shift within the representation of the ‚natural’ movement of bodies. This ultimately leads to the new measurable concepts of “movement” and “acceleration”. Simultaneously, astronomical observation opens up new worlds, making the firmament appear terrestrial and the earth celestial. Mathematics is discovered as the “language of nature“, and the imagination is substituted by measurable observations as “novum organum”.

The working group focuses on the fact that, prior to the emergence of modern empirical natural sciences, discourses of knowledge were connected in a complex way: scientific, rhetoric, poetic and social discourse overlap between the 15th and the 17th century in manifold ways. The working group aims at analysing the connection between the discourses of literature and literary theory on the one hand and scientific proto-physical knowledge on the other. It will examine texts on the threshold between literary and scientific discourse in the Early Modern Period. It is of high priority to determine in what relation the linguistic requirements of an emerging natural science stand to the language of a previous culture which strongly relied on rhetorical and profoundly literary strategies of argumentation. In sum, we are concerned with the description and analysis of a radical scientific as well as linguistic and literary shift which can be located at the threshold to modern sciences and has made these possible in the first place.