Abstract: The functionalization and coping of anxiety in the premodern age. Literary imaginations in medieval texts as forerunners of a recent culture of fear
Anxiety is functionalized in very different ways in cultural products of the Middle Ages: terror and deterrence can be viewed and used in the political sphere as a legitimate instrument for securing power, fear of the punishment of the judging God can be used as a religious instrument, fear of the foreign, of social isolation and death is imagined in literature. In all of these cases, not only can the negative (pathological) consequences of fear be portrayed, but emphasis can also be placed on its rational cognitive performance and its integration into a social matrix: as an instrument of order in a peaceful society, as the cause of moral action, as a mode of reflection for stategies for coping with strangeness and death. What one is afraid of and how anxiety expressed is culturally conditioned and subject to historical change, but beyond this commonplace of cultural-historical research there are lines of continuity between medieval and modern cultures of anxiety. The research project would like to open up the panorama of various varieties of the correlation between anyiety and ratio in literary texts from the Middle Ages, on the one hand to reveal the roots of our modern fear culture and on the other hand to work out how literature not only reproduces the anxiety and coping strategies of the society, but also transforms them into specific aesthetic ones forms of speech and representation that grow out of their own tradition of discourse.
Prof. Dr. phil. Timo Felber
Kiel University, Institute of German Studies
W3-Professorship for German Literature of the Late Middle Ages and Early Modern Age
The functionalization and coping of anxiety in the premodern age. Literary imaginations in medieval texts as forerunners of a recent culture of fear
Migration, Language, Culture and Discourse
Projects in this cluster cover a wide range of topics, including social integration, national isolationism, cultural identity, xenophobia, racism, etc.