Jakob Christoph Heller, Ph.D Candidate, Department of German Studies, Humboldt Universität Berlin
DFG-Research Training Group “Lebensformen und Lebenswissen,” Potsdam/Frankfurt (Oder)
Das Pastorale und das Posthumane: Idyllische Subjektkonzepte in der
In my dissertation, I discuss the pastoral/idyll as a negation of the definition of the subject as an active and historical being, thus as a post-humanist form from its beginnings on. The main focus is set on the pastoral and its versions in contemporary literature: Writers like Peter Handke, Christian Kracht, Andreas Maier or Michel Houellebecq use motifs and structures of the idyll to conceptualize a deviant yet utopian form of existence. The heterotopic spaces of the mentioned authors are privations and parodies of the concept of the pastoral as projected in the Enlightenment. Using the “Vollglück in der Beschränkung,” contemporary writers turn the notion of a complete being set in organic, cyclic time and a small, yet fully sufficient space upside down. Instead of a harmonic existence, we find versions of bare life. The idyllic subject of contemporary literature becomes dangerously close to an overcoming of humanism,
and thus will be interpreted as a symptom of post- and transhumanist thought. To discuss the changes, which occurred with regard to the conception of the subject, it is necessary to take into account the relations of nature and culture as they were conceptualized in German Enlightenment. Friedrich Schiller claimed the (sentimentalist) idyll to be the solution of the tensions and contradictions between the individual, society and nature. In “harmony and peace with himself”, the pastoral existence is the utopian “standstill” of any incongruences between the individual and the law. It is precisely the idea of a “second nature” which leads to the solution. The second nature transcends the nature-culture-
boundary by means of pedagogy, Bildung and even technology, as Kleist pointed out – in
short: “anthropotechnics.” Therefore, the pastoral in its traditional discourses of German “Aufklärung” itself becomes a form engaged in re-defining nature, culture and the individual’s relation to both. In retracing and discussing the genre of pastoral in respect to post-humanism, I am trying to reconstruct the genre as a symptom for changes in relations of the individual to politics, history, culture, and – inner and outer – nature.