Working Group: The Cultural Study of Periodicals

Since March 2018, the Working Group is  continued at the Leibniz-Zentrum für Literatur- und Kulturforschung.

Recent years have witnessed a growing interest in periodicals as an object of study. New research has pioneered new methods of investigation that bring intellectual history, media studies, and the history of knowledge and science into a productive dialogue. The group “Kulturwissenschaftliche Zeitschriftenforschung” offers researchers from various disciplines a forum to exchange ideas about different research methodologies. By “periodical” (Zeitschrift), we understand a generic concept that encompasses elements of seriality and intellectual community, or sociability (sociabilité intellectuelle). As an organizing category, “periodical” can include widely distributed cultural and theoretical magazines, as well as privately printed and circulated publications, scholarly journals, and digital platforms.

We aim to analyze the periodical as a specific medium that builds its own set of cultural, political, and epistemological horizons. Thus, instead of taking what appears in periodicals for granted – topics, themes, debates – we want to inquire into the particular ways in which periodicals frame  objects and represent them. This touches upon the question of circulation and how knowledge traverses different intellectual and aesthetic fields. It also asks for a new definition of the roles of producers and consumers in relation to periodical literature, since these are subjects of constant negotiation: Who is writing? Who are the publishers and what do they aim to accomplish? Who is the audience? And how does the relationship between producer and consumer constitute itself? In contradistinction to nationally focused histories of periodicals, or to media theoretical approaches to periodical literature, we aim to investigate the journal as a central arena within the field of intellectual history. This includes understanding them as “site of encounter” (François Dosse), “conceptual laboratories” (François Cusset) or as zones that can be characterized by the production of consensus or dissent, by rigorously defined programs or by intentional eclecticism.

The group’s current emphasis lies in research projects concentrating on the second half of the twentieth century (particularly in relation to the history of theory), as well as on the era around 1800 (journals and literature), and in the first half of the nineteenth century (the German Vormärz and early socialism). Potential topics of future research include studies of the early twentieth century (the so-called crisis of science, or Wissenschaftskrise, as well as the political and artistic avant-gardes), or the world of bourgeois periodicals in the late 19th century.

The research group is directed towards young scholars, including PhD candidates, postdocs, and junior professors. Professors are invited to give guest lectures, or lead directed discussions. The group members come from various fields in the humanities and convene once a year (2017 in Berlin, 2018 in Essen, 2019 in Zürich). The group is an associate member of the network of European cultural journals Eurozine. In 2018, the working group curated the dossier Worlds of Cultural Journals in Eurozine’s online magazine.