Staffan Bengtsson


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Akademiforskare. Filosofie doktorsexamen i estetik vid Uppsala universitet 2004. Studier i litteraturvetenskap, historia och filosofi vid Stockholms universitet, estetik vid Uppsala universitet.



I am a research fellow of the Swedish Academy. In my dissertation I studied the dialectical method in the works of Johann Gottfried Herder. Ulrich Gaier (Konstanz) has continuously argued that Herder’s so-called “Schöpfungshieroglyphe” (a symbol based on 1 Mos. 1-2:1-4) represents a poetics that was used by some of his contemporaries: Goethe, Novalis and Hölderlin. I place a similar emphasis on this figure of writing, but argue in addition that typography and layout play crucial roles in how Herder marked the textual building blocks of this dialetics and, furthermore, that paying attention to this feature of his texts changes our understanding of the form of the “Schöpfungshieroglyphe”. I have shown how this form of writing was picked up in works by Goethe and the late Lessing.

Work in Progress

Typographical Dialectics in Germany before Hegel: A Chapter in the History of Reading (Book and Articles)
Expanding on the theme of my dissertation, in this book project I am collecting texts by authors that display a comparable form of composition. Though they do not appear to constitute a group, these authors nevertheless develop a dialectical method of writing collectively, by adding new tricks and devices to a repertoire of typographically marked moves. From the perspective of the author this compositional method can be seen as a new form of poetics or rhetoric; from the perspective of the reader it represents a chapter in the history of reading.

"I wanted to write GENIE" (Book and Articles)
Typography and layout have always been striking features of the Swedish poet Thomas Thorild’s (1759-1808) texts, which has been noticed by all commentators. In this book project I follow a salient lead from Ernst Cassirer about the importance to Thorild of German Sturm und Drang in general and Herder in particular and I relate the visual feature of Thorild’s texts to my research on Herder and his contemporaries.


I am part of a research network between the Swedish Collegium of Advanced Studies at Uppsala University (SCAS), the Institute of Advanced Study at the Georg-August Universität Göttingen (Lichtenberg-Kolleg) and the universities of Edingburgh and Glasgow on the European Enlightenment.

Publications (selection)

Dichtung und Wahrheit als ”Andenken verlorner und verschollener Wagnisse”: Ein Blick auf Goethes Werk aus ursprünglicher Perspektive, Wehrhahn Verlag. Forthcoming 2018.

”The Material Being of ’Versuch über das Seyn’”, in: John K. Noyes, ed. Herder’s Essay on Being: A Translation and Critical Approaches. Camden House. Fortcoming 2017

”Brev från en vän jag kallar ’min Roußeau’: En typografisk läsning av tre tidiga fragment av Thomas Thorild”, i Kritik och beundran: Jean-Jacques Rousseau och Sverige 1750-1850, Jennie Nell & Alfred Sjödin (red). Ellerströms, 2017.

Herder and Religion, edited by Staffan Bengtsson, Heinrich Clairmont, Robert E. Norton, Johannes Schmidt and Ulrike Wagner. Heidelberg, 2016.

”Cultural Science and the Repertoire of Works: Herder’s Plastik as a Hands-on Experience”, in J. G. Herder: From Cognition to Cultural Science / Von der Erkenntnis zur Kulturwissenschaft, Beate Allert (Hg). Heidelberg, 2016.

‘Beredsamkeit’ in Lessing’s Zur Geschichte und litteratur: A reply to Herder. Dietmar Till (ed.), Rhetorik im 18. Jahrhundert (=Rhetorik. Ein internationales Jahrbuch, Bd. 33). Berlin/Boston, 2014.

Von Deutscher Baukunst. Über eine deutsche Kunst, Texte zu bauen. Mattias Pirholt & Andreas Hjort Møller (eds.), ‘Darum ist die Welt so groß’. Raum, Platz und Geographie im Werk Goethes. Heidelberg, 2014.

‘Eine ganz andre Beredsamkeit’: A reader’s guide to Ueber die neuere Deutsche Litteratur. Ralf Simon (ed.), Herders Rhetoriken im Kontext des 18. Jahrhunderts, Heidelberg, 2014.

Challenging Linearity: Finding the Perspective of Herder’s Aelteste Urkunde des Menschengeschlechts. Sabine Gross (ed.), Herausforderung Herder / Herder as Challenge, Heidelberg, 2010.

The Formation of ‘Geist’ in Vom Geist der Ebräischen Poesie. Daniel Weidner (ed.), Ursprung und Morgenland. Johann Gottfried Herders Vom Geist der Ebräischen Poesie’. Berlin, 2008.


Selection of publications

Recent publications

All publications




Staffan Bengtsson