Meeting on February 21, 2019

Time: 3–5pm

Location: Fayerweather 513

We are pleased to welcome invited speaker, Professor Edgar Landgraf, Professor of German at Bowling Green State University (Ohio).

Title: Improvisation and Posthumanism: Liberal, Radical, and Methodological Perspectives


Edgar Landgraf is Professor of German at Bowling Green State University (Ohio). He studied in Zürich, Chicago, and Baltimore, receiving his Ph.D. from The Johns Hopkins University in 1998. His research interests include German literature, aesthetics, and philosophy from the Enlightenment to today as well as critical improvisation studies, performance studies, systems theory and theories of posthumanism. Recent publications include articles on improvisation, Goethe, Kant, Kleist, Nietzsche, and Johannes Müller. His book Improvisation as Art. Conceptual Challenges, Historical Perspectives was published in 2011 with Continuum (reissued as paperback by Bloomsbury in 2014). His anthology Posthumanism in the Age of Humanism: Mind, Matter, and the Life Sciences After Kant, coedited with Gabriel Trop and Leif Weatherby, appeared October 2018. He is currently working on a monograph on Nietzsche’s Posthumanism and an anthology coedited with Elliott Schreiber with the title “Goethe at Play: Theories, Narratives, and Practices of Play in the Age of Goethe.”

Edgar Landgraf will discuss his recent article “Improvisation, Posthumanism, and Agency in Art (Gerhard Richter Painting).” The article makes a case for supplementing the predominantly liberal approaches to improvisation studies—which tend to focus on improvisation’s ability to express and empower subjects, or on improvisation’s therapeutic functions—with approaches that draw on and extend what Tamar Sharon identifies as radical and methodological posthumanist perspectives. Taking Gerhard Richter’s reflections on the process of painting as an example, Landgraf argues that methodological posthumanist approaches (that draw on systems theory, neocybernetics, ANT, and related theories) can offer refined models to describe the activity of improvisation in and beyond art. As radical (extending poststructuralist schools of thought) and methodological posthumanist theories question traditional notions of subjectivity and focus instead on emergent phenomena, on socially constituted identities and structures, on the embeddedness of improvised doings and the “agency of things,” they also raise new ethical and political perspectives that are relevant, Landgraf argues, for our understanding and the practice of improvisation.

There will be a dinner with Prof. Landgraf and other members of the group following this talk.  Please contact Marc at meh2230[at] if you wish to come to dinner.