Twilight Zones

Liminal Texts of the Long Turn of the Century (1880 - 1940)

1. Design of the Project – Starting Points and Overall Tasks

It is an uncontested fact that around 1880 and continuing into the first decades of the 20th century broadly effective innovations in the sciences, the arts, in politics and society took place in Europe and the Western World. There is no doubt that these changes are the result of a modern society based on the belief in progress and the value of a rational and secular world view. But at the same time and starting with the turn of the century, the economic, social and political problems coming along with the 19th century were openly discussed. This regards the new poverty in industrial and urban zones, a highly profit oriented economy, militarism, and a corrupt and elitist political hegemonial system. At the same time, the new modern era provoked radical changes in the fields of knowledge and science. In the metropolises it enabled a lively and emancipated art scene and allowed a new urbanity producing new gender roles and social identities. All art systems underwent far reaching alterations supported by new media like photography and film and the encompassing mass culture. It is no surprise that this phase of modernity produced a huge number of new formats, dissolutions of traditional genres and new understandings of authorship and work. These innovations were backed by new scientific impulses in the natural sciences and the humanities alike. Even more, discussions on the identity and function of disciplines dedicated to historical, aesthetic, and epistemological questions on the one side and of those concerned with mathematical and experimental techniques on the other, dominated academic institutions for decades with impacts up to date. But it cannot be overlooked that institutional debates between the new humanities and the natural sciences also provoked a new look at authorial roles, parameters of authentication, on media, modes and formats regarding the production, conceptualization and communication of knowledge. (cf. Vogl 1997) With the intention to participate actively in issues of contemporary society, politics, law, culture and arts, scientists, journalists, writers and philosophers alike productively took note of new disciplines like psychology, sociology, and ethnology and applied new formats that had been developed in the arts. Such an open and inclusive mindset is favored by a proliferating urbanity. Berlin, Vienna and Paris built the centers of a new cultural and artistic life – metropolises with a lively intellectual, cultural, linguistic and artistic exchange between each other. One of the characteristics of this era full of far-reaching developments, changes and new orientations in economic, politics, culture and society is a creative interchange between academic, cultural and aesthetic topics as well as between academic, literary and journalistic formations (cf. Kauffmann/Jost 2006)

These social, political, and cultural developments and innovations have been widely discussed and analyzed in countless studies. Equally, the highly active interactions between the new sciences and the arts that took place during the turn of the century did not go unnoticed. What surprisingly has not been revealed up to date is a highly productive corpus of texts which reflects and at the same time constitutes this modern era. In a far-reaching manner for the next generations, the long turn of the century produces texts that react in a very particular manner to the new sciences, the new media, the positive and negative aspects of modern life by discussing norms and values, confronting antagonisms, and dissolving borders between all kinds of systems. Therefore, a main task of the project is to collect, assemble, define, and examine such German and French texts from 1880 to 1933 (AUT, GER) and 1940 (FRA). These texts can be labeled as "liminal texts" since they deny a classification into traditional systems, genres and forms valid at the time. "Liminal" implies a status in-between, being transitional and located between plural sides – aspects, which catch the texts’ transgressive and sometimes provocative design. Text forms and genres are multiple and include studies, manifestos, program texts, essays, newspaper articles, docu-fictions, etc. Thanks to massive scientific and cultural innovations and due to the productive urban centers, the period between 1880 and 1940 produces such texts. (cf. Nitschke et al. 2005; Herre 1998; Gay 1968)

The starting point of the project was the detection of this new text corpus and the construction of a proper anthology providing not only a collection of texts but also their analysis and insights into the long turn of the century. Moreover, the sampling and analyzing of the liminal texts built an ideal experimental field for theoretical and methodological tasks and allowed to bring up currently challenging questions. By being confronted with a collection of texts, the project faces the methodological question of how to combine meaningfully the reading of single texts in conjunction with a corpus. In the case of the specific texts at issue this requirement comes upon the problem of how to deal with the plural discursivity of the corpus and the thereof resulting liminality. Finally, liminality and plural discursivity allow to turn to the question of to what extent these characteristics concern, build and represent modern systems and practices of knowledge.

