Skip to main content Skip to navigation

The Experience of Time in Modern Culture


Colleagues in German Studies at Warwick are invovled in an ongoing project that draws together international researchers from Warwick University, Universität Konstanz, University of Nottingham and the University of Durham, and beyond, in a major, cutting-edge, collaborative project. It deals with cultural and intellectual responses to time, or more specfically to changes in the human experience and consciousness of time within modernity, from ca. 1800 to the globalized and digitalized present. Thus far there have been three international conferences in Warwick (March 2013), Konstanz (spring 2014) and Nottingham (summer 2014), dealing with cultural responses to the immedicay and acceleration of contemporary culture; the longing for time, slowness or 'aestetische Eigenzeit' in modern German culture; and critical responses to shifts in time consciousness in modern German thought and literature respectively. Details can be found below. Key players in the project are Professor Anne Fuchs (Warwick), Professor Aleida Assmann (Konstanz), Professor Dirk Goettsche (Nottingham) and Professor JJ Long (Durham). Watch this space for details of further events and publications.

Faster than light? Experience, Identity and Memory in the Age of Acceleration

University of Warwick, 7-9 March, 2013

This first conference laid out many of the key theoretical concerns for the project as a whole. A wide range of international scholars presented papers. Speakers engaged with contemporary sociological diagnoses of the contemporary globalized, digital world and its characteristics of 'immediacy' and 'accleration'. The papers explored how two key paradigms - those of cultural memory and identity - were problematzied and transformed by their location in an age acceleration and how this was reflected in a range of cultural products from the modern epoch.

Download the Warwick programme here. Download the Warwick abstracts here.

The Longing for Time: Ästhetische Eigenzeit in Contemporary Film, Literature and Art

Universität Konstanz, 15 – 17 May, 2014

In an age of technologically enabled immedicay and acceleration, many critics worry about the negative effects of a “runaway world” (Giddens) and a “timeless time” (M. Castells) that break. down the social and biological rhythms of the life cycle. For H. U. Gumbrecht the digital era has undermined the experience of “real presence” by reducing our encounters with the world to the level of simulacra without any experiential imprints. For the sociologist H. Rosa (2005; 2012) high-speed modernity has unhinged the prospect of maintaining meaningful relations between selves, others and their human habitats. Regardless of whether the effects of the digital age are discussed in terms of a shrinking or burgeoning present, these sociological and philosophical debates diagnose a perplexing overturning of the modern experiences of linear time. While the transformation of the public and private sphere in the digital era is undeniable, we must be mindful of the fact that temporality remains an embodied and socially embedded mode of experience that is not only shaped by technology but also by cultural and social factors. Cyberspace and the culture of immediacy constitute genuinely new arenas of social interaction, but these do not inevitably signal the end of social relations, the flattening of time, the erosion of presence or the end of memory. Papers at the Konstanz conference explored conditions of cultural embeddedness at the dawn of the 21st century. Foregrounding the critical potential of aesthetic articulations of the experience of time, speakers explores the modern subject’s ability to cultivate “temporal sovereignty” (Nowotny 1994) over local time.

Download the programme here. The conference was also preceded by a workshop for doctoral students: found out more here.

Critical Time in Modern German Literature and Culture

University of Nottingham, 11-12 July 2014

Time and temporality have been defining concerns of modernity since the emergence around 1800 of the modern sense of critical time that Koselleck defined as the progressive “Verzeitlichung” (temporalisation) of all areas of human knowledge: subjectivity, history and nature. The digital age with its revolution of conventional and modern conceptions of time and space on a global scale has given the modern sense of critical new virulence in critical discourse as well as cultural production. This international and interdisciplinary conference was held at the University of Nottingham's Centre for Advanced Studies on 11-12 July 2014 and covered a full range of aspects in the philosophical, literary and cultural study of time and temporality: the temporality of art, the aesthetics of slowness, the intellectual history of time, the temporality of literary genres, the cross-mapping of time and space, the ethics of time and the politics of memory, and the poetics of time in contemporary German literature.

Download the programme for the Nottingham conference here.