In the Year 2525 – The Future Face of the Humanities



Interdisciplinary    Public    Lecture    Series


P   3    |    Philosophicum    | Tue   6    c.   t.   -    8   pm


In the Year 2525 - The Future Face of the Humantities


While technology and innovation are changing paradigms in natural scientific fields, how do the humanities need to react as we look to the year 2525? Considering that the humanities are the disciplines raising crucial questions concerning human responsibility, ethics, and existence as social beings, the humanities are needed to engage in discourses to rethink manifested paradigms not only in their own disciplines but also beyond their own disciplinary spheres. This lecture series addresses those issues and asks, in how far will looking forward also mean looking back? What role will the humanities play in a future world? These are issues already raised in 1969 in the famous song which inspired the title of this lecture series. We invite students, researchers, staff, and all interested individuals to join our public lecture series, in which we discuss the significant role of the humanities in the light of the year 2525.


Live stream: Please click on the respective session in the program below to access the stream. 


Prof. Dr. Stephan Jolie studied German studies, philosophy, and music at the Universities of Frankfurt/Main and Munich and received his doctorate in 1995 in Frankfurt. After interim professorships at the Universities of Frankfurt/Main and Erlangen-Nürnberg, as well as the FU Berlin, he was appointed as Professor for Medieval Literature at the German Institute of JGU’s Faculty of Philosophy and Philology.

During his time here as Dean (2011-2017), Prof. Dr. Jolie was particularly involved in the internationalization of student affairs and teaching. Another focus of his work was the strategic development of innovative teaching methods at JGU. Up until 2017, he worked on and developed the Q+ study program as head project manager and, in cooperation with the Staatstheater Mainz, implemented staged performances in innovative teaching projects with students. In January 2018, Prof. Dr. Stephan Jolie was elected Vice-President for Learning and Teaching at Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz. Along with his regular duties, he continues to work as spokesperson and project leader of the EU-funded European University Alliance FORTHEM and is a member of the 'Standing Committee on Teaching and Studying' of the German Rectors’ Conference.

Here is my question for the year 2525: is it a future without writing and literacy? If so, the future of my own discipline, literary studies, seems bleak. No writing, no literature, no literary scholars. We do, however, not only study a specific medium, the written word, but also a specific content, a content far older than any writing system: fictional stories told in patterned, creative and playful forms. The future immediately brightens up. So, based on this possible 2525 scenario of an "unwritten world", my narrowed-down question is: what do writing and literacy do for stories and storytelling?

Does it make sense to think of literature as being tied to one medium exclusively, what are possible alternatives, and what can we learn about reading and writing as they "die"? My way into this question is based on my own research into voice and sound in literature between early modern printed drama (a time when wider-spread literacy just emerged) and its modern performances - maybe a look/listen into the past as connected to the present will help us predict the ways we will "read" stories in 2525?


Mirjam Haas is a PhD student at the Department of English and Linguistics, and has been researching and teaching at JGU since 2019. Her research focuses on early modern dramatic texts and their modern performances; specifically, on the relationship between and interdependence of written vs. spoken forms of literary language. She explores this relationship via phenomena that are situated "on the edge" between written and spoken language, such as silence, interjections, and ironic tone.

The future of humanities grows from past and present practices, with the tree of reading experiences encompassing both the roots of Gutenberg's printing press and the flowering branches of contemporary digital literature. This presentation explores how participatory cultures of humanities both past and present thrive upon creative multimedia interactions, ranging from nineteenth-century literary tourism and periodicals to collaborative fanfiction composition and podcasts in digital forums of the 21st century.
Computer competition through artificial intelligence challenge individual contributions of both authors and audiences today and in years to come. Protective digital measures to guard intellectual property behind pay walls and via membership restrictions will continue to rise in importance. The focus of this presentation is on critically evaluating the current and future potential of online text's intermediality in connection with digital archives, libraries, and museums as well as social media platforms with global outreach.

Natasha Anderson is a doctoral student at Mainz University, Germany, where she earned her M.A. in American Studies. She attained her B.A. in English and History at the University of Stuttgart, studied in the U.S. at Marymount University, participated in IWL at Harvard University, and published articles in 2022-2023.

Philip K. Dick’s The Penultimate Truth (1964) hinges on the matter of organ transplantation and is situated in a divided world in which access to medical care is inseparably tied to social standing. In contrast to such examples of science fiction, those invested in the medical practice tend to frame their endeavors as non-experimental and thus as decidedly non-speculative. Yet, by relating to 1960s’ new reports which feature doctors as aliens, or to heart surgeon Christiaan Barnard speculating about bionic legs, it becomes apparent that speculative elements cannot be reduced to the genre of science fiction. By focusing on shared strategies in fictional texts, surgeons’ life writing, and news coverage, I want to present speculation as a common endeavor that crosses disciplinary boundaries and that opens the future as a shared space. Exploring the future percussions of medical practice, then, also entails the engagement with possible futures of the humanities in which disciplinary boundaries are eroded and common themes are brought into conversation.

