22 December 2020

Major contribution to German literary and cultural theory

We congratulate Professor Henk de Berg, whose work is recognized internationally as a major contribution to German literary and cultural theory.

Prof Henk de Berg, talking with a raised hand

Germanic Studies at Sheffield is one of the few modern language departments in the UK with a strong focus on German philosophy. Among other things, we offer a final-year module on German thought from Marx to today, taught by Henk de Berg.

Professor Henk de Berg’s work on systemtheoretische Literaturwissenschaft has now been recognized as one of the major contributions to German literary and cultural theory of the last two decades.

Together with his Dutch colleague Matthias Prangel, he has developed a new theory of communication which makes it possible to locate literary texts in a force field of semantische Differenzbeziehungen, a dynamic system of meaning-generating relations of difference.

Book cover of a German publication on systems theory

This work has had a strong impact on German literary and cultural theory. It now has its own chapter in Dirk Baecker’s Schlüsselwerke der Systemtheorie – the bible of sociological systems theory – as well as being discussed in standard reference works such as Ansgar Nünning’s famous Lexikon Literatur- und Kulturtheorie.

In addition to his final-year module on German thought, Henk de Berg teaches (together with our history specialist Caroline Bland) a second-year module on German social history from the Kaiserreich to National Socialism. He also participates in the School-wide MA module on European literary and cultural theory.

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