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.

4. Forms of Representation and Epistemic Models

The specifically culturally open situation of the Enlightenment can be seen in particular in the profound modification of the prevailing orders of knowledge. This is discernible in the steadily growing multiplicity of interpretations of the world, as well as in the epistemic models that shaped and structured it. This research theme addresses the artistic, communicative, and discursive dimensions of this epistemological change. Given the prerequisite of a tight functional connection between theory and practice, specific models of interpretation and appropriation of the world will be investigated, as well as their respective manifestations in the media.

The focus will be most of all on interpretive models that are temporal, structural, oriented towards transcendence and rhetorical/pragmatic and on their essential incorporation in the context of symbolic representation. This will allow for a nuanced access to the type of analysis gathered under the banner of the Enlightenment, that is, to the dissolution of boundaries, shifts, and contingencies that occurred under its influence, as well as to the newly established standards and obligations in the field of epistemology. Thus, this research theme sheds new light on the Enlightenment as the basis and driving force for a cognitive reordering which also takes into account the inherent dynamic aspect of any system of knowledge.


[] Bildnis des Archäologen Johann Joachim Winckelmann, das im Zentrum der Winckelmann-Ausstellung 2017 in Weimar stehen wird

Enlightenment, Classicism and the Classics. Concepts of periods as historical constructions in European Context

Elisabeth Décultot, Martin Dönike, Claudia Keller und Denis Stante

The goal of this project is to investigate the terms given to the periods of the Enlightenment, Classicism and the Classics as historical constructions and hence to ask about their meaning for a retrospective understanding of the long 18th century. The reconstruction of terminological and intellectual-historical contexts will pay particular attention to internationally diverging terminological traditions and historical asynchronicities across Europe.

read more

Philosophical Theories on Memory in the Enlightenment

Frank Grunert

Despite the intensive interdisciplinary interest in matters of memory and the culture of memory that has been prevailing for quite some time, there is currently no comprehensive study on the theory of memory in the philosophy of the early modern period and the Enlightenment. 

read more

Historia Literaria. Organisation, Interpretation, Retention, and Transmission of Knowledge

Frank Grunert

The Historia literaria - the history of letters - was in the late 17th and throughout the 18th century a prominent and highly successful medium for the organisation, interpretation, retention, and transmission of knowledge.

read more

Amusement and Risk: Enlightenment as a Game in the French and Italian 18th Century

Robert Fajen

Enlightenment research has so far paid little attention to the concept of game. Although it is not uncommon to characterize the works of certain authors as "playful", the adjective is usually used metaphorically and accordingly imprecisely.

read more

nach oben