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The Center for Literature at Burg Hülshoff is dedicated to topics that will determine our present and future and that have often shaped us in the past - in the firm conviction that literature and the other arts can bring new thoughts, perspectives and visions to the collective table.
Eleven thematic points of focus will mark the work of the Center for Literature in the coming years.

Focus on the World Wide World

The world is shrinking. Globalization and digitalization have changed it: some people are now able to work and interact with each other even though they are thousands of kilometers apart. Some people have nothing to do with each other; despite the fact that they live next door to each other, the distance between them constantly grows.

How can we describe this world which, for some is, in fact, worldwide, and which for others ends at their own garden gate, or the beginning of the desert or, beyond that, at the Mediterranean Sea? And how are the different journeys of these people in the world to be understood? Has the Internet created a second world? Or has it simply changed the existing one? And are we, when we hold a smartphone in our hands, in an interim world?

In the focus on the World Wide World we at the Center for Literature will reflect upon what these processes mean and how literature, in its incomprehensibility, can serve to help to understand them.

What does digital thinking and acting mean for writing? If written poetry developed from speaking and singing, how can it change again today in a medium (the Internet) that brings together hearing, seeing and reading? Or is poetry removing itself from its origins in the oral tradition and prefers to flirt with the language of programmers? This language creates worlds, too.

Or are all of these considerations superfluous because photos on Instagram have long since become the new quintessential poetry? One thing is certain: the worldwide world is neither real nor virtual, it is something in between.

Mohsin Hamid, the Pakistani novelist, hits the nail right on the head when he writes of his characters: »In their phones were antennas, and these antennas sniffed out an invisible world, as if by magic, a world that was all around them, and also nowhere, transporting them to places distant and near, and to places that had never been and would never be.«*

How can these places become utopian again?

* Mohsin Hamid: Exit West, Penguin Books 2017.

Focus in City/Countryside in Transition

City and countryside: in recent years both have returned to the collective consciousness as large contrasts. While the city dwellers have set themselves up in their renovated pre-war buildings or factory lofts, in their cappuccino cafés with industrial lighting, in community gardens and in yoga studios, the inhabitants of rural areas retreat to their country houses with a fireplace, garden fence, red wine and a good book.

Both of these clichés collapse as soon as authors begin to write novels set in villages or when they explore the urban and the rural in lines of poetry.

So let's go there. Let's create more complex images of urban and rural society than those found in magazines... Where are the differences pronounced? Where do they blur? Where is an urban neighborhood much more like a village than the village itself? Where is the marketplace in the large town urban? Who travels from the countryside to the city in the morning? And who does the opposite because of the peace and quiet in the village, to stand, after the end of the working day, on the side of the main thoroughfare to enjoy the noise and dust of the city? How reliable or dishonest or complicated are communities here as well as there? Do cities communicate modern ideas to villages? And is the countryside, in turn, always more grounded and, yes, authentic?

Luckily, Burg Hülshoff and Rüschhaus are located precisely in an interim zone between city and countryside. This is precisely why both can form a forum in which to enter an exchange; because people can come together here for whom the city and countryside have long since coalesced. Until a village says: »We’re urban for the area.«*

In October 2018, for example, there was a literature double feature on the topic of the village. In VOR DEM FEST: GEGEN DIE WELT (BEFORE THE PARTY: AGAINST THE WORLD) Saša Stanišic and Jan Brandt began an experiment and became part of cross-disciplinary readings of their own texts. In this manner, they surveyed the village together with artistic colleagues. How do conflicts between the generations, even if they fail to materialize, determine the life there? What are friendships and enmities like? How do things intentionally forgotten and fiction memories interact? How do they affect the rural space - which, at the end of the day, extends beyond everything?

* Saša Stanišic: Vor dem Fest, Munich: Luchterhand Literaturverlag 2014, page 275.

Focus on the Space between Languages

Burg Hülshoff moves, despite its fixed location, in the spaces in between, and has for some time: between city and countryside, between private and public, between old and new.

The focus on the space between languages reminds us that the space IN BETWEEN belongs neither to one or the other, but instead to both. So, is boundary actually a boundary?

