Prof. Hans Ulrich Gumbrecht

José Vasconcelos World Award of Education 2012
Field of Work:
European literatures; history and pragmatics of communication media; epistemology of everyday culture and philosophy
Date: 18 April 2012
Place of Ceremony: The Main Hall
Host Institution: Aarhus University
Host Country: Aarhus, Denmark

Hans Ulrich Gumbrecht is considered as one of the most powerful cultural mediators between America and Europe, as well as between North and South America. He has published extensively on Spanish, French, German, Italian, Argentine and Brazilian literatures and cultures (approximately 1,500 titles), and is regularly present in influential European, American, and South American newspapers and journals.

What is more, the artistic and linguistic level of his essays is impressive. He has coined a learned but at the same time clear and concise language. He is frequently cited in discussions of cultural life in all influential European newspapers, as well as across the Atlantic.

From his many publications, we cite just a few: Production of Presence, as a new way of understanding the meaning of the past for the present, In Praise of Athletic Beauty, The Powers of Philology, and 1926 – Living on the Edge of Time, all containing revolutionary theories on time, space and culture.

Prof. Gumbrecht has, in particular, opened up fresh perspectives on the so-called historical humanities, developing an original concept that teaches us to look at the presence of the past as a possibility of our own present. Proving that the present is not merely the linear result of its preceding conditions, Gumbrecht encourages the view that history offers a whole arsenal of opportunities which are embedded in the highly complex structures of our present.

Furthermore in his Stimmungen Lesen, we see a similarity between the work of Hans Gumbrecht and the ideals of José Vasconcelos, who believed that the most minimal aspects of cognition are conditioned by sympathy for the natural “vibration” and thus stressed the auditory categories of knowledge. By using the German term stimmung, Gumbrecht takes up the idea of “rhythm” or “vibration” and also believes auditory categories to be of a higher status than visual ones.

Hence, the work of Hans Gumbrecht not only has immense influence worldwide, but also bears proximity to the thought of José Vasconcelos.

Prof. Gumbrecht’s education took him from the University of Munich, where he studied Romance and German Studies, to those of Regensburg, Salamanca, and Constance among others.

In addition to his current position, he is also associate professor in Montréal, Directeur d’Etudes at the Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales in Paris, Professeur attaché au College de France, and member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Moreover he holds multiple visiting professorships at universities on the American continent, Europe, Japan, and South Africa, as well as honorary doctorates at eight universities, including the University of Aarhus.

The world is undeniably enriched by his productive humanistic research, outstanding academic career and the many theories that he has shaped with great intelligence and expressed with lucid beauty.

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