To confront the described theoretical and methodological challenges a new approach has been designed that combines discourse and practice theories augmented by a concrete program of textual analyses which is based on a complex system of categories allowing an intertextual as well as an interactive handling of the texts. In addition, the digital technique provides a suitable medial format for this multidimensional navigating of the texts. As such, the newly developed interactive system of categories administered on the sampled texts allows to analyze and correlate both, the particularities of the single texts and the corpus on a discursive, formal, and historical level. The categorial complex comprises the following levels: terms (literal occurrences), techniques (formal modes) and concepts (interpretative meta-results) are the basic determinants. At the same time, the single subordinated categories are flexible and adaptable to respective texts and corpuses. As such, the approach requires and combines a close reading of texts with a basic model of categories – a procedure which triggers and leads into an always renewable adaptation of relevant categories.

The anthology follows several tasks:
It functions as a presentation of single texts and of a corpus; it further offers the analysis of these texts and the corpus as well as the results emerging from the application of the system of categories. Moreover, it not only functions as research tool for the project at issue but also for future handlings of liminal texts and texts in general. Integrated into the anthology is an open access monograph with the task to describe and reflect the theoretical and methodological models developed and used for the collection of texts as well as the results of the practical use of it. As such it serves as a base for reassuming and interpreting the outcomes of the multidimensional system of categories and is directly linked to the texts and the anthology. In short, the interdisciplinary discursive-praxeological model is worked out on several levels: the analysis of texts, the interactive use and the format of the representation of results and outcomes.

2. A New Theoretical and Methodological Model

1. The Discourse and Praxis Theoretical Approach – Augmented by Text Analysis

Which interests led to the choice of a discourse-praxeological approach as the main theoretical base?
There is 1) the endeavor to analyze the format and to also understand the historically relevant dimensions of liminal texts. This goes hand in hand with 2) the aim to combine the analysis of single texts with that of a corpus. What inevitably comes along with these tasks is 3) the theoretical question of how to deal with the relation of text and context. The liminal texts build a perfect base for such purposes and allow to address 4) a theoretical and methodological interest, namely the question of how the digital medium can be of use for the compilation, analysis and archiving of a corpus and its texts. These tasks together with the text corpus itself provoke an interdisciplinary approach: the liminality of the texts, the interest in the design of a practicable method of text analysis and the emerging theoretical questions made a cooperation between literary studies, cultural sociology and digital humanities plausible.

A benefit of discourse theoretical approaches is that they do not stick with single texts. They look at texts in their dispersion and understand them as a form of coexistence, as a network of knots in a synchronic and diachronic field of same and other discourses. (Foucault 1969, 216ff.) Discourse analysis is inclusive: It takes care of the linguistic and material surfaces, the interrelation with other texts and the practices and manifestations coming with them. For the purposes of the project, it makes sense to turn to Michel Foucault and his use in the "Archeology of Knowledge" where he defines the notion as such: Discourse consists materially of a bunch of linguistic performances constituted by a sequence of signs, who form enunciations und are determined by rules. Enunciations and discursive formations are not the single sentences or signs, rather, discourses are a group of enunciation based on the same system of formation. Discourses are not codes, but assemblages and processes. Instead of expressions or concepts of a single subject, they are specific practices formed by enunciation, that are formed to "groups d’énoncés" and only as such build discursive formations. Both enunciation and discursive formation are reciprocal and not related in a chronological or causal manner. As such, they produce and observe each other. (161)

Discourse as a practice contains conditions of what can or cannot be said by whom, it regulates the function of authorship, mechanisms of producing and receiving texts, the rules for corpora, themes, topics and motifs, the explicit and implicit knowledge of a culture and society, the impacts of cultural techniques and media of a time. Based on such a notion of discourse and intending to understand the material, formal, conceptual, and practical dimensions of discourses, it makes sense to integrate a praxeological approach into a (discourse-)methodological model when it comes to the analysis of texts and the unavoidable discussion of a text’s relation to its context. (Reckwitz 2003, 2016; Rancière 2000; Link 1988, 2018). The discourse-practice-approach allows to understand texts as a complex of practices and discourses insofar as practices contain discourses while at the same time discourses are practices of representation and as such they produce and explicate systems/orders of knowledge.

