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Vocal Gestures: Empirical Aesthetics, the Avant-Garde, and the Embodiment of Poetic Speech

A lecture by Tobias Wilke (Columbia University)
The lecture will discuss the relationship between late-19th century empirical aesthetics and poetic practices of the early-20th century avant-garde movements. In a first part, it will investigate the way in which an experimental "science of verse,“ which begins to emerge in Germany around 1870, yields a new understanding of poetry as an embodied mode of "articulation." In a second part, the talk will analyze how this grounding of poetic phenomena in the psycho-physiological dynamic of speech production plays out programmatically in the literary strategies of Futurism and Dada.
Tobias Wilke is assistant professor in the Department of Germanic Languages at Columbia University. He joined the department in 2009, after a year as a post-doctoral fellow in the Cluster of Excellence Languages of Emotion at the Freie Universität Berlin. He received his Ph.D. from Princeton University and his Dr. phil from Eberhard Karls Universität Tübingen in 2008. From 2009 to 2012, he also served as an external project leader in the Languages of Emotion Cluster.
In his research and teaching, he focuses particularly on the history of German literature and culture from the mid-19th century onwards, with a strong emphasis on the broader contexts of European modernism, the history of media and media theory, and the relations between aesthetics and empirical psychology. He is the author of two books: Medien der Unmittelbarkeit: Dingkonzepte und Wahrnehmungstechniken 1918-1939 (Munich: Fink, 2010) ["Media of Immediacy: Concepts of Thingness and Technologies of Perception, 1918-39"], and Einführung in die Literatur der Jahrhundertwende (Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft, 2nd edition 2010; co-authored with Dorothee Kimmich). He is also the co-editor, together with Michael Jennings, of a special issue of Grey Room on "Walter Benjamin's Media Tactics" (Spring 2010), as well as the co-editor, together with Jutta Müller-Tamm and Henning Schmidgen, of a volume on empirical aesthetics around 1900 (Munich: Fink, 2013). His articles have appeared in such journals as MLN, Scientia Poetica, Monatshefte, Grey Room, and the Zeitschrift für deutsche Philologie.
He is currently working on two new research projects: a book-length essay on the relationship between metaphors of empathy and concepts of abstraction in the historical avant-garde, and a book on the history of articulation as a scientific object and aesthetic practice in the 19th and 20th centuries.
For further information, including a complete list of publications, please visit Tobias Wilke's website at:



Tuesday, May 12, 2015. 12:00 PM


Pigott Hall (Bldg. 260), Room 252


Department of German Studies


(650) 723-4977