Rethinking Lessing's 'Limits': Approaches to the Laokoon on its 250th anniversary (1766-2016)

April 8, 2015 - April 10, 2015
Lichtenberg-Kolleg, University of Göttingen

Göttingen 37083


  • Lichtenberg-Kolleg, Göttingen
  • Fritz Thyssen Stiftung
  • King's College London
  • University College London
  • Herzog-August-Bibliothek, Wolfenbüttel

All speakers:

Frederick Beiser
Syracuse University
Elisabeth Décultot
Martin Luther Universität Halle-Wittenberg
Daniel Fulda
Martin Luther Universität Halle-Wittenberg
Jason Gaiger
Oxford University
Jonas Grethlein
University of Heidelberg
Susan Gustafson
University of Rochester
Katherine Harloe
University of Reading
Anthony La Vopa
North Carolina State University
Ritchie Robertson
Oxford University
Jürgen Trabant
Freie Universität Berlin
Friedrich Vollhardt
LMU Munich


Avi Lifschitz
Michael Squire
King's College London

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This interdisciplinary workshop takes its cue from the 250th anniversary of Gotthold Ephraim Lessing's Laokoon, oder über die Grenzen der Mahlerey und Poesie('Laokoon, or on the boundaries of painting and poetry'), first published in 1766. Lessing's essay is focused on an ancient statue and its interpretation. Yet over the last 250 years, Lessing's essay has had a profound influence on all manner of different disciplinary fields: if the text helped define the direction and scope of Enlightenment and Romantic aesthetics in Germany (and indeed beyond), it has also helped to shape the very form and practices of modern European poetry and painting. At different moments within the twentieth century in particular, Lessing was both heroized and demonized for his carefully calibrated (and for many, hierarchical) delineation between the temporal linearity of poetry and the spatial field of the visual arts. The speakers will negotiate and discuss different ways of approaching the text, at once rethinking the medial 'limits' defined by the Laokoon, and situating the text within both itsEntstehungs- and Rezeptionsgeschichte.

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March 31, 2015, 9:00pm CET

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