Three points must be considered: 1) Firstly, discourse is not about signification or representation but about processes and the building of paradigms of regulations and power.
This brings us to 2) the second point, namely the question of how to deal with practices when it comes to the analysis of texts and a corpus. The question for the project at issue is to understand and analyze how one can catch practices in their textual version or otherwise put, how practices find entrance into texts. The 3) third point to be made here is that the answer to the question concerning practices and texts is incomplete if one does not consider that texts are practices and agents themselves and as such they are embedded into discourses, practices, other texts, and artifacts. In short: Texts are discourse-practice formations. Therefore, the answer to the question of the relation practice-text from a cultural studies’ point of view interested in the analysis of texts is to abstain from a straight distinction between discourses, texts, and practices and to consequently understand them as one in a formation. As such, the question of text can be confronted by a) respecting that a text includes multiple dimensions of reality, a concept that b) allows a renewed look at the discussion of text and context.

Ad a): Due to the quality of discourse-practice formations as an interrelation of concrete material features, medial dispositions, and epistemological aspects, texts contain empirical, material, and analytical dimensions. Thus, the project understands liminal texts as discursive-practice-formations. As such they also function as analytical tools for the observation of the period at issue. Hence, the analysis of the texts is established on several levels: The liminal texts as discourse-practice-formations are analyzed as an archive of concepts (categories "concepts") and in their literal and formal materialities and configurations (categories "terms" and "modes"). Furthermore, the multidimensional model of analysis in a digital format allows an interactive practical handling of the liminal texts.

Ad b): The argument of different qualities of reality leads us to the second consequence of an understanding of texts as discourse-practice formations, namely the discussion of how to deal with the relation of text and context. As already seen, texts comprise material, functional and institutional dimensions. As such they become "text" if integrated into a discourse-practical handling on several levels. From this point of view a text is constituted by its (linguistic) form as well as by paradigmatic and syntagmatic relations to other texts, forms, discourses, and practices. Thus, texts are active and formed on different levels of reality and constituted in different qualities of reality. The relations are manifold and consist of formal, conceptual, empirical, linguistic, and non-linguistic instances. This includes the relocation of boundaries of formats and shifting attributions to genres, changing practices of production and reception.

There are manifold and variable interrelations being productive during textual processes and practices: They are textual (as an intertextual and discursive formation), practical (as formations of action, interaction, and knowledge), material (as formations of objects/artifacts, as written, sounding, or oral formations) and physical (as affects/emotions, bodily and psychophysical dimensions) in their components The liminal texts are best examples for an active application of such a notion of texts.

2. The System of Categories – a closer look at it

Liminal texts are a perfect object of observation when it comes to understand texts as discourse-practice formation and the relation between text and context. The methodological design of the project aims at an adequate handling of liminal texts insofar as it displays the relations between linguistic texts and the fields of arts and knowledge in their formations and multidimensionality. The application of the digital medium as a tool for sampling and analyzing the texts as well as for the presentation of the results enables a productive employment of the chosen discourse-practical theory approach. The digital technique provides the desiredand suitable format for a multidimensional handling and navigating of the texts.

For this purpose, the texts are sampled based on a multidimensional system of categories including terms, modes and concepts. The design/ratio of the categories considers that the texts mix aesthetic, literary, scientific, factual and fictive modes and often programmatically apply arrangements of everyday life, artistic and scientific practices and formations. Furthermore, it reflects that the de-differentiation of fields and roles (like literate, scientist, philosopher, journalist etc.), of genres and borders between text and paratexts produces revised approaches to the notions of author, work, and reader and is a reaction to the discussions and discourses of the time. This allows to understand texts as constituted by their (linguistic) form as well as by paradigmatic and syntagmatic interactions with other texts, forms, discourses, and practices. It also considers, that forms not only have a formal, but also a practical, discursive, and conceptual value and function. And finally, with the interactive, multidimensional methodological model the liminality of the texts becomes examinable in its formal, conceptual, and historical dimensions.