Ruth Gehrmann is a postdoctoral researcher in the Collaborative Research Center on Studies in Human Categorisation at Johannes Gutenberg-University in Mainz, Germany. Her research focuses on strategies of successful aging, and she is specifically interested in the representation of lifestyles of older people and their narrative framing in popular and social media. She holds an M.A. in English and American Studies and her dissertation focused on the role of speculation in literary and medical narratives on organ transplantation.

There are differences in forms of knowledge and ways to communicate within different academic fields. While this leads to a disconnect between individual cultures of knowledge, for instance science and the humanities, it often appears that such a disconnect becomes unbridgable when the so-called ivory tower of the universities attempts to communicate its findings with the public.
In this talk, I will argue that fictional narratives have historically served and still serve as a space for these separate cultures of knowledge to collide and maybe even converge.
Therefore, I will look at fictional examples from the genres of science fiction, climate
fiction, and the literary canon, in order to trace the negotiation of different forms of
knowledge within these works. I aim to show how a reading of fictional texts through the lens of different cultures of knowledge can contribute to the way we communicate
knowledge meaningfully and ultimately help to bridge the gap between the humanities,
sciences, and the public.

Dr. Julia Velten is a postdoctoral researcher at the Obama Institute for Transnational American Studies. She received her PhD from JGU in 2021. Her first monograph, "Extraordinary forms of Aging: Life Narratives of Centenarians and Children with Progeria" has been published in 2022. Her current research is situated in the emerging field of narrative science where she investigates the negotiation of scientific knowledge in literature throughout U.S. American history.


Ever since Pygmalion kissed to life his ivory sculpture of Galathea, representations of artificial life have symbolized human ideals and ambitions, and the limits thereof. Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, very much the classic literary example in this context, implicates the question what it means to be human with ethical concerns about the responsibility involved in scientific endeavour. In my lecture, I will re-address this question for our time, a time in which the artificial (re)production of life has ceased to be the stuff of mythological transformations or romantic horror tales, but has instead moved into the limelight of scientific and socio-political reality.
My focus in this context will be on Kazuo Ishiguro’s ‘clone narratives’ Never Let Me Go (2005) and Klara and the Sun (2021), both of which illustrate the complex interplay between the (objective) scientific knowledge that enables the creation of cloned life and the (subjective) quest for self-knowledge of the clones themselves.

Dr. Wolfgang Funk is a postdoctoral researcher and lecturer at the Department of English Literature and Culture, where he is working on a post-doc project on late Victorian women poets and their use of evolutionary imagery. His other research interests include New Formalism, the representation of artificial intelligence, questions of authenticity in contemporary fiction as well as the writing of Hilary Mantel. He is the author of The Literature of Reconstruction: Authentic Fiction in the New Millennium (Bloomsbury, 2015) and an introduction to Gender Studies (in German; utb, 2017).

The replicability of empirical findings is widely regarded as a cornerstone of science. Actual replication experiments, however, have always been rare; and so it came as a surprise – and a shock – to many scientists when, in the early 2010s, systematic efforts in psychology and in the life sciences to reproduce experiments turned out to be largely unsuccessful. This came to be known as the Replication Crisis.

Beside widely discussed causes of this crisis – questionable research practices, the incentive structure of science, poor statistical training – there is also a genuinely philosophical reason to the crisis: it reflects a philosophical controversy about the nature of evidence from the early 20th century, between philosopher of science Karl R. Popper on the one hand, who argued that only novel evidence is suitable for testing a hypothesis, and economist John Maynard Keynes on the other, who held that the alleged special epistemic status of novel evidence is altogether imaginary – a controversy that is still unsettled.

Prof. Dr. Cornelis Menke is Professor of History and Philosophy of Science at the Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz. He specialises in General Philosophy of Science, Methodology, Philosophy of Statistics, Pragmatism / Science Studies, Social Epistemology, and History of Science, amongst other fields.

In 2000, noted scholar and former U.N. Special Rapporteur Richard Falk argued that traditional citizenship had weakened with the diminished power of state authority, whether by global capitalism, transnational alliances, or digital technology. Though Falk admitted it was too soon to predict what new forms might replace it, he anticipated a diminished emphasis on affiliation with one territorial state. However, while state authority has weakened in some respects, there has also been intensified nationalisms around the world in response, even while global warming threatens human survival in a way that undermines states borders. To what degree then might citizenship change or stay the same over the next century and beyond, and what role can the humanities play in contouring the future of citizenship? My proposed lecture will explore these questions while suggesting the humanities are vital for ensuring forms of citizenship that are sustainable and inclusionary.

Dr. Mitchell Gauvin is a Canadian scholar currently serving as a Postdoctoral Fellow and Visiting Scholar at the Obama Institute for Transnational American Studies in the Department of English and Linguistics. His research focuses on the intersection between citizenship and literature, with a book on the topic forthcoming with Routledge.

