Every other year, the German Department of Washington University in St. Louis hosts an international symposium on German literature and culture. In keeping with national and international scholars' interest in newspapers, the history of communication, and early modern media, the chosen 2016 topic was Knowledge in Motion: Constructing Transcultural Experience in the Medieval and Early Modern Periods (1200–1750). The symposium was held March 31 through April 2, 2016, on the Danforth Campus of Washington University.
Places of reading, writing, and information sharing change over the centuries. How we experience such space(s) and time determines how we read, write, and, in this process, translate. We perceive borders and border crossings differently depending on how we approach or traverse them, be that voluntarily when traveling and exploring, or involuntarily when forced to migrate or brought as captives into another culture. As we move across boundaries, we transport knowledge, our own and what we absorb from others; we mediate culture as it is mediated through us. The knowledge we carry along may conflict or merge with the new we acquire.
Changes in our movements lead to changes in our knowledge and thus also to changes in genres which communicate this knowledge (literature, art, music, law, etc.). In this process, what lodged at the periphery of a given culture might move to, and eventually even become, the center. Examples of such movements might be the courtly epic or romance, the early modern novel, or the art and music of the Romantic era. Such new forms do not only assume new organizational models but also new forms of knowledge circulation. Knowledge in motion becomes knowledge about motion that leads to transfer and translation.
Knowledge in motion varies. It may be “book knowledge” (Buchwissen), including religious knowledge, as well as “experiential knowledge” (Erfahrungswissen). In some instances, it is precisely the relationship between these two kinds of knowledge that is the object of literary discourse. Subsequently, we may ask which concept(s) of knowledge are most appropriately employed to describe various interchanges (cultural, political, social, economic, etc.) in the medieval and early modern periods and how different forms of knowledge interact in changing cultural, political, and social contexts.
For more information about the Symposium, please visit https://pages.wustl.edu/stlsym.