The main categories:
Basic Description (= header)
bibliographical indications, fields, frame, mode, genre, transgression
Level 1 and 2: Formal Description (Terms and Techniques)

Terms (all with subcategories):
emotions, body and psyche, frame and location, genre, tools, movements, fields, specific notions
Techniques (all with subcategories):
styles, intertextual patterns (quotations, names, works)
Level 3: Conceptual description (all with subcategories)

author roles, genre and forms, emotion, body and psyche, norms, antagonism, values, frame and location, models of reality, models of perception; models of me- and we-concepts (includes gender).

The system of categories reflects both, the concrete linguistic material and the abstractions resulting from dealing with it. Or, in other words: It considers the textual formations and the explicitly and implicitly expressed concepts in the texts as well as the results of the reading and analyzing. Concepts and formations are analyzed concerning to what extent norms, frames, routines of knowledge and habitus are repeated or varied, contested, and discussed.

The digital anthology presents a model of a pluri-dimensional analysis of text. It provides the means to analyze, relate, and navigate the texts on multiple levels in a syntagmatic and paradigmatic way as the elaborated categories on the levels of terms, modes, and concepts display the text’s inter-relational character and the interplay between formation and transversal interconnecting of a text with other texts and formations. In so doing the liminal texts are treated as a socially and culturally relevant complex of discourse- practice-formations and as such as material artifacts AND aesthetic practices which review, modify and/or contest norms, habitus, and frames, scientific boundaries, genres, medias, and formats while also dissolving the borders between the arts and other systems. Consequently, the designed system of categories treats relations between linguistic formations and contextual aspects in their multidimensionality. That means, it allows a look at the textual structures and applied concepts, elaborates their interrelations, and consequently understands the interfaces/nodal points resulting from the text’s observation of practices and discourses. The liminal texts produce such interfaces via interrelations of different topics, modes, and discourses: literature and science, legal and economic text forms are brought together with modes of everyday life. This form of interdiscursivity is one of the reasons of the transgressive character of the texts. They provide programmatic interrelations of everyday, artistic and scientific formations and practices. Thus, the multidimensional system of categories analyzes the relevant aspects of relational movements (transfers, transgressions, processes, networks) between texts and specific instances (society, politics, arts, fields of knowledge, etc.) on both the formal and conceptual levels. These relations display material, formal, medial, discursive and practical features. Furthermore, it allows discussions of how the single texts deal with norms and values regarding language, style, media and fields, habits/practices, and knowledge (exposing, discussing and/or contesting). As aesthetic practices, the liminal texts produce, express, review, modify and/or contest norms, habitus, and frames.

3. Résumé

The analytical digital anthology is carried by an interest in a newly elaborated corpus and the contextual and methodological challenges that come with it. As such it offers a model of a pluri-dimensional analysis of text. The particularities of the corpus provoke interdisciplinary innovations regarding theoretical, methodological, and historical dimensions.

The historical dimension includes the discussion of the period at issue based on a specific corpus which allows to examine particularities of the arts and fields of knowledge, cultural practices, and epistemological concepts. With the new corpus in its double role as a participant and producer of challenging discourses and formations, innovative insights are provided for the study of modern arts and culture, particularly concerning aspects regarding the relationship of the arts and systems of knowledge. The specific corpus produces a novel, expanded concept of aesthetics, which in turn is methodologically fruitful for the analysis of discourse-practice formations. (→ notion of aesthetic) The long turn of the century can be described as a time of profound changes and influence on what is called modernity. Both the specific corpus in its conceptual and formal liminality and the theoretical and methodological implementation of practice theories provide new understandings of modern discourse-practice formations. (→ chapter The Long Turn of the Century. A Historical View)

