Interdisziplinäres Zentrum für die Erforschung der Europäischen Aufklärung

Martin-Luther-Universität Halle-Wittenberg Siegel

Interdisciplinary Centre for European Enlightenment Studies

The IZEA was founded in 1990 as a central scientific institution of the Martin Luther University of Halle-Wittenberg. As a research institution for the history of culture and ideas, it explores the foundation of modern Western societies through the study of ideas and cultural patterns developed in the 18th century.

18th century studies

The research program includes research and publishing projects dedicated to a wide variety of themes, such as the history of universities, societies and communication; anthropology, aesthetics, culture and knowledge transfer, scholarly culture and literary forms of representation in the 18th century; the development of cultural patterns; the Enlightenment in global networks; and the Garden Kingdom of Dessau-Wörlitz.

Connected with the region's research institutions

The IZEA is located in the Red School, built in 1896, which was formerly the Higher School for Girls of the Francke Foundations. The IZEA houses a public library containing primary sources and research literature related to the Enlightenment in regional and European contexts. The Alexander von Humboldt Chair of Modern Written Culture and European Knowledge Transfer and the Immanuel-Kant-Forum also have their offices in the building.

Enlightenment studies in international networks

Thanks to its outstanding library, its publishing projects, its geographic proximity to important historic sites related to the Enlightenment (including extensive archives, libraries and art collections), and its partnerships with major cultural and scientific institutions,  the IZEA is now one of the most important international research institutes dedicated to the study of the Enlightenment, and is an essential meeting point for scientists from around the world.

3. Enlightenment between the Conflicting Priorities of Critique and Power

The Enlightenment was by nature a critical project. Its goal was to challenge traditional powers and hegemonic structures, goal which found varying expressions depending on the area and culture. Authority was no longer self-evident, but had to be accounted for and legitimated in response to new demands for rationality. Thus, the proponents of the Enlightenment attempted to secure their authority over definitions, initially in the theological, philosophical, and artistic fields, but also progressively in the political and social sectors. Conversely, the old powers (church, state, aristocracy, justice, etc.) fought for their supremacy and resisted the ideas of the philosophers of the Enlightenment with more or less subtle methods to prevent criticism. This situation, unique to the 18th century, will be analyzed, as aside from the concrete conflicts (judiciary scandals, affairs, querelles, and scholarly debates) that arose, the general theoretical conditions and the requirements of critique will be considered. It is thus not only the concept of critique which must be the focus of our attention – which it unquestionably deserves given its importance in the writings of the philosophers of the Enlightenment – but also the concrete practice and experience of critique, the strategic alliances and communication networks developed by the proponents of the Enlightenment, as well as the linguistic aspects and types of media used for the propagation of their critical assertions. The pressure of power must also invariably be taken into account – pressure under which, and against which, the enlightened critique had to assert itself ­– as well as the resulting compromises, contortions, and masquerades it involved. It is important to emphasize that the pressure of power was not only negative and repressive, but also had a productive dimension, as it compelled its antagonists to seek alternative alliances and elaborate creative forms of expression. It was in the interplay between critique and power that the scope for what was possible was constantly being renegotiated.


Enlightenment and Religions

Daniel Cyranka

The research theme “Enlightenment and Religions” will address topics which play a fundamental role in the department for religious studies and intercultural theology. 

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Between Omnipotence and Impotence: Aristocratic Writing in 18th-century Venice

Robert Fajen

In the 18th century, the Venetian Republic experienced a final cultural boom before it lost its independence in 1797. In this period of change the patricians, from whom all the power in the City and the State came, took a much greater part in the literary life of Venice than has hitherto been assumed.

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The Masks of the King. Friedrich II of Prussia as Writer

Andreas Pečar

King Frederick II of Prussia was always considered by his contemporaries as well as by posterity as an exception. His role as a philosopher in particular contributed to this image, role that he already adopted as crown prince and always emphasized as king.

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[] Gotthold Ephraim Lessing

Human freedom and dignity in late 18th-century debates on revelation, religion, and the human

Daniel Cyranka

In exploring the theological and philosophical controversies of the 1770s, this project centers on the notions of apokatastasis and metempsychosis, as invoked by Gotthold Ephraim Lessing (1729-1781), which can be traced back to Origenian debates. 

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[] Georg Friedrich Händel

Political Instrumentalisation of Music of the Past in 20th-century Germany Using the Example of Handel.

Wolfgang Hirschmann

As a research project dedicated to the question of the mechanisms of the political instrumentalisation of music of the past in 20th-century Germany, the planned investigation belongs to the broader theme of the relationship between music and politics.

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