Carlos Spoerhase

Literary Studies, Bielefeld
Fellowship: 01.10.2019–31.03.2020


Carlos Spoerhase is a literary theorist and professor of German literature. He studied German literature, philosophy as well as history of political thought and intellectual history. He received his doctorate in 2006 and his habilitation in 2016, both from Humboldt University of Berlin. In 2016, he accepted a professorship at Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz. Since 2017 he holds a professorship for German Literature at Bielefeld University. He has held visiting positions at The Johns Hopkins University, King’s College London and the University of Pennsylvania. He regularly writes on contemporary literature and culture for the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, the Süddeutsche Zeitung, Merkur and New Left Review.


Fields of Research

  • German Literature and Intellectual History
  • Literary Theory and Methodology of Philology
  • Social and Cultural Theory
  • Media History and History of Material Texts
  • History of Scholarship and the Humanities


Project outline

Figurations and Aesthetic Formations of Magnitude


What role do scales and proportions of cultural objects play when it comes to their description and interpretation? This theoretical question has recently been increasingly discussed. This project is devoted to enquiring to what extent a study of the aesthetic inception and materialization of cultural forms depends on a systematic consideration of questions of scale. It aims to demonstrate that the study of the concrete composition and fashioning of works of art, of the intra- and inter-cultural comparison of aesthetic structures, and of the historical dynamic of processes of cultural change in the arts can benefit from focussing on phenomena of scaling. On the one hand, this might help establish cultural figurations of scaling as a fixed category in our fundamental repertoire of aesthetic theory. On the other hand, comparative case studies of concrete aesthetic figurations – drawn particularly from the history of European literature from the 18th century to the present – offer an opportunity to examine how they respond to changes of size or to the manner in which their dimensions are varied in relation to those of other figurations, both aesthetic and non-aesthetic. Magnitude is thus to be brought into focus as a force directly contributing to the fashioning of the object. The project is determined to bring about a theoretically sophisticated historical analysis of the genesis and dynamics of cultural forms from the perspective of the problem of scaling.


Publications (Selection)


  • Das Format der Literatur. Praktiken materieller Textualität zwischen 1740 und 1830, Göttingen 2018.
  • Linie, Fläche, Raum. Die drei Dimensionen des Buches in der Diskussion der Gegenwart und der Moderne, Göttingen 2016.
  • (ed.) Heinrich von Kleist: Robert Guiskard, Herzog der Normänner, Studienausgabe, Stuttgart 2011.
  • Autorschaft und Interpretation. Methodische Grundlagen einer philologischen Hermeneutik, Berlin / New York 2007. Reprint: Berlin / New York 2012.



  • Laboratories of Philology: The Modern Seminar Model in 19th Century German Philology. In: History of Humanities 4/1 (2019), [accepted] Rankings: A Pre-History. In: New Left Review 114/6 (2018), S. 99–112.
  • Neuzeitliches Nachlassbewusstsein. Über die Entstehung eines schriftstellerischen, archivarischen und philologischen Interesses an postumen Papieren. In: Kai Sina und Carlos Spoerhase (Hg.): Nachlassbewusstsein. Literatur, Archiv, Philologie 1750–2000. Göttingen 2017, S. 21–48.
  • Politik der Form: Autosoziobiografie als Gesellschaftsanalyse. In: Merkur: Deutsche Zeitschrift für europäisches Denken 71 (2017), S. 27–37.
  • Refabrikationen Rilkes: Uljana Wolfs materielle Poetik der Übertragung. In: Deutsche Vierteljahrsschrift für Literaturwissenschaft und Geistesgeschichte 91 (2017), S. 455–477.
  • Rauchen oder Lesen? Zur Erforschung der Geschichte des Taschenbuchs. In: Archiv für Geschichte des Buchwesens 72 (2017), S. 239–243.