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Friedrich Hölderlin and the idea of Europe

The Fourth International Conference on Comparative Studies of National Languages and Cultures «Friedrich Hölderlin and the Idea of Europe in the Literature of Germany, France, Russia and the United States in the 19th and 20th Centuries»

Organizing Committee:

  • Andrey Astvatsaturov (SPbSU)
  • Vera Astvatsaturova (SPbSU)
  • Sergey Fokin (SPbSU)
  • Artemy Magun (SPbSU)
  • Olga Volchek (SPbSU)

Program and scientific committee:

  • Aleksey Zherebin (RGPU, SPb)
  • Dmitri Tokarev (Institute of Russian Literature RAS, SPb)
  • Irina Lagutina (Institute of World Literature RAS, Moscow)
  • Denis Ioffe (Gent University, Belgium)
  • Nadezhda Grigorieva (Tubingen University, Germany) 
  • Michele Nikan (Caen University, France)

Goal and purposes of the conference

The main scientific goal of the conference is to experience combining the efforts of Russian and foreign specialists in the field of comparative study of languages, cultures and literatures to address some of the urgent issues such as the genealogy of the idea of Europe in the national literatures of countries that in the last two centuries claimed, at different times, the role of the dominant European nation, or that consistently challenged the viability of the "European idea".

The work of Friedrich Hölderlin (1770-1843), the greatest German poet and thinker, embodies one of the most radical experiments of understanding the fate of Europe, on the one hand, through re-appropriation of the Greek tradition and, on the other, in the light of the alternation of the European establishment, that was caused by the French revolution and that pushed the idea of an all-powerful nation to the forefront of political existence.

Thus, the research project focuses on the work of Hölderlin as such and on the vicissitudes of its reception in the national literatures in France and Russia in particular. The main historical and cultural problem and mystery lie in the fact two directly opposed positions on the greatest German poet formed in these literatures: in contrast to France, where, thanks to the efforts of major poets, translators and philosophers a real cult Hölderlin arose, in Russia, his work, received in the first post-revolutionary years, remained essentially unnoticed, if not left to oblivion.
This disregard for Hölderlin in Russia should be correlated with the difficulty of the Russian literature to engage with the idea of Europe: we can assume that the refusal to think Hölderlin in Russian literature not only stems from a kind of cultural self-sufficiency, but also confirms a certain measure of difference from Europe. Our conference is meant to explain this difference and this cultural paradox.

However, along with the understanding of the problems of poetics and aesthetics, politics and philosophy in the creative legacy of F. Hölderlin, it is important and necessary to understand the development of the idea of Europe in the works and lives of the leading representatives of national cultures of Germany, France, Russia and the United States in the nineteenth century, older and younger contemporaries of the author of "Germany" and "The Rhine", as well as writers and thinkers of the following century, in which nascent national consciousness somehow intertwined with the aspiration to launch the intellectual construction of Europe.

The level of fundamentality of the alleged scientific results is determined, first of all, by the scientific issues of the project, the development of which requires accurate and diverse scientific methodology achieved through the participation of many influential literary critics, philologists and philosophers from Russia and Europe. The scientific novelty of the project is obvious, because, on the one hand, the project represents a new step in comparison with the first conference on Hölderlin in Russian literature studies, held at the Gorky Institute of World Literature (June 2013) that brought together a number executors of the project, and on the other hand, it takes a new scientific turn through a series of conferences on comparative studies of national languages and cultures, organized by the author of the project in recent years (see "Experience in the scientific field"). After the conference, we will publish a collection of abstracts (before the conference) and a monograph (in 2016).

Working languages: Russian, French, German, English