Theodor Herzl Lectureship in the Poetics of Journalism


This lectureship was established by Wolfgang R. Langenbucher. Since the 2000 summer semester, sixteen lecturers have presented their views on journalisms in the form of formal lectures. These have been published by Picus Verlag, edited by Langenbucher. After Wolfgang R. Langenbucher became a professor emeritus, Hannes Haas took on responsibility for the Theodor Herzl lectureship in the poetics of journalism until his death in March 2014. Since 2016/17, Folker Hanusch and Sophie Lecheler share the responsibility for the administration of the lectureship.

Academic traditions

The lectureship forms part of an international cultural and university tradition that extends back decades. To take an example, Igor Stravinsky gave guest lectures in 1939/40 at Harvard University entitled Poétique Musicale. These set an example for cycles of academic guest events based around the etymology of the word "poetics". The Greek word "poiein" means to act creatively or make something, with poetics being the study of what is created during this process. With lectures entitled Fragen zeitgenössischer Dichtung (questions of contemporary poetry), Ingeborg Bachmann launched the series of Frankfurter Poetik-Vorlesungen (Frankfurt poetics lectures) in 1959/60 that are still being held today and which provided a model that several German-speaking universities were to copy. The Austrian poet was followed by such eminent speakers as Heinrich Böll, Hans Magnus Enzensberger, Friedrich Dürrenmatt, Günter Grass and – in the 1990s – Rolf Hochhuth, Sarah Kirsch, Marlene Streeruwitz, Einar Schleef and Hans Ulrich Treichel. The books produced on the basis of these guest lectures document more than forty years of poetics in modern German literature. The Mozarteum University for music and the performing arts in Salzburg set up a guest professorship in poetics in 1992, encompassing guest lectures, portrait concerts, teaching and readings.

Poetics of journalism

With the Theodor Herzl lectureship, the same cultural and intellectual rank has for the first time been assigned to the poetics of journalism as has traditionally been accepted as self-evident in the case of literature, music and art. By virtue of its everyday scale, journalism may appear to be a service, but alongside this attribute and stemming from it, it is also a very specific cultural product with a rich tradition that does not have to be elevated to the status of "literature" from a terminological perspective to enjoy the appropriate aesthetic and intellectual rank. Genuine creative achievements have also led to numerous identifiable works in the field of journalism, and to the obligation and continuity of a journalistic canon.

In terms of the cultural history of German-speaking journalism, this canon has a great deal to do with Vienna. Egon Erwin Kisch made an earlier attempt to document the canon and its far-reaching tradition: In 1923 he brought out the anthology Klassischer Journalismus – Meisterwerke der Zeitung (classic journalism – newspaper masterpieces). Where he left off, a follow-up volume took over, decades later (Sensationen des Alltags – Meisterwerke des modernen Journalismus [everyday sensations – masterpieces of modern-day journalism], edited by W.R. Langenbucher et al., Vienna 1992). This makes the case for a "Vienna school of modern journalism", in parallel to so many other developments in "fin de siècle" Vienna. Wars, periods of political upheaval, exile (see the volume Vertriebene Wahrheit – Journalismus aus dem Exil [displaced truths – journalism in exile], edited by Fritz Hausjell et al., Vienna 1995) and social change have removed the continuity of these traditions. But today too, in a variety of media and in a constant stream of new media, we find journalism whose creative output is found not least in the capturing of ever new worlds of reality and also specific methods of investigating reality. Alongside the written word, photography and television documentaries, as well as new Internet content, rank among the essential means available for journalistic expression.