Martin Treml Former Senior Fellow

Martin Treml
April - July 2012


Dr. Martin Treml (born in 1959 in Austria) studied history of religion, Jewish studies, and philosophy at University of Vienna and at Freie Universität Berlin. His dissertation in religious studies on the logics of sacrifice in Paulinian thought was published in 1996 under the title Kult und Rationalität. Eine religionswissenschaftliche Untersuchung zur Opferlogik in den Traditionen und Figuren des Paulinischen Denkens. Since 2000, Martin Treml has been working at the Center for Literary Research (since 2006 Center for Literary and Cultural Research, ZfL) in Berlin. From 2003 to 2005, Treml was the Director of research of Department I Scenes and Figures of European Cultural History. Since then, he was academic coordinator of the research project Figurations of the Martyr in Near Eastern and European Literatures (2005-2012) and also director of research and academic coordinator of the research project The Topography of the plural cultures of Europe according to their drive to the East (2006-2007) at the Center for Literary and Cultural Research, Berlin. Since 2008, he is the head of Department Archive/Science of Culture and head of the research projects Letters to and from Jacob Taubes and Aby Warburg: Works in one volume (2008-2009). Furthermore he was lecturer at several German and Austrian institutions, such as Freie Universität Berlin and Humboldt Universität Berlin.

Dated from 2012

Fields of research

Theories and figures of Western religions; German-Jewish cultural history from 1750 to 1938; Antiquity and its reception.

IKKM Research Project

Aby Warburg’s Synchronization of Religious Cultures

The pioneer of an investigation into religions as religious cultures and their media is the historian of art and culture, Aby Warburg (1866-1929). Based on his writings, both published and unpublished (lectures, drafts, notes collected in boxes [Zettelkästen], and letters), as well as on his collection of images, his methodological innovations and especially the status of the pictorial atlas should be investigated following three different aspects: (1) The frequent use of elements of the ancient Greek god Dionysus, (2) Warburg’s legacy to Judaism, and (3) the inclusion of images of contemporary events.

(1) Contrary to Hermes as the god of hermeneutics, Dionysus is the god of media, paradigmatically theatre. He is distinguished by the gift of suddenly appearing and juxtaposing contents – as grapes are transformed into wine, as heroic lives are turned into tragedies. Dionysus is both wild and mild. He attracts his followers by either dominating them or melting into them. Images and elements of Dionysus are frequently used by Warburg both as pictures in the pictorial atlas and as elements of his own theoretical efforts.

(2) Having been risen within a family that strictly followed the Jewish ceremonial and dietetic laws, Warburg distanced himself from all pious practice and understood himself as an atheist, strongly attracted to Darwin’s theory of evolution already as senior in high school. In his work, Jewish figures and traditions emerge but in disguise: in his interest in the life of Florentine merchants and in the works of art they ordered, in the rituals of the Indians of the American South-West, in Luther’s enmity against astrology, in the Catholic fixation on blood as a sacrificial and redemptory sign.

(3) In the project of the pictorial atlas, Warburg collected the heritage of Western artistic visualization to elucidate the problems of a broader theory of civilization. Different aspects were united in an assembly of signs for passions and their expressions: pathos formulas in their Nachleben, transported along travelling routes to places where they had never been before, ordered in combinations which were completely new. On the last plates, images of contemporary events emerge. There, the Catholic church shows itself as ecclesia militans, the Eucharist is understood as a magical rite, allegedly used by Jews in acts of desecration. The real presence of God turns into a chaos of bloodshed and murder.



Kult und Rationalität: Eine religionswissenschaftliche Untersuchung zur Opferlogik in den Traditionen und Figuren des Paulinischen Denkens. Berlin: Microfiche, 1996.
Anthropologie im Zeichen von Gesetz und Opfer: Paulus und Freud. Berlin: Typescript, 1987.

Edited Books

Herbert Kopp-Oberstebrink, Thorsten Palzhoff and Martin Treml (eds., introds., comms.): Jacob Taubes – Carl Schmitt. Briefwechsel mit Materialien. München, 2012.
mit Karlheinz Barck (eds.): Erich Auerbach. Geschichte und Aktualität eines europäischen Philologen, Berlin: Kulturverlag Kadmos 2007.
Nachleben der Religionen. Kulturwissenschaftliche Untersuchungen zur Dialektik der Säkularisierung, edited by Martin Treml and Daniel Weidner, München: Fink Verlag 2007.
Silvia Horsch and Martin Treml (eds.): Grenzgänger der Religionskulturen. Kulturwissenschaftliche Beiträge zu Gegenwart und Religion der Martyrer. München: Fink Verlag, 2011.
Martin Treml, Sigrid Weigel and Perdita Ladwig (eds., introds., comms.): Aby Warburg, Werke in einem Band. Berlin: Suhrkamp, 2010.
Wolfgang Pircher and Martin Treml (eds.): Tyrannis und Verführung. Wien: Turia & Kant, 2000.


Paulinische Feindschaft. Korrespondenzen von Jacob Taubes und Carl Schmitt. In: Herbert Kopp-Oberstebrink, Thorsten Palzhoff and Martin Treml (eds.): Jacob Taubes – Carl Schmitt. Briefwechsel mit Materialien. München, 2012, S. 273-304.
With Karlheinz Barck: Medien in Krieg und Frieden. Splitter und Diagramme zu Marshall McLuhan. In: Marshall McLuhan/Quentin Fiore/Jerome Agel, Krieg und Frieden im globalen Dorf. Berlin, 2011, S. 193-220.
The Political Theater of Alain Badiou – Alain Badious politisches Theater. In: Trajekte. Zeitschrift des Zentrums für Literaturforschung Berlin 11 Vol. 22, 2010/11, S. 4.
Das Archiv als Ort der Kulturwissenschaft. Die Editionsprojekte des ZfL. In: Geisteswissenschaftliche Zentren Berlin. Bericht über das Forschungsjahr 2007, Berlin, 2009, S. 35-45.
With Miranda Jakiša: Bildordnungen als Gegenstand kultureller Verhandlungen. Bemerkungen zum Bilderverbot in Literatur und Religion. In: Trajekte. Zeitschrift des Zentrums für Literaturforschung Berlin 8 Vol. 15, 2007/08, S. 42-46.