History, language and culture

Increasing specialization characterizes not only the present state of historical studies but that of all other academic fields of study. The result of such specialization is a reconsideration of the canons of knowledge and of the scholarly methods which are considered obligatory, as well as a rearrangement of the subject matter with which the discipline is concerned. Moreover, this process is accompanied by a reconsideration of the relation of the discipline to other disciplines.

This in turn can lead to the formation of new and different coalitions between academic subjects, and also to the appearance of new fields of study. In recent decades increasing globalization and the spread of the electronic media have not only further speeded up the pace of change but at the same time altered its quality. Cultures are coming into closer contact with each other. With the development of media of universal communication the boundaries between language and culture are becoming increasingly porous, and simultaneity is becoming a determining quality in scholarly exchanges.

More than in earlier ages, individual disciplines react to these processes of change with new terminology and even with new names for their fields of work. This tendency is particularly evident in the arts, not only in Germany, but also wherever the „humanities“ and the „sciences humaines“ exist. In the area of support „History, Language and Culture“ the Fritz Thyssen Foundation attempts to respond to these changes with reasonable openness. Undisputed is the fact that in Germany the classical arts subjects under the influence of Anglo-Saxon research have developed into cultural studies. They have thrown off their eurocentric perspective and have for some time used, to their own advantage, theories and methods stemming from other disciplines. They no longer concentrate on developing theories of knowledge taken over from the natural sciences, but recognize, to name just one example, the advantage of cooperation with the cognitive neuro-sciences. Thus the Interdisciplinary field "Image and Imagery“ is designed to support research which not only forges links between individual subjects, but connects „cultures“ consisting of various fields to form a new „iconical model of cognition“.

At the same time the preservation and further development of the legacy of the traditional arts subjects is a prime goal of the „History, Language and Culture“ area of support. In spite of all the new combinations, the traditional fields such as philosophy and theology remain important; these too are undergoing a process of change, but at the same time continue to offer orientations which can be of use in all fields of the arts and cultural studies.

The foundation attempts to respond to these manifold changes with a considerable degree of open-mindedness. On the one hand projects are supported which, under the influence of Anglo-Saxon research, could be called „cultural studies“ and which seek to establish interdisciplinary contact with the social sciences. Special attention is also paid to research projects which are based on cooperation with the natural sciences, particularly with the cognitive neuro-sciences. At the same time the foundation continues to support the research traditions of the „classical“ arts disciplines, particularly philosophy and theology; it furthers research which can act as a stimulus to all subjects in the broad fields of the arts and cultural studies.