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IAS Fellows’ Public Lecture – The Invention of the Public: globality and contemporaneity in the late 18th century, by Dr Urs Büttner (Heinrich Heine University Düsseldorf)

November 13, 2023 @ 6:00 pm - 7:00 pm

Image courtesy of Blaz (Unsplash)

IAS Fellows’ Public Lecture by Dr Urs Büttner (Heinrich Heine University Düsseldorf)


In the German language, the term “Das Publikum” (the public) came into use in the late 18th century. Immediately, a debate arose between Johann Gottfried Herder and Friedrich Just Riedel about the issue of reference. The question was how to conceptualize an audience that, unlike the spectators in a theater play, was no longer gathered in one place, and what could constitute the unity of readership. Both agreed that it was no longer a physical space that created this unity, but rather being contemporaries. However, they differed in their views on the practices of contemporaneity in reading. Furthermore, anticipating that, in the long run, all reading contemporaries worldwide could be considered part of the audience raised questions about the opportunities and risks of the enlargement. Herder and Riedel argued whether the reserve represents the opportunity to eventually make all people an active part of the public sphere or rather a danger, where any expansion would be achieved only through a lowering of taste. This lecture deals with the enlargement of the reading audience during the Enlightenment, the opportunities, and dangers that its growing cultural heterogeneity poses, which in turn allows literature to be perceived as offensive. 

This lecture is free and open to all. Registration is not required to attend in person.


November 13, 2023
6:00 pm - 7:00 pm
Event Category:


Stephenson College, Platform 3 (Main Building)
Howlands Farm, South Road
Durham, DH1 3DE
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+44 (0)191 334 0545
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