Angus Nicholls on Blumenberg and Political Myth

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Over the past four weeks, the JHI Blog Forum on Hans Blumenberg and Political Myth has featured reflections on Präfiguration – Arbeit am politischen Mythos (Prefiguration – Work on Political Myth)and other works by Hans Blumenberg,as a posthumous intervention in the conceptual history of political myth. Traditionally, Blumenberg was thought to be a largely apolitical thinker and his writing on myth seemed to focus primarily on issues within literary studies, intellectual history and philosophy. However, with the discovery of Präfiguration (published by Suhrkamp in 2014), a text where myths role in politics is explicitly discussed, Blumenberg’s relevance for political thought has generated a large amount of scholarly activity.

This comes at the very moment when the public at large is much more attuned–it seems–to the mutability and stakes of political myths. How does this intervention help us read the current context? In the lead up to two important symposiums on Blumenberg in Leuven and Berlin and ahead of an article on Blumenberg in the Times Literary Supplement, Professor Angus Nicholls of Queen Mary University of London speaks to JHIBlog contributing Editor Andrew Hines. Professor Nicholls discovered the Präfiguration manuscript and, along with Felix Heidenreich, co-edited the text for publication. From scholarly issues such as the discovery of the Präfiguration text and how the concept of prefiguration relates to Blumenberg’s theory of myth as a whole, to pressing contemporary issues such as the relevance of Blumenberg’s thought for understanding our shifting political landscape and how we might distinguish between good and bad political myths, this not to be missed interview closes our forum and address how Blumenberg’s posthumous intervention to concept of political myth, may help us read our current context.

Angus Nicholls is Professor of Comparative Literature and German and Chair of the Department of Comparative Literature at Queen Mary University of London. His work is concerned with the intersections between literary studies and other humanities disciplines such as philosophy, critical theory, anthropology and psychoanalysis, and emerges from the German and Anglophone traditions from the late eighteenth century through to the twentieth century. 

While his work is broad, he became an established voice in Blumenberg scholarship between 2011 and 2013 when he held an Alexander von Humboldt Foundation Senior Research Fellowship at the University of Stuttgart and at the German Literary Archive in Marbach. During that period, he wrote Myth and the Human Sciences: Hans Blumenberg’s Theory of Myth, Routledge, 2015; paperback, 2016) and, alongside Felix Heidenreich, co-edited a critical edition of Hans Blumenberg’s text on political myth, Präfiguration (Suhrkamp, 2014; French edition: Seiul, 2016; Italian edition: Morcelliana, 2018). He now serves on the advisory board of the recently founded Hans Blumenberg Gesellschaft.

Professor Nicholls’ research on Hans Blumenberg has engaged the public in a number of ways including The Conversation, Texte zur Kunst, national German Radio, and theZfL Blog. His review of Hans Blumenberg’s Rigorism of Truth and of Kurt Flasch’s biography of the early Blumenberg is coming out soon in the Times Literary Supplement.

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