On the theoretical side liminal formations and discourses of liminality incite the discussion of notions like text and context, interdiscursivity, and of course liminality: The corpus allows a new look at the relation between text and context because of its dealing with practices and formats of knowledge, concepts of reality and politics/society. This goes hand in hand with the texts’ liminality by creating interfaces between academic, cultural and aesthetic concerns as well as between academic, literary and journalistic formats. With this they challenge dichotomic constructions like text and context, aesthetic and non-aesthetic. Liminal texts point to the interdiscursive, hybrid – liminal – situation of modern discourses and texts in general and for the period under examination. (→ chapter Liminal/Liminality)

The methodological challenge lies in combining the task of a) creating innovative results for the period at issue with b) that of relating meaningfully the reading of single texts and a corpus by c) also taking care of the described theoretical purposes coming with the texts. Therefore, the designed multidimensional interactive system of categories on several levels (terms, modes, and concepts) considers relational movements between texts and specific instances (society, politics, arts, fields of knowledge, etc.) on both the formal and conceptual levels. This newly elaborated methodological approach gives insights into the way texts as discourse-practice formations deal with norms and values regarding language, style, media and fields, habits/practices and knowledge (exposing, discussing and/or contesting). The model allows to analyze and navigate form/modes, explicit and/or implicit concepts, and contextual traces. Thus, with the sampling of the corpus in a digital anthology a newly constructed collection of texts as well as their analyses are provided. The anthology serves as a tool for navigating the texts and the results of the analysis. Both the analysis of the new corpus with its formal and conceptual output and the theoretical and methodological results will provide a base for future studies on liminal texts. (→ chapters Theoretical and Methological Bases and Categorial System)

BIBLIOGRAPHY [→ for further information see bibliography in the monograph]

Foucault, Michel (1969): Archéologie du savoir. Paris.
Gay, Peter (1968): Weimar Culture. The Outsiders as Insiders. New York.
Herre, Franz (1998): Jahrhundertwende 1900. Untergangsstimmung und Fortschrittsglauben. München.
Link, Jürgen (1988): "Literaturanalyse als Interdiskursanalyse. Am Beispiel des Ursprungs literarischer Symbolik in der Kollektivsymbolik", in: Fohrmann, Jürgen/Müller, Harro (eds.): Diskurstheorien und Literaturwissenschaft. Frankfurt am Main, 116-28.
––––––– (2018): Normalismus und Antagonismus in der Postmoderne. Krise, New Normal, Populismus. Göttingen.
Kauffmann, Kai/Jost, Erdmut (2006): "Diskursmedien der Essayistik um 1900: Rundschauzeitschriften, Redeforen, Autorenbücher. Mit einer Fallstudie zur Essayistik in den Grenzboten", in: Braungart, Wolfgang/Kauffmann, Kai (eds.): Essayismus um 1900. Heidelberg, 15-36.
Knaller, Susanne (2015): Die Realität der Kunst. Programme und Theorien zu Literatur, Kunst und Fotografie seit 1700. Paderborn.
Moebius, Stephan (2006): Die Zauberlehrlinge. Soziologiegeschichte des Collège de Sociologie (1937-1939). Konstanz.
Nitschke, August et al. (eds.) (2005): Jahrhundertwende. Der Aufbruch in die Moderne 1880-1930. Reinbek/H.
Rancière, Jacques (2000): Le partage du sensible. Esthétique et politique. Paris.
Reckwitz, Andreas (2003): "Grundelemente einer Theorie sozialer Praktiken. Eine sozialtheoretische Perspektive", in: Zeitschrift für Soziologie 32, 4, 282-301.
––––––– (2016): Kreativität und soziale Praxis. Studien zur Sozial- und Gesellschaftstheorie. Bielefeld.
Vogl, Joseph (1997): "Für eine Poetologie des Wissens", in: Richter, Karl/Schönert, Jörg/Titzmann, Michael (eds.): Die Literatur und die Wissenschaften (1770-1930). Stuttgart, 107-27.