Amongst others, this question applies to the distinction made between the arts. Here, the Center for Literature dedicates itself to finding, enacting or helping to bring about strong literature, especially where authors, individually or as collectives, have looked beyond the borders of their own discipline, where they team up and connect with dancers, performers, musicians, orchestras or choirs, with visual artists, video artists, activists and social projects.

Alongside this space between languages for the arts and society, the Center for Literature also seeks to depict our diverse, multilingual society. After all, there has been no time in history where only one language was spoken. A central task for a literary institution of the future, therefore, must be to offer itself in multiple languages. Here, we follow and texts and authors and gather up what already exists or provide support in the conceptualization of new concepts and help to realize them.

An audio drama with subtitles in three languages? A collective writing project with six people from at least six different countries with six languages? Yes, please! An evening of poetry in sign language? Long overdue, first of all to ultimately allow some to participate in readings, and in recognition of the beauty of a Hilde Domin poem in sign language. How much more specific does poetry become through sign language? And when is a gesture in space more poetic than the poetry inherent in the spoken word? Or do they not compete at all, but instead complement each other and meet there, in the space between languages?

With questions like these, we have now arrived at the topic of »translation«. Translation is, of course, the textbook case of the space between languages: how many times can we translate a good poem alone in a single language? It changes every time. And how can we, through exercises in the translation of words, communicate the societal positions of one group to another, in their language?


Focus in Grow Houses!

For some, this epoch is still the Holocene (the post-Ice Age epoch), for others, it has already become the Anthropocene (the epoch of human beings). At any rate, since their appearance on Earth, human beings have not only hunted animals, collected berries, created fire and cultivated plants; they also built huts - and they didn't stop there. At the same time, they changed the climate with their rough settlements.

With the focus Grow Houses! , the Center for Literature concerns itself with the various processes of construction, renovation and cultivation.

First comes the question of how people express their ideas in architectural forms. Or, to put it differently, how do buildings influence us - castles, skyscrapers, semi-detached houses, churches, museums, schools? How do we act in light of the structures that surround us? Also, how do they allow us to act? And, what language do we use to talk about architecture?

Secondly, we are addressing the specific renovation that will take place at Burg Hülshoff in the coming years. The outer bailey and other parts of the building will be renovated and expanded. Does that make the castle itself temporary again, improvised? Yes. And while the physical structure is being renovated, the team and the public will come together to create a new and innovative institution. There is no reason to put up a curtain in front of this renovation process and close it, saying »under construction«. Let's all watch the construction process together.

Thirdly, Grow Houses! also includes the cultivation of plants which has been conducted at Burg Hülshoff in various forms since at least the middle of the 19th century and which brings us now to ecology. What exactly is the human being in an epoch where nature shows itself to be the true queen of the planet in the form of the catastrophes it wreaks? And what does this mean for poetry? Do we have to sit in nature and speak with it? Or, like the poet Daniel Falb demands, go to climate conferences, summits with politicians and support NGO campaigns, that is »go to the places where the actual ecology is taking place«?*

* Daniel Falb: Anthropozän. Dichtung in der Gegenwartsgeologie (Anthropocene: Poetry in the Geology of the Present), Berlin: Verlagshaus Berlin 2015 (= Édition Poeticon #09), page 39.

Focus on Poetics of the public

With this topic, Burg Hülshoff - Center for Literature, is setting off on a long-term investigation in which everyone who visits us in person or follows our work from afar, using the Internet, will participate in.

We are intentionally mistranslating the German title Poetik des Publikums as Poetics of the Public. The standard translation for Publikum in English is audience. The public, however, of course refers to the public sphere, and brings with it the question of public space today.

Audiences are changing. In the past two decades, the so-called CLASSIC audience has disappeared, which perhaps only existed for a short time in the then-new Federal Republic of Germany and looked very different even in East Germany.

At any rate, nothing is in decline here. To the contrary. Audiences have become more demanding, they are often better educated than decades earlier, they no longer all have the SAME background and, most of all, they do not want to be invited to simply sit, listen and watch politely.

Burg Hülshoff – Center for Literature is conducting research into how literature can be negotiated within a public framework. To do so, it must be presented in a manner wholly different from the polite readings with glasses of water, where the all-knowing poet sits on stage with a representative of the arts section of the newspaper.

Together with artists, partner institutions and visitors, the Center for Literature is searching for formats that work differently from the very beginning, that do not shy away from any dialogues: be they between the arts and societal spheres or between the people involved.

