Wolf Kittler Former Senior Fellow

Wolf Kittler
April - July 2014


Wolf D. Kittler, born 1945, is a widely acclaimed literary scholar and Professor of Germanic, Slavic and Semitic Studies at the University of California, Santa Barbara. After studying German and Romance languages and literatures in Freiburg and Toulouse, Kittler gained his Ph.D. at Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg in 1979. Having finished his ha-bilitation, “Die Geburt des Partisanen aus dem Geist der Poesie. Heinrich von Kleist und die Strategie der Befreiungskriege”, he was appointed Professor at Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg in 1986. From 1988 to 1990, Kittler held a chair at Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München. He relocated to the University of California in 1990, where he has been a Professor ever since. Kittler was a Visiting Scholar at Cornell University from 2004 to 2006 and he cur-rently serves as Visiting Professor at Deutsches Seminar at Universität Basel. Kittler has published numerous relevant articles on occidental literature and on the history of science and media. His current book project, which will be published in Merve Verlag under the title of “Echos Wiederhall. Von Freud zu Lacan”, is based on the question why the theory of psychoanalysis highly concentrates on Ovid’s Narcissus, while Echo remains unnamed and unmentioned.

Dated from 2014

Fields of Research

Western literature from Greek antiquity to the present; philosophy; history of media and sci-ence.

IKKM Research Project

Echo’s Echo

The project is based on a simple question: Why is psychoanalysis – not only in Freud’s, but also in Lacan’s version – so exclusively focused on Narcissus that Echo, who, since Ovid’s Metamorphoses, remains his inseparable companion because she never reaches him, fell into complete oblivion? The short answer to the question is: Echo is the blind spot of psychoanalysis because it is the analyst’s job to repeat what the analysand says just like Echo once replayed the words of Narcissus: verbatim, yet truncated by a few decisive signifiers.

The long way leading to this answer is my project. It proceeds from the idea of love in Plato’s Phaidros to the double myth of Echo and Narcissus in Ovid’s Metamorphoses, to a completely different story of the nymph Echo in Longus’s pastoral novel Daphnis and Chloe, from there to the mirroring and echoing machines of Athanasius Kircher, to the psychological and psychiatric discourses of the second half of the nineteenth century, to the theories about language and infantile development that were developed in the first half of the twentieth century, and, finally, to the history of psychoanalysis.

Underway, Narcissus undergoes two metamorphoses, by means of which he splits into two separate figures: In front of the mirror, he is transformed from a man into a woman. And, away from the mirror, he forgets his own image to discover his own genitals instead: In both Havelock Ellis’s autoerotism and in Freud’s Narcissism he turns into Dalì’s Great Masturbator. Echo, meanwhile, returns as echolalia in Tourette’s syndrome, from there she enters Clara and William Stern’s theory of language acquisition, Karl Bühler’s linguistics as well as Henri Wallon’s theory of early childhood development. Lacan, finally, reunites Echo and Narcissus as the three psychosomatic syndromes distinguished by psychoanalysis:

  • Echo, whose body was dismembered and scattered all over the earth while each of her limbs still kept singing: the Hysterica.
  • Echo, whose body was petrified: the Obsessional Neurotic.
  • Narcissus, whose body was turned into a flower mirroring itself in the surface of a pond: the Paranoiac.

Thus, Echo returns in two different forms, as hysteric according to Longus, and – transformed into a man – as obsessional according to Ovid, while Narcissus represents the symptom that cannot be treated by the talking cure that psychoanalysis stole from Echo. Her name remains unnamed because she is the blind spot, while Narcissus is the unreachable vanishing point far out at the horizon.

The parameters of the project are set. What is missing are the cultural and media-technical history of Echo and Narcissus in painting and music. I am hoping to fill these lacunae during my time at the IKKM in Weimar.



Die Geburt des Partisanen aus dem Geist der Poesie: Heinrich von Kleist und die Stra-tegie der Befreiungskriege. Freiburg: Rombach 1987.
Der Turmbau zu Babel und das Schweigen der Sirenen: Über das Reden, das Schwei-gen, die Stimme und die Schrift in vier Texten von Franz Kafka. Erlangen: Palm & Enke 1985.

Edited Books

with Hans Gerd Koch, Gerhard Neumann: Franz Kafka: Drucke zu Lebzeiten, Kritische Kafka-Ausgabe in zwei Bänden. Frankfurt: Fischer 1996.
with Gerhard Neumann: Franz Kafka: Schriftverkehr, Freiburg: Rombach 1990.


“Bombenpost”. In: Dieter Sevin, Christoph Zeller (eds.): Heinrich von Kleist: Style and Concept. Explorations of Literary Distance. Berlin/ Boston: Walter de Gruyter 2013, pp. 81-100.
“Das orphische Lied von der Erde: La dernière mode, Mallarmés Traum”. In: Ästhetik und Kommunikation, 43/158, 2013, pp. 81-93.
“Falling after the fall: the analysis of the infinite in Kleist’s Marionette Theater”. In: Bernd Fischer, Rim Mehigan (eds.): Heinrich von Kleist and Modernity. Rochester, NY: Camden House 2011, pp. 279-194.
“Dead Beat Father. Zu Kafkas Roman Der Verschollene”. In: Friedrich Balke, Joseph Vogl, Benno Wagner (eds.): Für Alle und Keinen. Lektüre, Schrift und Leben bei Nietzsche und Kafka. Berlin/ Zürich: diaphanes 2008, pp. 161-175.
“Aphrodite gegen Ammon-Ra. Buchstaben im Garten des Adonis, nicht in Derridas Apotheke”. In: Lorenz Engell, Bernhard Siegert, Joseph Vogl (eds.): Stadt, Land, Fluss. Medienlandschaften (=Archiv für Mediengeschichte, 7). Weimar: Verlag der Bauhaus-Universität 2007, pp. 193-211.
“Der Zustand des Romans im Zeitalter der Zustandsgleichung. Über die kinetische Gastheorie in Robert Musils ‘Der Mann ohne Eigenschaften’”. In: Bernhard Dotzler, Sigrid Weigel (eds.): fülle der combination. Literaturforschung und Wissenschaftsge-schichte. München: Wilhelm Fink 2005, pp. 189-215.
„Die Verwaltung der Buchstaben“. In: Sven Spieker (ed.): Bürokratische Leidenschaf-ten. Kultur- und Mediengeschichte im Archiv. Berlin: Kadmos 2004, pp. 29-44.
“Thalatta thalatta. Stéphane Mallarmé: ‘Brise marine.’ Übersetzung und Kommentar”. In: Peter Berz, Annette Bitsch, Bernhard Siegert (eds.): FAKtisch. Festschrift für Friedrich Kittler zum 60. Geburtstag. München: Wilhelm Fink, 2003, pp. 245-252.