Wolfgang Struck Former Senior Fellow

Wolfgang Struck
October 2013 - March 2014


Wolfgang Struck, born 1959, is Professor of Neuere deutsche Literaturwissenschaft at the Universität Erfurt since October 2005. From 1978 to 1990, he studied physics, philosophy, modern German literature and Medieval studies at Christian-Albrechts-Universität Kiel and Eberhard-Karls-Universität Tübingen. Struck worked as a freelancer for Suhrkamp-Verlag (1984-1989), then as a research assistant at the Deutsches Seminar of Georg-August-Universität Göttingen (1990-1991). From 1991 to 1994, he held a scholarship within the doc-torate program “Theorie der Literatur” at Universität Konstanz and finished his dissertation (cf. bibliography) at Universität Tübingen in 1995. Working as an assistant lecturer at the In-stitut für Neuere deutsche Literatur und Medien in Kiel, Struck wrote his habilitation, “Die Eroberung der Phantasie: Kolonialismus, Literatur und Film zwischen deutschem Kaiserreich und Weimarer Republik”, which he finished in 2001. Wolfgang Struck was a Visiting Professor at the German Department of the University of Virginia (1999-2000) and at the Department of Germanics, University of Washington (2011). As the director of the DFG-project “Aus der Welt gefallen: Berichte über ‚Märtyrer deutscher Wissenschaft’ in Petermanns Geographischen Mitteilungen (1855-1878)”, Struck currently addresses issues of cartography, geography and hydrography in late 19th century Germany.

Fields of Research

Modern German literature; film and television history; representation of history in visual media; relation between the documentary and fiction.

IKKM Research Project

Message in a Bottle. A Memory of the Sea

A message in a bottle is, according to Georg Neumayer, who became in 1872 the first hydrographer of the German admiralty and spent a lot of his scientific career by sending, detecting and collecting such messages, one of the most valuable tools in the scientific exploration of the seas. At the same time, Neumayer admits that bottle messages have been used a long time before he started his research program for other, non-scientific reasons: a bottle may contain the last message from the mariners of a sinking ship or the cry for help by a person lost at some far away island. Floating within the currents that have become the aim of scientific research is not only a body of legends, anecdotes, and myth. There are also messages from the dead or from those who have fallen out of the world. And they all connect complete strangers: a sender who can not know whom he addresses, and a receiver who can never be the addressee. Thus, the message in the bottle can indicate at the same time the homogeneity and continuity of a physical space, where movement can be measured and computed, and the discontinuities experienced within this space – dreams, fantasies, ambitious plans that failed because a reef or an iceberg had been overlooked. In 19th century, the sea still is a space of disruptions, incidents and accidents (and, of course, hydrodynamics will be the field where finally the idea of classical mechanics will fail). I see the epistemological significance of Neumayer’s bottle messages in his awareness of an older knowledge of the sea, established in all kinds of stories, that is not so easily to be erased from the new sciences of the earth. A prominent place where the tension between different temporalities of knowledge is staged, is literature – in the same year when Neumayer was appointed as hydrographer of the admiralty, two literary texts were written, which explore the dimension of maritime fantasies: Jules Verne’s novel Une ville flottante and Arthur Rimbaud’s poem Le bateau ivre. Both, however, the optimistic vision of a sea as medium of globalization and the intense fantasy of destruction and oblivion, appeared in France. In Germany, literary texts are not so easily to find, at least not within the canon, that is, if one ignores the huge amount of texts glorifying the new navy fleet of the Wilhelminian empire. Only at its end, some texts appear, which try to trace back a vision of the sea that has not been completely absorbed by the imperialistic ideology. Most significantly this is the case within the early work of Bertolt Brecht. Here also the message in a bottle, as a poetological as well as epistemological metaphor, emerges: as a memory of the sea that can not be inscribed into a continuous line, the line of a story as well as the line of a current, but is characterized by whirls, disruptions, and replacements.



Die Eroberung der Phantasie: Kolonialismus, Literatur und Film zwischen deutschem Kaiserreich und Weimarer Republik. Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht uni-press 2010. with Welf Kienast: Körpereinsatz: Das Kino der Kathryn Bigelow. Marburg: Schüren 1999. Konfigurationen der Vergangenheit: Deutsche Geschichtsdramen im Zeitalter der Res-tauration. Tübingen: Max Niemeyer 1997 (doctoral thesis).

Edited Books

with Hansjörg Bay: Literarische Entdeckungsreisen: Vorfahren – Nachfahrten – Revisionen. Köln/Weimar/Wien: Böhlau 2012. with Bettina Menke: Wieland/Übersetzen: Sprache, Gattungen, Räume. Berlin/New York: De Gruyter 2010.


“Forschungsreise – Exploration of a Genre”. In: Hansjörg Bay and ders. (eds.): Lit-erarische Entdeckungsreisen: Vorfahren – Nachfahrten – Revisionen. Köln/Weimar/Wien: Böhlau 2012, pp. 15-26. “Ingenjör Andrées luftfärd oder Die melancholischen Entdeckungen des Films”. In: Literarische Entdeckungsreisen, pp. 29-52. “Über die wirbelreichen Tiefen des Meeres. Momentaufnahmen einer literarischen Hy-drographie”. In: Steffen Siegel and Petra Weigel (eds.): Die Werkstatt des Kartogra-phen: Materialien und Praktiken visueller Welterzeugung. München: Wilhelm Fink 2011, pp. 123-142. “The persistence of (colonial) fantasies”. In: Michael Perraudin and Jürgen Zimmerer (eds.): German Colonialism and National Identity. London/New York: Routledge 2010, pp. 234-231. “Reenacting colonialism: Germany and Its Former Colonies in Recent TV Produc-tions”. In: Volker Langbehn (ed.): German Colonialism, Visual Culture, and Modern Memory. New York: Routledge 2010, pp. 260-277. “‘Persien in Persien suchen und nicht finden’: Adam Olearius und Paul Fleming auf der Reise nach Isfahan”. In: Alexander Honold and Christoph Hamann (eds.): Ins Fremde schreiben: Gegenwartsliteratur auf den Spuren historischer und phantastischer Entdeckungsreisen. Göttingen: Wallstein 2009, pp. 23-41. “Dokument/Symbol/Film. Der ruhige und kalte Weg des Beobachtens”. In: Frauke Berndt and Christoph Brecht (eds.): Aktualität des Symbols. Freiburg: Rombach 2005 pp. 115-131.