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Dr. Mark E. Blum

Dr. Mark Blum


Professor Ph.D., University of Pennsylvania, 1970
301A Gottschalk Hall
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General Field:  Modern European Cultural and Intellectual History

Areas of Specialization: German and Austrian Cultural History Since the Enlightenment
Modern Historiographical Theory

I have specialized in German and Austrian-German cultural history in the modern era--the Enlightenment through the present--since the publication of The Austro-Marxists, 1890-1918, A Psychobiographical Study (University Press of Kentucky, PDF format) That text was an interdisciplinary prosopography of the four Austro-Marxists, Karl Renner, Otto Bauer, Max Adler, and Friedrich Adler.  I brought several depth psychological perspectives, including Freudian and Jungian thought, to the lives and careers of thought of these men.  I set them in their political-social milieus, a contextual focus that I have refined as a historiographical perspective since this work.  Every historian needs to consider psychological motivation in an informed manner, but never forgetting the political-social norms that instill a cognitive and behavioral standard of normality for a time.  My interdisciplinary tools have broadened since this book.  I now treat the narrative norms of the cultural genres that constitute standards of normality  in the several generations of German, Austrian, and Western history in the modern era.  One is always influenced as a historian by the intellectual work of the persons studied, and I was greatly influenced by philosophical historians such as Wilhelm Dilthey and Theodor Litt.  Dilthey introduced me to the hermeneutical methods that examine the language, painting, and other cultural artefacts of persons and their times.  I now work carefully with the language and logic of cultural-historical expression as I set persons in their times, and seek what is their individual character.  I have incorporated the phenomenology of Edmund Husserl and other twentieth century phenomenologists as guides to my inquiry into the formal as well as informal narrative style of persons and the narrative norms of how a cultural period organizes descriptions and explanations of their inquiry.  I have written a several volume work Thinking historically in Germany and Austria from the Enlightenment to the Present:  the integration of individual and national historical logics, in PDF format that examines significant thinkers in Germany and Austria both in the norms of the genres which provide patterns for their thought as well as the manner in which their singular thought influences these genres in their time.  While historical writing and the historiographical theory of significant German and Austrian thinkers is my major focus, I include dramatists, writers, and philosophers who were also influential in the shaping of their cultural norms.

A contrast of Austrian-German and German historical thought was published in a collection called 'Writing the Austrian Traditions, Relations Between Philosophy and Literature'. See the link to my article "The 'Soft Law' of Austrian Historical Logic since the Enlightenment in the Arts and Sciences, press here for link.

My interest in painting as a medium of  cultural-historical judgment, a perspective I derive from the German Enlightenment thinker Gotthold Ephraim Lessing (who has influenced German aesthetic theory into the twentieth century in this regard) has led to my incorporation of painting into my classes as well as my research.  From History 102 Introduction to Western Culture (in counterpoint with China), History 309 Europe from 1800 to the Present, History 355 The Enlightenment, History 386 German History from 1848 through 1940, to History 389 Psychohistory, to History 304 Historical Methods, my lectures are presented with the evidence of  the fine arts. My work with painting as evidence of cultural-historical thought informed my paper comparing German and American conventions of historical thinking presented in the Fall 2002 on a series where scholars of the arts and sciences comment upon ‘The War on Terror’.  See Conventions of National Historical Judgment: Outgrowing the Norms. (in PDF format)


My work on historical thought and phenomenology led to a book on historical logic Continuity, Quantum, Continuum, and Dialectic:  The Foundational Logics of Western Historical Thinking (Peter Lang, 2006).  Leading authorities in historiography and phenomenological philosophy have spoken well of the book. 
Hayden White, Professor Emeritus, History of Consciousness, University of California, wrote of it:  "In this deep and densely argued text, Mark E. Blum has attempted to move the discussion about the epistemic significance of history, historical consciousness, and historical representation off the dead center to which it has recently come to rest and to place the principal topics of this discussion within the great tradition of language philosophy which, descending from Kant through Husserl, Nietzsche and Heidegger to Jakobson, Chomsky, and Wittgenstein, seeks to re-establish its relevance to the great existential questions of judgment, temporality, and death.  This is philosophical reflection in the grand tradition, with original arguments regarding the relationships among the sentence, temporality, and historicality." 
Robert Sokolowski, Elizabeth Breckenridge Caldwell Professor of Philosophy, School of Philosophy, The Catholic University of America, Washington, D.C. wrote:  "In this book Mark E. Blum shows the connection between the formal structure of time and the formal structures of syntax and grammar.  This book discusses many authors, both classical and contemporary, with special attention given to Kant, Dilthey, and Husserl.  It covers diverse fields of knowledge:  philosophy and science as well as painting, music, literature, and politics.  In each instance Blum describes how formal construction makes things understandable.  He also shows how individual writers develop their own formal patterns of thinking.  His work is intricate, original, and impressive in its depth and range." Click here for the preface.


My interest in Austrian cultural history has bonded me to Franz Kafka, among other authors and artists of his generation.  My recent book Kafka's Social Discourse:  An Aesthetic Search for Community

  (Lehigh University Press, 2011) explores Kafka's own cultural-historical knowledge and its use in his prose.

Franz Kafka is recognized as one of the most significant 20th century voices in literature to examine the absurdity and terror posed for the individual by what his contemporary Max Weber termed "the iron cage" of society. Ferdinand Tönnies had defined the problem of finding community within society for Kafka and his peers.  Kafka took up this issue by focusing upon the "social discourse" of human relationships. Critical literature has recognized Kafka's ability to narrate the gestural moment of alienation or communion.   This "social discourse" was augmented, however, by a dimension virtually no commentator has recognized-Kafka's conversation with past and present authors.  Kafka encoded authors and their texts representing every century of the evolution of modernism and its societal problems, from Comenius, Bunyan, and DeFoe,  through Pope, Lessing, and Schreyvogel,  to Fontane and Thomas Mann.   Kafka's encoding was meant as a lesson to his fellow authors whom he explicitly held accountable in his correspondence as "cultural messengers". Kafka expected them to comprehend his masked allusions as encoding was a Germanic literary norm since the sixteenth century.  The literal level of his narrative that we know as "Kafkaesque" unduly still absorbs critical attention.  The intertextual conversation he conducted can enable us to appreciate the profound human problem of realizing community within society, a problem that remains our problem.   Cultural historians as well as literary critics will be enriched by the evidence of these encoded cultural conversations.  Kafka's "Imperial Messenger" may finally be heard in the full history of his emanations.


My approach to Kafka is argued in the Preface to the book. Click here for the Preface.

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