Thus the Reading Citizens Project was started in 2018: a group of people from Münster and the Münster region who regularly meet - sometimes at Rüschhaus and sometimes at Burg Hülshoff. By the way, the German word for citizen, Bürger*in, originally comes from the same root as Burg, or castle. That is the concept of the Reading Citizens: before each reading, an author gives the group insight into their novel and speaks about the text as well as their own biography. The reading citizens then participate in the event in different roles.

This raises questions: how can public space be created through literary events? And how can we have a conversation about the quality of this public space? And, least but not least, where and how are we public today? At the farmers' market? Or on Facebook? Is our data more public than we want to be ourselves? In places where we are completely public, are we private at the same time? Or is that pure fiction?

Focus on Salvation

Faith has returned with full force since September 11, 2001 and has again penetrated the boundary between private and public. Since then, religion has once again been instrumentalized by various sides.

Salvation is the focus under which Burg Hülshoff – Center for Literature will deal with questions of religion.

This deals both with one's own faith - such as with Droste-Hülshoff, whose doubt is powerfully reflect in her poems.

This also deals with the faith of others. What discipline, if not literature, could conduct an open conversation between religions? A conversation that is not concerned with marking the boundaries of identities and one which determines our current sociopolitical debate.

Such fictitious boundaries are recognizable as fiction in literary language - and this makes them fluid: »Who do you think you are? Who do you think we are? Why do we wear beards, curls, hats, scarves, pants, skirts, rings, crosses, bracelets, tattoos? Why do we cover our heads? Why don't we cover our heads? Why do we take off our shoes? Why don't we take off our shoes? Why do we ask you to take off your shoes?«*

The Center for Literature will also apply its transdisciplinary strengths for the focus on salvation. After all, religion is made up of rituals. How can artists play with existing religion practices? How can they dissect them? And how can they use them? Which masses and prayer hours will result when authors write, sing and whisper the sermons? When the thurible is replaced by a pendulum made of glitter and the iconostasis shows moving images? And when the priest is a woman - and then in turn a drag queen poet?

Difficult ethnoreligious questions will be explored with the help of art. In a 1:1 performance with someone sitting across from me in bed and speaking about their own suffering, I begin to think differently about assisted suicide. How do we converse differently after that? And what is it we live for as a society? For the creation? For the salvation? Both?

* Björn Bicker: Urban Prayers, audio drama, Production: Bayerischer Rundfunk Hörspiel und Medienkunst 2014.

Focus on Re: Reading Droste

Annette von Droste-Hülshoff pondered and worked comprehensively: faith and doubts about god - myths of masculinity and the emancipation of the woman - war and peace - home and the foreign - the dead and the living - horror stories and thrillers - freedom and constriction. These are only some of the subjects she explored. In doing so, she continually worked beyond the borders of genres, styles and their associated sets of rules.

The work of the Center for Literature at Burg Hülshoff follows this spirit: it honors the legacy of the writer by ensuring that Droste-Hülshoff is not simply confined to a museum. Comparable to an exegesis from the Bible, Torah or Koran, the Center for Literature will sometimes focus closely on her texts and her life, other times it will focus further away, knowing that there is also closeness in distance.

Re: Reading Droste this means a resilient and polyphonic rereading that does not »treat the poet like a kind of shell that one has to break in order to reach the seed inside«.*

The Droste Days have been held every year since 2013 – and each edition of this festival deals with one specific topic form the works of Droste-Hülshoff or her biography. For example, the theme of 2018 was crossing borders, the theme for 2019 is the emancipation of the poet as a woman and the theme for 2020 will be faith.

The themes then extend into the forms: for example, when the team of Burg Hülshoff, the audience and the artists collect things over the course of a year, as Droste-Hülshoff enjoyed doing, bring them together and create a disparate collection and, on this basis, a team of scholars discuss collecting concepts in general and the collecting concept of a future literature museum at Burg Hülshoff.

The already existing Droste Museum also plays a decisive role in this thematic focus: on the one hand, it allows us to visually and acoustically immerse a five-digit number of visitors in the world of the Droste-Hülshoffs, and the poet in particular, per year. On the other hand, the museum and its object should come to live in the focus Re: Reading Droste. Over the course of tours, concerts and lecture performances, individual exhibition pieces will look back and take a look at the audience. This will allow perspectives in the Biedermeier period family rooms that otherwise would never occur. There is a connection here to the focus Blind Spots.

