For us, literature is a celebration, an occasion for encounter and, in the best cases, a trigger for passionate and lasting conversations. Together, we go in search of words for change and learn together how words transform us.
The CfL program combines events, residencies, research, participatory programs, and three museums: Burg Hülshoff, Haus Rüschhaus, and Droste-Landschaft : Lyrikweg, a museum in the landscape. In addition, there is our Digital Castle as a place of participation on the Internet. We are not only the only institution nationwide to commemorate the work of a writer on this scale, but also take her life and times as an occasion to question the now and the tomorrow.
Texts and the public
For six centuries, Burg Hülshoff outside of Münster was the seat of a noble family. The poet Annette von Droste-Hülshoff, who lived in the castle for the first half of her life and in the nearby Rüschhaus for the second half, has left her mark on this place to this day. Through her, both places are not only monuments, but sites of outstanding poetic art and perceptive reflection on the world. In the spirit of the author, who described her native Westphalia in transition, this center for literature is emerging in a post-Westphalian world, a world in which the borders of nation-states continue to exist, but for some have become more permeable.
For if Biedermeier, the era of the poet, was characterized by a retreat into the private sphere and the increasing demarcation of national territories, Drostes' legacy gives us cause to concern ourselves with the public and the open: What does it mean to hear and understand texts together and in public? How do we read each other - in close reading or with distance? Can we bridge borders of languages and territories with literature?
To answer these questions we invite people from art and research, from institutions, initiatives and companies. We also offer space to all those who are simply enthusiastic about literature, the arts and discourse. At the CfL, you can also step out of the role of audience and - like the reading citizens - actively participate.
Art production for a diverse society
Since 2018, the CfL has been developing projects between event, exhibition and dialogue as a place of artistic-practical research. They lead us into spaces where we can be analog and digital at the same time.
In doing so, the CfL transfers aesthetics and production methods of other arts (such as film or performing arts) in an exemplary manner to the field of text creation and mediation. In a performative way, literary texts dissolve in open-ended arrangements and strong stagings. These transmedial formats are created in a network and in co-production with literary houses, museums, theaters, festivals, socioculture, educational institutions and net initiatives. They challenge the structurally conservative field of literature on the basis of socio-political themes.
An important component of this is the residency program that we realize together with the Cologne Academy of Media Arts (KHM). Students of literary writing and media art come to the castle and the Haus Rüschhaus, work on manuscripts and design projects. They provide new perspectives on what has long existed: Interpretations of Drostes' texts and places.
The work of the CfL makes Droste-Hülshoff's legacy readable for a more diverse, multilingual society, for an international audience.
Droste, as a woman who came from the Catholic-influenced aristocracy and the white majority of Westphalia, was only able to write and publish under resistance. This obligates us to provide a sounding board for the voices that are too little heard today, to make the unseen perspectives visible, and ultimately to promote and demand equality and emancipation for all.
New readings of Droste-Hülshoff's texts thus allow us not only to re-read the past, but also to understand our coexistence differently. We distill the themes of our projects from the poet's life and work, such as the transformation of the planet by humans, the transformation of rural areas, or digital literacy.
Digitization and participation
In Drostes' era, collecting objects was a popular activity. At the same time, the societies of Western Europe began to systematically collect data on their inhabitants on a large scale. Sociologist Armin Nassehi interprets this as early digitalization, as a process in which a society that was becoming modern began to look at itself in the collected data as if in a mirror.
Today, digital transformation gives us more opportunities, but also exposes our data to the unknown faster and to a greater extent. The Center for Literature aims to explore and critically reflect on this long digitalization, the beginning of which, according to Nassehi, roughly coincides with the birth of Droste. Can artificial intelligence, for example, help us to better read each other and our environment? Or does it, as a machine programmed by humans, merely reproduce common structures?
With the help of digital forms and formats, we are opening up the field of literature and creating opportunities to actively communicate together about how the world is changing. It is also about making science accessible to many people and enabling research projects that are at the intersection of science, art, and social interest - and that might not be conceivable in a purely university context.
Digital means and immersion in concrete environments play crucial roles here, enabling participation in physical, digital, and hybrid settings. These immersive and participatory approaches aim to have as diverse a range of people as possible inscribe themselves in the cultural heritage of the places, aiming for a »poetics of the audience.« Lesebürger*innen (Reading Citizens) and Junge Burg (Young Castle) stand for this long overdue democratization of the literature business.
»Bürger*in« does not come from Burg/castle for nothing. For citizens were called those who lived in the vicinity of a castle and were allowed to seek shelter within its walls. Today, our castle - as beautiful as its walls of brick and sandstone are - is permeable, and its gates are open to all.