My lecture brings together two authors who lived 300 years apart. Coming from different nations, languages and cultural backgrounds, John Milton and Karl Jaspers emphatically defended truth in texts written in the 1640s and the 1940s, protecting it against political appropriation and its fusion with power. Both of them shared a strong commitment to truth but were convinced that truth had to be distanced from human reach. Bringing their texts and ideas together, I will present them as pluralistic thinkers who respected difference and discovered new similarities.
Aleida Assmann is Professor Emerita of English Literature and Literary Theory at the University of Konstanz, Germany, where she taught from 1993–2014. She received an Honorary Degree from the University of Oslo (2008) and the Max Planck Research Award (2009). Her main areas of research are historical anthropology, history of media, history and theory of reading and writing, cultural memory, with special emphasis on Holocaust and trauma. Publications in English include Memory in a Global Age: Discourses, Practices, and Trajectories (ed. with Sebastian Conrad, 2010); Cultural Memory and Western Civilization: Functions, Media, Archives (2012); Memory and Political Change (ed. with Linda Shortt, 2012); Shadows of Trauma: Memory and the Politics of Postwar Identity (2016) and Empathy and its Limits (ed. with Ines Detmers, 2016).