* Annette von Droste-Hülshoff in a letter to Anna von Haxthausen, cited from: Barbara Beuys: Blamieren mag ich micht nicht. Das Leben der Annette von Droste-Hülshoff (I Don't Want to Blame Myself. The Life of Annette von Droste-Hülshoff), 3rd edition, Berlin: Insel Verlag 2015, page 174.

Focus on Care

In her final novel Lug und Trug und Rat und Streben (Lies and Deception and Advice and Ambition), the recently deceased author Silvia Bovenschen wrote: »The good aunt said: this you have to know. You're lost alone. / You have to learn: there is a division of labor, the procurement, the care. / You have to honor those who are with you.«*

Perhaps hardly any other topic has persisted throughout the ages like this one: care. Under the rubric Care, the Center for Literature explores the greater topics, from individual care to the societal dimensions to the worldwide care relationships, such as »development aid«.

An approach in this focus is the question what the provision of basis services will look like in a societal form which increasingly pushes responsibility to the individual. Who takes care of whom? Does the younger generation care for the older? The strong members of society for the weaker? The non-disabled for the disabled? Do the cheap caregivers take care of rich invalids and elderly people? Does the global north take care of the global south? Or is it the other way round?

Literature is uniquely able to present different destinies and life paths astutely and with a great deal of humor. The Center for Literature will discuss a variety of positions on care and find other models of solidarity.

For example, when groups like Volxtheater from Bethel or dorisdean from Bochum/Düsseldorf work here, they concern themselves, sometimes explicitly, sometimes implicitly, with what actually distinguishes bodies with and without disabilities.

For example, when the role of women in our society and thus also within care work is investigated in a twelve-hour durational performance, in production, discussion and joint poster campaigns.

For example, when artists and audience sit together in a chamber of horrors during a festival and write collectively: the dictionary of care, the catalog of viruses or the atlas of abortion.

At the end of the day, the focus on care also reveals the perfidiousness of love. After all, caring for someone also involves being bound to them. Or, as Nancy Folbre, the U.S.-American business scholar writes: »Care workers become, in a sense, prisoners of love.«**

* Silvia Bovenschen: Lug und Trug und Rat und Streben (Lies and Deception and Advice and Ambition), Frankfurt/Main: S. Fischer 2018, page 23.

** Nancy Folbre: Reforming Care, in: Politics & Society 36(3), page 373-387, here: 376, cited from: Gabriele Winkler: Care Revolution. Schritte in eine solidarische Gesellschaft (Steps in a Solidary Society), Bielefeld: Transcript 2015, page 77.

Focus on Blind Spots

Burg Hülshoff – Center for Literature works with dedication to democratize the language used to talk about literature. In order to support this using literary means, the Center for Literature will launch a series of projects with the focus on blind spots that are concerned with the blind spots in our society. Or, to say it a different way: these blinds spot also always feature perspectives to allow one to look around corners. They do exist, the voices, that stand for a literature that is not only white, not only heterosexual, not only masculine, not only middle class and not only Christian.

But good, if we're already talking about blind spots, let's start with ourselves: the Droste-Museum in Burg Hülshoff exhibits the Westphalian Biedermeier period. Let's find a couple of partners in crime to test out what the Biedermeier period has to say to us; and where perspectives may be hidden that have previously played only a small role or no role at all. The Center for Literature will highlight individual objects from the exhibition in a new way over the course of experimental tours, lectures and other formats.

What kind of global understanding can we develop? After all, the cultural heritage we refer to can only ever be incomplete. For example, what can the story of man abducted from Ghana in the 17th century, sold as a slave in Europe and ultimately ended up at Burg Hülshoff as a »Leibmohr«, or Moorish bodyguard, tell us about colonialism before the official colonial period? And who tells us a story like this today? What changes when people of color tell this story? What perspectives buzz about the room and how can this allow the room to become a shared one?

With this, the Center for Literature clearly positions itself against the supremacy of market statistics. In the past two decades, the pressure of numbers has reached the publishing community. Increasingly, it is the market which dictates to the publishing houses which texts should be printed and which not.

