Rüdiger Campe
ifk Gast des Direktors

Duration of fellowship
01. October 2016 bis 31. December 2016

Institutional Novels: A Novel Type and Its Theory in the First Half of the Twentieth Century


This project is part of a wide-ranging interest in the novel and the place of literature as such in our culture. Ancient European literary form was determined by questions of suitability: genres “suited” objects, modes of writing “suited” occasions. In this regard, the novel has been formless since the eighteenth century. Creating form from the examination of life itself becomes the task.

The eighteenth-century Bildungsroman was the first great answer to this situation; its theory was a life science in the sense of biology. At the beginning of the twentieth century, a counter-type appeared, recognizable by the protagonist’s entering an institutional space at the outset, which he leaves in the end. Spaces define life in a social sense: schools, hospitals, bureaucracies, and courtrooms. From Joyce and Musil to Thomas Mann and André Gide it is about how this reverse form of the Bildungsroman has left its mark on our perspective on literature and theory in a general sense—from Simmel to Lukács, in phenomenology and critical theory.


Rüdiger Campe is Professor of German and Comparative Literature at Yale University. Following his doctorate in Freiburg and Habilitation in Essen he took up a professorship at Johns Hopkins University. He was a recipient of the Aby Warburg Prize and the Research Prize of the Humboldt Society and was a Fellow at the Institute for Advanced Study in Berlin, as well as at Yale University’s Whitney Humanities Center. Since his dissertation on the transformation of rhetorical excitation into literary expression (1990), his works have consistently tried to describe the space of the literary in modern culture since the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. His interest in rhetoric and aesthetics, drama and novel, and on the intersections of literature with law and science can be viewed in this context. Campe has also worked on systematic concepts, such as evidence, procedures, and scenes of writing. His approaches to a history and theory of speaking-for represent the attempt to reformulate literary communication.


Spiel der Wahrscheinlichkeit. Literatur und Berechnung zwischen Pascal und Kleist, Göttingen 2002; engl. Übers. Ellwood Wiggins, Stanford 2012; „Form und Leben in der Theorie des Romans“, in: Armen Avanessian, Winfried Menninghaus, Jan Völker (Hg.), Vita aesthetica. Szenarien ästhetischer Lebendigkeit, Zürich, Berlin 2009, S. 193–211; engl. Übers., in: Constellations 18 (2011), S. 53–66; „Robert Walsers Institutionenroman Jakob von Gunten“, in: Rudolph Behrens, Jörn Steigerwald (Hg.), Die Macht und das Imaginäre, Würzburg 2005, S. 235–250.

10 October 2016
  • Lecture
Rüdiger Campe


In Orson Welles' Verfilmung des "Process" trifft K. in seinem Großraumbüro unversehens auf einen Computer. Einer von vielen Einfällen des größten Theatralikers des Kinos, die zeigen, was Kafka erzählt: Romanmenschen durchlaufen bei ihm nicht mehr Stationen ihrer Bildung; Geschichten sind aus Institutionen gemacht, die das Leben formatieren.