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HUMBOLDT AND GAUß: SCIENTIFIC METHODS & COMPLEMENTARY NARRATIVES by Anna Khoo 15/01/2014.

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Presentation on theme: "HUMBOLDT AND GAUß: SCIENTIFIC METHODS & COMPLEMENTARY NARRATIVES by Anna Khoo 15/01/2014."— Presentation transcript:

1 HUMBOLDT AND GAUß: SCIENTIFIC METHODS & COMPLEMENTARY NARRATIVES by Anna Khoo 15/01/2014

2 MEASURING THE WORLD: HUMBOLDT’S METHOD Aim: ‘das Leben erforschen’ (S.31) Living matter. Where and how life exists. Physical exploration (bodily journey) Empirical methodology Naming/Cataloguing Mapping = complete, coherent knowledge of the world

3 MEASURING THE WORLD:GAUß’S METHOD Aim: “eine Formel…die alle diese [Stern] Bewegungen beschrieb” (S. 82) Mathematical truths and proofs Mental exploration: “Ein Mann allein am Schreibtisch”(S.312) Inductive reasoning Differentiation is mathematical rather than categorical Theoretical unity of forces (Grand Unified Theory)

4 COMPARISON: CONTRASTS Humboldt Empirical, physical evidence Living matter: what the Earth is made of, where and how things live. E.g. Galvinism, bones, life forms found in extreme conditions Patient, careful readings and measurements. Everywhere. Gauß Inductive, rigorous reasoning Formulae: how the universe is held together by mathematical rules. E.g. Geometry, statistics, gravitational and magnetic forces Paper, pen, hours of thinking, flashes of inspiration.

5 Telescope vs Sextant Measure movements of celestial objects, as seen from Earth. Measure fixed heights, positions of geographical landmarks/own location relative to the horizon.

6 COMPARISON: SIMILARITIES Motif of elevation: mountains/hot-air balloon (Near) solitary work: expeditions/working in hut Impulse to keep exploring unknown areas Both dependant on funding from patrons and politicians Acknowledgment that discovery is not creation Frustration with being locked in time and space

7 CONVERGENCE Futility: Humboldt and the Lama’s dead dog (S.361) Knowledge is not the key to life. Gauß: “Die kurze Formel, die all ihre Bewegungen in einer Zeile zusammenfasste. Zum erstenmal wußte er, daß er sie nicht finden würde.” (S.204) Overlap: Humboldt’s outburst, “Tatschen…Fakten und Zahlen” (S.370) Gauß’s experiment - empirical observation of a needle. (Needs Humboldt) Humboldt needs Gauß’s formula on magnetism. Concept of journey: “Aber während…Humboldt sich vorstellte, wie Gauß eben jetzt auch sein Teleskop auf Himmelskörper sah…hätte er auf einmal nicht mehr sagen können, wer von ihnen weit herumgekommen war und wer immer zu Hause geblieben.” (S.370) Novel’s structure reflects the convergence of parallel narratives.

8 PARALLEL AND METAPOETIC NARRATIVES Self-reflective novel => References to other character in travel writing within novel. => Horizon as ideological reference point: straight/curved? => Collaborative work is on magnetism… => Misson impossible? Taberner: “The novel’s alternative chapters on Humboldt’s travels to South America and Gauß’s work on ‘curved space’ generates…an interesting dialectic between Enlightenment universalism and cultural relativism…” (p.257) Kreitinger: “[Kehlmann constructs]…a metapoetic, in that the formal structure of parallel life stories enacts those particular theories of space that Humboldt and Gauss put forward in their work” (p.59)

9 REFERENCES Primary sources: Kehlmann, Daniel. Die Vermessung der Welt. 2005. Hamburg: Rowohlt Taschenbuch Verlag. 2008, Sonderausgabe 2009. Secondary Sources: Kreitinger, Brooke D. The spatial imagination of accelerated globalization in contemporary German-language novels. Georgetown University, 2012. Taberner, Stuart, ed. The Novel in German Since 1990. Cambridge University Press, 2011.


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