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International Conference 'Humanism and Revolution. Eighteenth-Century Europe and Its Transatlantic Legacy'

11.12.2009 - 13.12.2009

Organizers: Christian J. Emden (Rice University), Uwe Steiner (Rice University), Martin Vöhler (Freie Universität Berlin)


Already in early modern Europe, mainly through Nicolaus Copernicus’ On the Revolu­tion of the Heavenly Spheres (1543), the con­cept of revolutio, initially merely referring to a “turn around” or the circular motion of an object in space, increasingly came to adopt a much wider meaning: a decisive change, violent rup­ture or radical break with a past normative or­der now seen as both oppressive and as blocking future development. Since the events of the eighteenth century, the concept of revo­lution has become one of the most important, and most widely used, concepts of modern political and philosophical thought.

The revolutions of the eighteenth century are, however, also marked by a temporal logic that questions their radical departure from the past, both intellectually and practically. Indeed, the concept of revolution is often coupled with a renewed interest in ideals of human self-con­ception, moral beauty and education that are seen as having emerged in the classical antiq­uity of Greece and Rome. On both sides of the Atlantic, references to classical antiquity sup­port contemporary achievements, on the one hand, and are used to question the existing state of political and intellectual affairs, on the other.

The conference will examine the link between “revolution” and “humanism” in the intellectual and cultural context of Europe and its transat­lantic legacy with regard to its relevance for contemporary debates in both the humanities and social sciences.




Friday, December 11


Presiding: Uwe Steiner (Rice University)

9-9:45 am

Welcome by Allen Matusow, Dean of the School of Humanities, and Caroline Levander, Director of the Humanities Research Center

10-11 am

Hubert Cancik (Universität Tübingen), Nature and Human Rights: Ancient Foundations of a Modern Concept (Moderator: Harvey Yunis, Rice University)

11 am-12 noon

Georg Essen (Radboud Universiteit Nijmegen/KWI), “Is There Anything More Insane to Be Conceived?” Human Rights, the Catholic Church, and the Ideas of 1789 (Moderator: Steven Crowell, Rice University)

2-3 pm

Rachel Zuckert (Northwestern University), Kant and Revolution (Moderator: Christian J. Emden, Rice University)

3-4 pm

Barbara Hahn (Vanderbilt University), Hannah Arendt’s Struggle with Her Century: Reflecting on Eighteenth-Century Revolutions in the Age of Totalitarianism (Moderator: Christian J. Emden, Rice University)

4:30-5:30 pm

Hans-Helmuth Gander (Universität Freiburg/Br.), Husserl and Heidegger on Humanism (Moderator: Steven Crowell, Rice University


Saturday, December 12


Presiding: Christian J. Emden (Rice University)

9-10 am

William Rasch (Indiana University–Bloomington), City or Soul? On the Political Primacy of Civil Peace (Moderator: Peter C. Caldwell, Rice University)

10-11 am

Hauke Brunkhorst (Universität Flensburg), Cosmopolitanism in Eighteenth-Century Constitutional Revolutions (Moderator: John H. Zammito, Rice University)

11:30 am-12:30 pm

Günther Lottes (Universität Potsdam), Historical Progress v. Human Rights: Well-Hidden Contradictions in Meaning Well (Moderator: Uwe Steiner, Rice University)

2-3 pm

Alexander Honold (Universität Basel), The Celebration of Time in the Revolutionary Community: From Robespierre to Schiller and from Rousseau to Hölderlin (Moderator: Martin Blumenthal-Barby, Rice University)

3-4 pm

John Hamilton (Harvard University),    “Ich liebe dich wie das Grab”: Rhetoric, Revolution, and Necromancy in Dantons Tod (Moderator: Bernd Seidensticker, Freie Universität Berlin)

4:30-5:30 pm

Ulrich Johannes Schneider (Universität Leipzig), New Ways of Knowing Things in the Eighteenth Century (Moderator: John H. Zammito, Rice University)


Sunday, December 13


Presiding: Martin Vöhler (Freie Universität Berlin)

 10-11 am

Mark-Georg Dehrmann  (Universität Hannover), Philology, Theory, and “Aesthetic Revolution” in Friedrich Schlegel (Moderator: Uwe Steiner, Rice University)

11 am-12 noon

Karin Gludovatz (Freie Universität Berlin), Goya’s Revolutions and the Solitude of Heroes (Moderator: Bernd Seidensticker, Freie Universität Berlin)

2-3 pm

Elizabeth Millán-Zaibert (De Paul University), Alexander von Humboldt’s Presentation of the Spanish American Landscape: A Case of Interpretative Justice (Moderator: Luis Duno-Gottberg, Rice University)

3-4 pm

Anna Brickhouse (University of Virginia), Humanism and the (Other) American Revolution (Moderator: Caroline Levander, Rice University)

6-7 pm

Visit to Houston Public Library Exhibition In Pursuit of Knowledge: 600 Years of Leipzig University, guided by Ulrich Johannes Schneider


For further and updated info:

Beverly Konzem
Department of German Studies
Rayzor Hall 307
Phone  713-348-4868
Fax        713-348-4863
Email   german@rice.edu
Web     http://german.rice.edu

Zeit & Ort

11.12.2009 - 13.12.2009

Rice University, Houston, TX, U.S.A