Niklaus Largier

Research Expertise and Interest

theology, anthropology and literature, literature and the visual arts, philosophical anthropology, ritual and religion, religious practice, literature

Research Description

Niklaus Largier is the Sidney and Margaret Ancker Professor of German and Comparative Literature. He is affiliated with UC Berkeley’s Programs in Medieval Studies and Religious Studies, the Designated Emphasis in Critical Theory, the Designated Emphasis in Renaissance and Early Modern Studies, and the Berkeley Center for New Media. Largier's most recent book, Figures of Possibility: Aesthetic Experience, Mysticism, and the Play of the Senses, appeared in 2022 with Stanford University Press. He is currently working on two projects: a book on "symbolic textures", focusing on a genealogy of the notion of the symbol; and a book on the history of practices and the poetics of prayer (with David Marno). — After studying German Literature, Philosophy, and Russian in Zurich and Paris, Professor Largier received his Ph.D. from the University of Zurich in 1989. His research deals with German literature and philosophy, especially questions of the relations among literature, philosophy, theology, and other fields of knowledge. His more recent books explore the relation between bodily ascetic practices (in particular flagellation), eroticism, and the literary imagination (Lob der Peitsche: Eine Kulturgeschichte der Erregung. Beck, Munich, 2001; American translation: In Praise of the Whip: A Cultural History of Arousal. ZONE Books, 2007; Spanish translation: Elogio del látigo: Una historia cultural de la excitación. Oceano, 2010); the fascination of decadent literature with such religious practices (Die Kunst des Begehrens: Dekadenz, Sinnlichkeit und Askese. Beck, Munich, 2007); and the ways in which early twentieth century ideas about the form of the essay engage mystical concepts and their specific notion of critique (Zeit der Möglichkeit: Robert Musil, Georg Lukács und die Kunst des Essays. Wehrhahn: Hannover, 2015). His current research and teaching focuses on the history of the imagination and the emotions from the Middle Ages to the Baroque era; the history of the senses, of sense experience, and of the stimulation of the senses-especially taste and touch-in medieval, early modern, and modern cultures. Niklaus Largier is an expert on mystical traditions in German literature and thought, in particular Meister Eckhart and his influence from the Middle Ages to postmodern discourses. His earlier books include a study on time and temporality in late medieval philosophy and literature (1989), a bibliography of literature on Meister Eckhart (1989), a translation and commentary of a medieval treatise on spiritual poverty (1989), a two-volume edition of Meister Eckhart’s works with extensive commentaries (1993), and a study of the significance of exemplum and exemplarity in medieval literature, philosophy, and historiography (1997). Largier has published essays on Eckhart, Tauler, Seuse, Mechthild of Magdburg, Hadewijch, Rudolf of Biberach, Czepko, and others. More recently, a series of articles deals with the interaction of images and texts in medieval manuscripts, questions of visual culture, and the significance of exemplarity in various discursive contexts. He has coedited two collections of essays on spirituality and literature (1995 and 1999), and an important medieval collection of vernacular sermons (1998). Largier is a member of the editorial board of the journal Representations, and of the book series New Trends in Medieval Philology (DeGruyter, Berlin) and Deutsche Literatur von den Anfängen bis 1700 (Lang, Bern et al.). — Largier is the recipient of a Swiss National Research Foundation Grant (1993/96), of a Fellowship in residence at the Getty Center for the History of Art and the Humanities (1992/93), and of a Guggenheim Fellowship (2004). He joined the Berkeley faculty in 2000. From 2001 until 2004 he was the director of UC Berkeley’s Program in Medieval Studies; from 2003 until 2006 the director of the Program in Religious Studies; and from 2006 until 2013 the chair of the Department of German. He was a Visiting Professor at Harvard University (2006), at the University of Constance (2013), and at Princeton University (2016); a fellow at the Wissenschaftskolleg in Berlin (2010-11), and at the Kolleg-Forschergruppe BildEvidenz (2014). In 2015, Largier received the Anneliese Maier Research Award from the Humboldt Foundation.

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