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Literature of the 21st Century

Technologies of the Spectacle. A Project on Modernity

Research groups


Professor Dr. Kati Röttger

Members of the research group

Participants: Dr. Bram van Oostveldt, Dr. Rob v.d. Zalm, Dr. Alexander Jackob, Dr. Natalie Scholz, Dr. Jan Lazardzig). International partners: Dr. Viktoria Tkaczyk (Media Studies, Humboldt University Berlin), Prof. d. Jörg Dünne (Roman Literature Studies, University Erfurt), Prof. dr. Kurt Vanhoutte (Performance Studies, University of Antwerpen), dr. Stijn Bussels (Theatre Studies, RUG), Dr. Nic Leonhardt (Theatre Studies, Ludwigs-Maximilians-University of München), Dr. Nele Wynands (Literature Studies, University of Antwerpen), MA Gesine Hindemith (Literature Studies, Ludwig-Maximilians-University München).

The project is part of the international Wetenschappelijke Onderzoeksgemeenschap (WOG) "Spektakelcultuur" which is located at the KU Leuven University, Belgium.

Description of the research programme of the research group

This research group will shed new light on the concept of Modernity through the lens of the Spectacle. The term spectacle is used here as a culture historical key-concept to historicize ongoing processes of globalization defined by the transnational circulation of visual and audial technologies, images, artists and modes of cultural (mass-) productions back to the 18th century. By looking in concrete and diverse historical examples of 19th century spectacles in Europe, we highlight productive forces of the modern condition itself. It is stated that modernity, the spectacle and the spectacular provide a common culture that transcends national borders and a shared experience by which people begin to imagine themselves as being part of that modern condition. In a more general way, we will firstly describe and analyze the then upcoming visual and audial technologies (like panorama, diorama, wax-images, electric sound effects, etc.), and the excess of cultures of attraction that went along with it, and secondly, we investigate spectacular technologies of (in the literal sense of ‘making’) modern societies. That means: we look at the spectacular effects on creating (e.g. melodramatic) realities by ways of imagining and negotiating the relationships, conflicts and crisis between the modern individual and social communities. As such, technologies of the spectacle and the way they operate within 19th century society offer us a mode by which we can understand the cultural interconnectedness between modernity, globalization, spectatorship and the (individual and collective) imagination of the social and social agency. This research needs an interdisciplinary approach. It includes scholars from cultural studies, performance studies, art history, media studies, literature studies and history.

Envisaged results

Supported by a grant from The Netherlands Institute for Advanced Studies in the Humanities and Social Sciences (NIAS) an individual book project on “Stages of Globalization: Spectacles of Society around 1800 and today” will be finished this year (Kati Röttger). The activities and output of the project, which build on a series of core sub-projects include further: organizing conferences and workshops, an international research network, publishing books, and applying for external research funding.

Work plan and time schedule

Time-span: 5 year-project: 2018, Launching of Book Series, Application for funding until 2018.

Societal relevance

The project provides an understanding of the cultural history of transnational flows due to modernity.

This research group is active in the following constellations:


Art and Aesthetics

Globalization and Migration