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 II:

Disciplinary Differentiation around 1800


  • Illi (German Philology)
  • Lubkoll (German Philology)
  • Mecke (Physics)

Research goal

The working group focuses on the so-called “Sattelzeit” between 1750 and 1830 (Kosellek). In this period the differentiation of academic disciplines begins (cf. R. Stichweh, Die Entstehung des modernen Systems wissen­schaft­licher Disziplinen, 1984), but at the same time there is still a relatively close exchange between physics, other natural sciences and philosophy (cf. O. Breidbach, Physik um 1800, published in 2011). In this period knowledge is also popularised and, for the first time, a productive and purposeful exchange between literature and physics can develop (Goethe, Schiller, Novalis, Brentano, Hoffmann and others).

With regards to the field of physics, the extension of experimental investigations from mechanics and optics to thermal, electro-magnetic and chemical phenomena forms the central issues in this period. The development of numerous measuring instruments for a quantitative acquisition of previously intuitively grasped data and relations leads to the substitution of a descriptive narrative account of natural processes by an experimental mathematical one. The consequent decomposition of the phenomena into quantitatively measurable variables results in an increasing rejection of the natural sciences by formerly scientifically oriented literary authors and to the development of the “two cultures”. The working group concentrates on the following research goals: a) the identification and investigation of central thematic fields, relevant for the processes of interaction between physics and literature, b) the exploration of research fields negotiated both in the emerging discipline of physics and other neighbouring sciences (chemistry, mathematics) around 1800, fields which are also addressed in literary texts of the time, c) an interdisciplinary, exemplary analysis of relevant key passages in contemporary scientific treatises and literary texts. This analysis will combine metaphorological, rhetorical and narratological levels of analysis within the framework of the history of knowledge.