Jochen Hörisch

  • Hands: A Cultural History
  • Literature

It grasps and feels, strokes and hits, welcomes and closes contracts: No part of the body is as versatile as the hand.
In language we find countless examples of its outstanding role: we take a thing in our hands, something cannot be dismissed out of hand, and a goal would be within reach if only we did not have two left hands.

Jochen Hörisch shows us the whole variety of hands that we encounter in literature and in the history of ideas.
It is no coincidence, then, that the most famous figure in German literature bears the name Faust. Generations of people felt that they were in the hands of God; today many trust the invisible hand of the market. Every era associates its own ideas with the hand – and if we increasingly control machines with language, that says a lot about the change we are going through.

Jochen Hörisch, born in 1951, was Professor of Modern German Studies and Media Analysis at the University of Mannheim and is a member of several academies. His most recent publication was Tauschen, sprechen, begehren. Eine Kritik der unreinen Vernunft (Edition Akzente, 2011).

In the series Local Monday.

Foto: Alfred Gerold / hf