Rethinking Lessing's 'Limits'

Approaches to the Laokoon on its 250th anniversary (1766-2016)

Göttingen and Wolfenbüttel, 8–10 April 2015

  • Programme

  • This interdisciplinary workshop takes its cue from the 250th anniversary of Gotthold Ephraim Lessing's Laokoon, oder über die Grenzen der Mahlerey und Poesie ('Laokoon, or on the boundaries of painting and poetry'), first published in 1766. Lessing's essay is focused on an ancient statue and its interpretation. Yet over the last 250 years, Lessing's essay has had a profound influence on all manner of different disciplinary fields: if the text helped define the direction and scope of Enlightenment and Romantic aesthetics in Germany (and indeed beyond), it has also helped to shape the very form and practices of modern European poetry and painting. At different moments within the twentieth century in particular, Lessing was both heroized and demonized for his carefully calibrated (and for many, hierarchical) delineation between the temporal linearity of poetry and the spatial field of the visual arts. The speakers will negotiate and discuss different ways of approaching the text, at once rethinking the medial 'limits' defined by the Laokoon, and situating the text within both its Entstehungs- and Rezeptionsgeschichte.

    Convenors of the workshop:

  • Avi Lifschitz, Department of History, University College London; Fellow at the Lichtenberg-Kolleg, Göttingen, 2014-15
  • Michael Squire, Department of Classics, King's College London; Fellow at the Morphomata-Kolleg, Cologne, 2014-15

  • The workshop is generously supported by the Lichtenberg-Kolleg (Göttingen's Institute for Advanced Study) and the Fritz Thyssen Stiftung, in collaboration with the Herzog August Bibliothek at Wolfenbüttel, the Department of History at University College London, and the Department of Classics at King's College London.