17th Karlsruhe Dialogues – Speakers

The ‘In-Between Society’: Tradition and Modernism in Conflict

Prof. Dr. Volker Demuth



Prof. Dr. Volker Demuth, born in 1961 in Southern Germany, is a lyricist, essayist, and media scientist. He studied philosophy, literature, and history at the Universities of Oxford and Tübingen, where he obtained his doctorate on the Sturm-und-Drang poet J. M. R. Lenz.

He has been working as a freelance writer since 1993. Apart from his work for the Südwestrundfunk, which produced a series of radio plays, Demuth held a professorship for media theory at the Fachhochschule Schwäbisch Hall since 2000 which he gave up in 2004 to concentrate on his literary work.

Since the end of the 90s, he developed a new, spacial form of poetry with the ‘RaumPoem’ (room poem), in which different media are used in an installational form of language. He released many books and published in diverse journals and newspapers (Lettre International, Neue Rundschau, Die Welt, among others). His poems were translated into French, English, and Russian. He is a member of the German PEN Centre and has won several awards for his works, most recently the Award of Honour of the ‘Deutsche Schillerstiftung’ (German Schiller foundation) in 2012.

Some of the most recent of Demuth’s publications are: Das angekreidete Jahr (2007), Lapidarium (2010), Zyklomoderne (2012), Stille Leben (2013). He currently lives as a freelance writer in Zwiefaltendorf (Donau) and Berlin.



  1. Preservation in the face of change: From your point of view, what does this mean in the light of the processes of globalisation and glocalisation?

    Postmodernism has significantly changed our old modern relationship to the past and the future. This is evident in a cultural configuration which I have described as cyclomodernism a few years ago. The future has lost its utopian sheen; cultural formation processes follow recursive, cyclic models. As a result, both interpretation and experience of the present are renewed. In this situation, interspace and interim time gain considerable significance and historical intrinsic value. In fact, intervals and thresholds have always represented influential spatiotemporal demarcations. Today, we are faced with the challenge of imbuing this liminality with a new cultural significance, and of winning back the poetry of the ‘threshold magic’ in place of the future.

  2. In the face of increasing disorientation, what is it that holds a society together in the age of globalisation, and what drives it apart?

    Today, everyone experiences subjectivity primarily as a transient phenomenon: ambivalent and bilateral, maybe even multilateral. This raises the question: How can the ego be understood not as a fixed core and centre, but as a transitional, open connection? I would like to advocate the replacement of the dominating forces of borders – of rigidity, insularity, and definition –, as understood not only by the European tradition, with a culture of transition – of passage, permeability, and diabasis. Such an alteration, in which artistic models play an important role, is not just constitutative for the formation of our concept of the ego. In the face of the transitional structure of global conditions that reveal their significance ever more clearly, we will not be able to avoid reflecting on literary text experience that restages living environments as spaces of transfer and transformation, as spaces of transition and conversion, as stages of dramatic freedom and the shared accountability for the dialogue, of the foreign and the familiar. We can imagine the in-between society as a happy one.