Professor Burkhardt Wolf (Berlin/Santa Barbara) will give a talk titled “Compasso. Poetic orientation in modernity’s ‘grand sea of being'” from 4-6 p.m. in Dwinelle 282.


For centuries, perhaps since the emergence of poetry itself, Western culture has engaged in the project of “writing the sea,” or hydrography, and within this project the compass has played a fundamental role. The talk serves as a brief introduction into the cultural history of the compass and shows how, ever since its first use, the compass has guided specific techniques of writing and notation and has been both poetically and epistemically productive. It argues this claim through a historical argument reaching from Dante’s reception of the Odyssey and Ripa’s Iconologia to Bacon, who considered the compass one of his age’s emblems, and to the technological thinking of Heisenberg and Heidegger.


Burkhardt Wolf, born in 1969, studied German literature, philosophy, and sociology at Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität Munich (MA 1997) and Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin (PhD 2003). He has taught at the Bauhaus-Universität Weimar and at the Humboldt-Universität. His Habilitationsschrift on Seefahrt und Literatur, completed in 2012 at Humboldt-Universität, has just been published. Currently, he is Kade Visiting Professor at UC Santa Barbara. Professor Wolf has published widely on German and European literature from the 17th to the 20th century.

Topics of his publications include sovereignty and governmentality, political representation and social technologies, danger and risk, violence and religion, or the cultural and literary history of seafaring and the sea. Monographs include “Sorge des Souveräns: Eine Diskursgeschichte des Opfers” (2004) and “Fortuna di mare. Literatur und Seefahrt” (2013).