Based on the concept of a transphilological study of literature, the forum Texts.Signs.Media is the home for literary studies at the University of Erfurt, bringing together research in various disciplines concerned with forms, media, and practices of representation. These disciplines include Comparative literature, German literature, American literature, English literature, and Romance and Slavic studies.
The foundation for this joint work is a philological competence that is initially developed and tested on literary texts. This competence necessarily includes investigating the relationship of texts to their elements, signs, semiotic practices, and media by examining texts as complex organized systems resembling textures or tissues. Describing literature as a connection of texts, signs, and media also means considering fundamental cultural techniques and cultural systems or models that research is able to describe in terms of their internal organization, on the one hand, and their historical modifications and (inter)relations, on the other. This gives rise to an interface with other forms and orders of knowledge that cannot be ignored in either a theoretical or practical perspective on literature, but which can in turn also benefit from the specific knowledge of literature and literary studies.
A transphilological perspective transcends the boundaries of individual national philologies and, at the same time, relates philology to other disciplines interested in problems and questions of representation, such as religious studies and history, media and theatre studies, the history of science, and philosophy. This perspective thus directs interest toward reciprocal conditions and constitutive relations between cultural configurations and representation, on the one hand, and the internal logics of representation itself, on the other. The very relationship between representation and objects of history or scholarship becomes the object of research, because representation is not just the mimetic reproduction of what is represented but itself co-constitutes the relationship between the two. It is in this sense that the observation and analysis of what happens in speech, image, and text production, and of what speech, text, or image itself does, is a research question for cultural studies. The participating disciplines investigate and reflect these programmatic perspectives in ways that are specifically oriented toward the material being studied together with transdisciplinary reflection.
Representation—as the “form of knowledge”—is more than just representation of what (supposedly) precedes it: knowledge is always given in a form that makes it possible and that produces it; and this form itself constitutes a specific kind of knowledge. Such a conception of representation is displaced yet again when questions are asked about the media and practices of representation. In addition to the traditional media of writing and images, other media have become increasingly important for cultural studies.
The research carried out in in the forum Texts.Signs.Media is oriented towards a polyphonic concept of media that corresponds to the different approaches and contexts of cultural studies. Such a concept of media provides space for historical and systematic comparative analyses of concepts and practices with and in which technical and nontechnical media create, transform, or disrupt cultural meaning.