Far beyond book launches, book prizes and the big book fairs, the Center for Literature searches for blind spots in its operation as well as the literature created within it, from blind faith in economic markets to colonialism, racism and classism to enmity against homosexuals, transgender people and people with disabilities.

There is great deal to do here. Let's get to work. Using all of the resources available to us: space, light, sound, image, touch, smell, taste, memory, faith, hope, love, language.

After all, »Words work as release–well-oiled doors opening and closing between intention, gesture. A pulse in a neck, the shiftiness of the hands, an unconscious blink, the conversations you have with your eyes translate everything and nothing.«*

* Claudia Rankine: Citizen: An American Lyric, Penguin Books 2015, page 69.

Focus on bibliodiversity

As with biodiversity, its counterpart in nature, bibliodiversity is concerned with a variety of literary species. The term originated, by the way, as bibliodiversidad, in Latin America in the 1990s.

Literature is an ecosystem. One in which dynamic communities are formed from books instead of plants, from poets and translators instead of animals, from publishers, blogs and magazines instead of microorganisms - and their environment consists in turn of ISBN numbers, book stores and booksellers, of concerns and desires that are not necessarily the central focus point of society.

The Center for Literature is committed to bibliodiversidad, to the protection of literary species. It positions itself clearly on the side of the artists to whom words and sentences are most important –  and not the profit margins. Let's take a look at history: a book that sells 50 copies can become a piece of world literature, while a book that sells 50,000 copies disappears.

Over the course of an ongoing series, the Center for Literature will focus on the practice of publishing and the creation of magazines, with the book viewed as a work of art and not as a product, exploring the biotopes in which the literature of the present can thrive, even if it initially seems to be a weed or other form of failure. Concretely, this means that independent publishing houses, newspapers and initiatives will present themselves in Burg Hülshoff or Rüschhaus.

The big question of how, in the age of Amazon and the digitalization of books, the texts in them can appear finds as many different answers in the work of the Center for Literature as there are projects. From feminist magazines to multilingual editions to weblogs with poetry in simple language or volumes of poetry that come across like programmer codes. And they are!

Focus on Dark Magic

The 21st century has arrived, and yet it seems as though the Enlightenment isn’t over yet. Could it ever be? Instead, it seems to be stacking the deck. Mysticism seemed to have disappeared for a time and has now returned to us.

In the focus Dark Magic, the Center for Literature surrenders itself to the dark magical forces that direct us, sometimes invisibly, sometimes visibly. And often enough are the opposite of light.

Not least of all through technology: our smartphones, tablets and watches connect us to a sphere that we cannot even see. Data is transferred, intercepted, evaluated/reassessed and then returns to us in the form of SPAM email, purchased recommendations, hate posts. Writer Kenneth Goldsmith even calls the web a telepathic space and sees it as something almost occult.

Consequently, the séance of the 19th century and the tarot cards with motifs from the Weimar Republic will number amongst the formats at Burg Hülshoff.

In our individual everyday lives and in our dreams, the dead always seem close to us, sometimes closer than the living. But ghosts and horror in literature, film and other arts were always also the crystallization of societal fears.

In artistic as well as scholarly research projects, the Center for Literature will deal with the specter of the present. How can we understand our cultural heritage, most recently rebooted in the European Year Of Cultural Heritage without its shadow side, the millions of dead, colonialism, the World Wars, the concentration camps? How can we speak with the dead? And why should such a conversation with the dead prohibit us from celebrating our lives?

Over the course of participative writing projects, hauntological music workshops and the remake of silent horror films as well as others, these questions will elicit more answers from us than we have. Excuse me? Is it possible to give what one doesn't have?*

Loneliness, and, coupled with it, depression, are also part of the focus on Dark Magic. How does literature plunge into fear, into the tunnel vision of people suffering from depression? Recently, for example, Thomas Melle did this impressively in the novel Die Welt im Rücken (The World At Your Back). And how can such a text, one which transfers to the anxiety of the narrator to the reader when being read silently, contribute during a public event to helping us understand this other form of dark magic? Can we free it from taboos?

* As Jacques Derrida asks in: Specters of Marx: The State of the Debt, the Work of Mourning and the New International).