Prof. Dr. Markus Winkler

Summer Semester 2016

Prof. Dr. Markus Winkler (Université de Genève, Schweiz)

Host: Prof. Dr. Dieter Lamping (Comparative Literature)


Since 2016, host Prof. Lamping and Visiting Professor Winkler, together with others, has published the series Schriften zur Weltliteratur / Studies on World Literature at J.B. Metzler.

As volume VII of this series appeared:

Markus Winkler: Barbarian: Explorations of a Western Concept in Theory, Literature, and the Arts. Vol. I: From the Enlightenment to the Turn of the Twentieth Century. J.B. Metzler, 2018.


Prof. Dr. Markus Winkler has been Full Professor of Modern German and Comparative Literature at the University of Geneva since 1998. He has also been Coordinator since 2001 and one of the three directors of the Program de littérature comparée. From 2000-2003, 2009-2012 and 2013-2015, he was also Director of the Geneva Department of Langue et littérature allemandes.

He studied at the Universities of Bonn, Paris and Lausanne, received his Ph.D. in Romance Studies in Bonn in 1983 and was then Senior Assistant for Modern German Literature at the University of Geneva. He was a Visiting Scholar and Visiting Professor at the University of Washington at Seattle from 1990-1992 and Associate, later Full Professor of German at Pennsylvania State University from 1992-1998. He habilitated in 1996 at the University of Friborg (Switzerland). He also held visiting professorships in Germany (Berlin: former Akademie der Wissenschaften), Austria, France, as well as in the USA.

From 2002-2014 he served as President of the Schweizerischen Gesellschaft für Allgemeine und Vergleichende Literaturwissenschaft (SGAVL) / Association suisse de littérature générale et comparée (ASLGC). In addition to numerous writings, essays, editions and monographs, he is / was co-editor of literature-relevant long-term publication projects. Worth mentioning are the historico-critical edition of the works of Benjamin Constant (Œuvres complètes de Benjamin Constant, 1993ff.), the Kritische Lexikon der romanischen Gegenwartsliteraturen (KLRG) (1999-2007), the periodical Colloquium Helveticum. Schweizer Hefte für Allgemeine und Vergleichende Literaturwissenschaft (2000-2016) and since 2014 co-editor of the by the Universitätsverlag Winter (Heidelberg) published series “Beiträge zur Literaturtheorie und Wissenspoetik”.

Prof. Winkler is an internationally renowned comparator who has devoted himself to unusually interdisciplinary competence in literary-historical and cultural-scientific-historical topics. His work focuses historically within the field of European romanticism and modernity on the one hand, and theoretically within the field of the aesthetic representation of cultural conflicts on the other. He is particularly interested in dealing with the stranger in various, especially literary and philosophical discourses, which he pursued in publications such as Goethe, Benjamin Constant, Heine, Kafka and Coetzee.

Since 2013-2016 he has headed the international project “’Barbarism’: History of a Fundamental European Concept and Its Literary Manifestations from the 18th Century to the Present”, funded by the Swiss National Science Foundation, in which scientists from the Netherlands, Germany, and Switzerland were involved. At the center of the interdisciplinary project was the cultural, literary and conceptual historical examination of the traditional European concept of the stranger, which dates back to Greek antiquity, as the “barbarian”. Bundled in this concept of the enemy is a term that is barbarically irresolvable, a negative, consistently disparaging, always aggressive attitude towards the cultural or ethnic other, accompanied by many resentments and fears. The clout of the term is proven by the fact that it has co-founded Occident-Western self-understanding and is still used for its use in many places around the world. Since the end of the Cold War, the concept of the enemy's barbarism or the barbarian has even gained considerable importance in the political rhetoric of the West. Against this background, the project pursued the various historiographic, rhetorical and aesthetic traditions of the term on an interdisciplinary basis based on German, French, and English literature, philosophy and cultural theory. The “Barbarism” project was the first attempt at a historically significant and theoretically sound investigation into an important complex of the verbalization and realization of xenophobia in Western educated elites.

The project, whose first funding phase ended in 2016, will be continued on a broader basis with new priorities. In this context, cooperation is planned with Mainz Comparative Literature, possibly also with other subjects of the Johannes Gutenberg University, which should include junior scientists and junior scientists.

In June 2016, in Mainz was organized the conference “Fremde Ähnlichkeiten. Die ‘Große Wanderung’ als Herausforderung der Komparatistik”, in which Prof. Dr. Winkler participated with his own doctoral candidates.