Project structures and aims
The project ZeitenWelten is funded by the DFG since 2012 and runs to 2015, in which the last conference will be held. The projects meets up to two times a year with external guests and eleven permanent members from Austria, England, Germany and Switzerland. The individual projects range from the early middle ages up to the 13th century, covering mainly western and central Europe and will be published in a collaborative essay collection.
Time and space are important conditions of our existence. Hence their conception has always attracted scholarly as well as social interest. In response to the massive changes in our ways of living both, time and space, are becoming ever more relevant categories of perception. In spite of ongoing efforts to subject them to an objective organization they basically cannot be measured in a purely logic-mathematical way. Both retain powerful subjective dimensions related to social and cultural contexts, something which is becoming increasingly obvious in our globalised world.
Scholarly debate recently produced a string of important works about the historical perception of space. Time as category was – up to just now – paid far less attention. This is changing fast at the moment. Since we started the project the issue of time gained much more interested in the humanities.
Nevertheless – the Middle Ages still represent a good starting point to formulate new ideas, as medieval concepts of time – at least seem to – structurally mirror modern models. One of the findings of todays cultural studies is the understanding that time in the post-modern world has altered. The idea of linear time with an open future that was – according to Koselleck – only established in the 18th century starts to disintegrate and gives way to a new concept in which time is no longer linear but constitutes a pervasive, continuous present with a sealed future (if one follows for example Hans-Ulrich Gumbrecht).
The as yet prevailing linear model of time has also influenced many medievalists in thinking about time: thus they often tried to establish medieval ideas of the linearity of time: On the one hand in looking at the emergence of instruments of timekeeping and on the other hand in exploring how it was effected by the bible as frame of reference. Others stressed the circularity of time as typically medieval and refuted the possibility of medieval concepts of linearity of time. They understood linear perception of time as a notion of progress which is at the same time viewed to be an exclusive feature of modernity.
«ZeitenWelten» discusses if the models outlined above are exclusive or if medieval ideas of time were rather more complex and could be linear and circular at the same time, the underlying research question being, how social, symbolic, intellectual and normative efforts formed time and its perception. We postulate that instead of perceiving time only as a consecutive sequence of events, time in the middle ages was rather shaped in a cyclical, linear and layered fashion. Therefore the project examines if there are tensions or rather links between linear and circular ideas of time. If they are both part of one conception, out of these tensions and links coexisting temporal layers may become discernable.