It was not easy to get Karl Heinz Bohrer to comment on his method.
The idea that scientific thinking deserved to be examined with the same thoroughness as works of art was too alien to him.
However, when he did agree to give information about this at a colloquium on the "Philological Question" and had just finished his lecture on "Asserting and Showing", Henning Ritter, the editor responsible for the humanities at the time, blurted out in the audience a mighty sigh: Someone had tried to dethrone the Olympian gods as in the battle of giants.
Bohrer's aggressiveness stopped at nothing and nobody.
The colossuses of literary and cultural theory fell off their pedestals in rows: first Hegel, then Freud, Benjamin and Heidegger, then Jauss, Greenblatt and Foucault.
According to Bohrer, they all failed to meet the task of art and literature studies by starting from problematic assumptions and darkening rather than illuminating the artistic character of the works.
“Reductionism” was the charge when history, power analysis and functionality triumphed over the aesthetic expression of the sheer present.
It's all about showing, but asserting is what Bohrer counts among the media of philosophy, who has never done any harm, which philology immediately falls on to its feet when it distances itself from the texts.
At the same time, positings (and assertions are essentially positings) are not alien to Bohrer's philology.
They are even one of their special strengths.
In the concept of intuition, the seemingly incompatible ideas of setting and showing are combined.
Something is pointed to, and one immediately wonders how it got to the place where one can point to it.
This is nothing short of a pocket trick.
It has to do with the complicated topography of aesthetic judgement, which Karl Heinz Bohrer himself gives a completely new perspective in his studies on “Suddenness” (Frankfurt am Main 1981).
There, in his reckoning with the “analytical illusion”, he talks about the advance that the advanced aesthetic has over merely historical consciousness.
Only in this way are progress and innovation possible, only in this way, one may conclude, is philological knowledge possible.
Call to attack in the form of antithesis
Nothing, then, would be more wrong than to assume that Bohrer did not concern himself with the methodological implications of explaining art and literature.
What complicates the description of Bohrer's method is the lack of a fixed observer base in his texts: the observer's position has shifted so far into the object of observation that the two areas can no longer be clearly separated.
Some Surrealist paintings (e.g. René Magritte's Man with or in a Birdcage, called "The Therapist", from 1937) could demonstrate how closely the viewer and object, subject and object are sometimes intertwined.
Bohrer has always been at the edge of the field in which things of art are formed.Keywords: