Parables of Life: “Bildung” and the Transformation of Knowledge, 1780-1924


ACLS Fellowship Program


English and German


This is an interdisciplinary study of the transformation of knowledge as it affects the life-sciences, philosophy, music, and literature after 1780. The study explores the conceptual foundations for the idea of self-organization and self-cultivation long associated with the German idea of “Bildung” in the “long” nineteenth century. They are 1) origination and emergence; 2) differentiation and metamorphosis; 3) teleology and individuation; 4) play and variation; and 5) closure and death. The project thus pursues something of an intellectual history and archeology of “Bildung,” arguably the dominant model of cultural production and organization in the nineteent-century.