The twenty-first century, it has been argued, is the age of migration. As hundreds of migrants die crossing the Mediterranean Sea each year, what might the future role of the humanities be? As Christina Sharpe has forcefully argued in her study In the Wake, literature and art may be called upon to do “wake work,” to mourn for the non-white bodies that, to use Judith Butler’s term, have virtually become “ungrievable.” This lecture will investigate two concepts that may be closely interrelated: The idea of “thanatic ethics” proposed by Bidisha Banerjee, and the notion of a “humanities of care” (Brennan 2011). Looking at Yusra Mardini’s autobiography Butterfly, I look at how we witness narratives of border crossing. In what sense, Mardini asks us, can autobiography restore empathy in a world that seems to have become numb to migrant lives lost in the Mediterranean Sea or the Arizona desert? Can life writing help us re-translate the language of border policing back into the language of humanity, as Jason De León has suggested? Can writing and reading autobiographies itself be a form of “wake work”? The future of the humanities, I suggest in this talk, may lie in finding answers to these issues, which are among the most pressing questions of our time.


Work Cited

Banerjee, Bidisha, Judith Misrahi-Barak, and Thomas Lacroix. “Thanatic Ethics: The Circulation of Bodies in Migratory Spaces.” Interventions (28 March 2023): 1-20.

Brennan, Marcia. "Medicine and the Museum: An Experiential Case Study in Art History Pedagogy and Practice." Art History Pedagogy & Practice 5.1 (2020): 2-11.

Butler, Judith. Precarious Life: The Powers of Mourning and Violence. New York: Verso, 2004.

De León, Jason. The Land of Open Graves: Living and Dying on the Migrant Trail. Oakland: University of California Press, 2015.

Mardini, Yusra. Butterfly: From Refugee to Olympian. St. Martin’s, 2018.

Sharpe, Christina. In the Wake: On Blackness and Being. Durham: Duke UP, 2016.


Prof. Dr. Mita Banerjee is a Professor of American Studies at Johannes Gutenberg-University Mainz. During the period of 2010-2015, Prof. Dr. Banerjee held a research fellowship of the Gutenberg Research College. Her research aims at applying theories in the fields of postcolonial research, Critical Race Theory and Ethnic Studies to literary analyses in order to develop new readings of canonical literary texts. Her work explores the fields of life writing research, medical humanities, transnational American Studies and, thus, brings them to national and international attention.

spite multiple calls to decolonise and decentre hegemonic Western European perspectives in knowledge production, hierarchies and exclusions continue to shape humanities studies. Research on and about Eastern Europe, that remains marginalised and confined in Germany and elsewhere, serves as an illustrative example. This lecture delves into the notion of Eastern Europe, with its often negative historical, geographical, and socio-political connotations, yet also its critical potential for a more comprehensive understanding of a multiplicity-emerging world. Drawing on recent ethnographic research into East-West migration, this lecture showcases the transformative potential of redefining Eastern Europe from a mere region to an approach that helps decentre Western European scholarship. As an approach, it does not merely offer a progressive alternative but contributes to a broader, more inclusive dialogue in the humanities that embraces relational modernities, multi-scalar orders of knowledge, spatio-temporal mutations, and the emergence of new vocabularies.

Dr. Alina Jašina-Schäfer is a post-doctoral researcher with a PhD in Cultural Studies from the University of Giessen. In the past, Alina has published on topics such as exclusion, belonging and home, while in her current project she explores the changing systems of value around human worth in migration.


In the last ten years, empirical linguistics has increasingly been working with large amounts of data from social networks such as Twitter/X, Facebook, Instagram, and others (big data mining). Such a digitally supported approach holds enormous potential for the humanities and, in particular, linguistics in the 21st century as it enables insights that, at the turn of the millennium, would have required incomparably greater analog efforts. Nevertheless, such a Zuckerbergian linguistics is subject to potential pitfalls of various kinds that need to be identified and, if possible, avoided. Using selected Romance case studies paired with methodological considerations, the lecture will provide an overview of the limits and innovative possibilities of using language data from social networks. In doing so, the focus will not only be on linguistic description and theory building but – in keeping with academia’s third mission – also on participatory approaches and extramural dialogue.

Jun.-Prof. Dr. David Paul Gerards is a W1ttW2-professor (‘Juniorprofessor’) of Ibero-Romance Linguistics and Second Language Acquisition at Johannes Gutenberg-University Mainz. He received his Ph.D. at University of Zurich / Switzerland (title: Bare Partitives in Old Spanish and Old Portuguese) in 2020. As both lecturer and researcher, Jun.-Prof. Dr. Gerards' research interests focus, among many various further topics, on diachronic and synchronic morphosyntax and semantics from a pan-Romance perspective,Twitter and other social network big data mining, Romance minority languages, and language and identity.