Iser, Wolfgang

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Wolfgang Iser is a literary theorist and scholar who has been internationally recognized for his work on reception theory and reader-response criticism.

He was born in Marienberg, Germany on July 22, 1926. Following his high school education, he was drafted into the German army in 1944 and released from a prisoner of war camp in 1945. Iser studied at the University of Leipzig and received his Ph.D. in English philology and literature from the University of Heidelberg in 1950. After teaching at universities in Glasgow, Heidelberg, Würzburg, and Köln, he accepted a position at the newly founded University of Konstanz in 1967, which he maintained until his retirement as professor emeritus in 1991. Iser's writings on reception aesthetics and literary anthropology in the 1970s and 1980s gained him an international reputation in literary theory. He has taught at several institutions in the United States and Canada, accepting a professorship in 1978 at the University of California, Irvine, which he continues to hold as of 2002.

From the description of Wolfgang Iser papers, 1952-2000. (University of California, Irvine). WorldCat record id: 44390837

Biography

Wolfgang Iser was born on July 22, 1926, in Marienberg (Saxony), Germany, the son of Paul and Else (Steinbach) Iser. From 1933 to 1944 he attended elementary and high school. He was drafted into the German army in 1944, and released from a prisoner of war camp in 1945. At the age of 19, he enrolled as a student of English, Philosophy, and German at the University of Leipzig, after the "Vorsemester" required for enrollment of students who graduated from high school in the later war years. At the end of his first year he transferred to the University of Tübingen and later to the University of Heidelberg, where he earned his Ph.D. in Anglistik (English philology and literature) in 1950 and joined the first generation of West German postwar graduates. From that point onward Iser's academic career took a straight and very successful course, which in many ways was typical for a young scholar of his generation. After his graduation and a short teaching appointment in Heidelberg, he became an assistant lecturer in 1952 in Glasgow, Scotland, teaching German for the next three years. Just before his departure he married Lore Reichert, who continued to assist Iser in his academic endeavors.

Upon his return to Germany in 1955, Iser was appointed to a position equivalent to an assistant professorship in the English Department of the University of Heidelberg, where he earned his "Habilitation" in 1957 with a work on the aesthetics of Walter Pater. This postdoctoral degree is the final step in the German academic system in becoming a full professor. After three more years of teaching at the University of Heidelberg, Iser was appointed full professor of English at the University of Würzburg in 1960.

After this appointment and another at the University of Köln during the mid-1960s, Iser finally took a position in the Department of Literature at the newly founded University of Konstanz in 1967. Konstanz belonged to the numerous new "reform" campuses created in West Germany in the late 1960s and early 1970s in order to provide higher education for the burgeoning postwar generation of students and to fill West Germany's need for professionals in all fields. This rapid growth in the West German educational system was accompanied by deep reforms of traditional structures and teaching methods, and Wolfgang Iser was a significant participant in this reform project. He was a member of the founding council of the University of Bielefeld, another reform campus known at the time for its innovative structures. He became chairman of the Planning Committee for the University of Konstanz in 1971, a crucial position in the shaping of this new school, maintaining this post until his retirement as professor emeritus in 1991. Throughout his career Iser has been in great demand as an academic consultant in Germany, most recently as the chairman of the committee for establishing the "Grossbritannien-Zentrum" (i.e., British Studies Center) at the Humboldt-University in Berlin.

In the 1970s Iser established himself as one of the leading figures in literary theory with such works as Der implizite Leser (1972, English ed. The Implied Reader ) and Der Akt des Lesens (1976, English ed. The Act of Reading ). As a result, he was associated with "reception theory," which was very influential in literary studies during the 1970s; it was especially well-received in the United States, along with "reader-response" criticism. With Hans-Robert Jauss, Iser is considered to be the founding father of the Konstanz School of Reception Aesthetics. It was also during these years that Iser intensified his contacts with the North American academic community, which became over the years his second academic home. In the 1970s Iser held two fellowships and three visiting appointments at U.S. and Canadian institutions, including a visiting appointment in the German Department at the University of California, Irvine in 1976. In 1978 Iser became a faculty member of the Department of English and Comparative Literature at UCI, teaching classes regularly in English literature and literary theory.

Beginning in the mid-1980s Iser's research was oriented more and more toward the issues of literary anthropology. A large research project investigating these issues was established in the Department of Literature at the University of Konstanz, which is still in place. Books such as Prospecting: From Reader Response to Literary Anthropology (1989) and Das Fiktive und das Imaginäre (1991, English ed. The Fictive and the Imaginary ) are representative of this phase in Iser's theoretical research.

Wolfgang Iser pursued an international and highly successful career, with numerous appointments and lectureships in Europe, North America, and Asia. He served on boards of prestigious academic and cultural institutions and has instigated a number of research and editiorial projects such as the series Poetik und Hermeneutik . His international reputation was indicated by his numerous memberships and honorary memberships in academic associations such as the Modern Language Association, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and the Heidelberg Academy of Arts and Sciences, revealed his international reputation.

Iser died in Konstanz, Germany on January 24, 2007.

  • 1926: Born on July 22 in Marienberg (Saxony), Germany.
  • 1946: Student at the University of Leipzig.
  • 1946 - 1947 : Student at the University of Tübingen.
  • 1947 - 1950 : Student at the University of Heidelberg.
  • 1950: Ph.D. in Anglistik (English philology and literature), University of Heidelberg (dissertation: Die Weltanschauung Henry Fieldings).
  • 1951 - 1952 : Instructor, English Department, University of Heidelberg.
  • 1952: Die Weltanschauung Henry Fieldings (Niemeyer).
  • 1952 - 1955 : Assistant Lecturer, German Department, University of Glasgow.
  • 1955 - 1957 : Wissenschaftlicher Assistent (equivalent to an assistant professorship), English Department, University of Heidelberg.
  • 1957: Habilitation (postdoctoral degree), University of Heidelberg.
  • 1957 - 1960 : Privatdozent (equivalent to a non-tenured associate professorship), English Department, University of Heidelberg.
  • 1960: Walter Pater: Die Autonomie des Ästhetischen (Niemeyer).
  • 1960: Editor of Britannica: Festschrift für Hermann M. Flasdieck (Winter).
  • 1960 - 1963 : Professor of English, English Department, University of Würzburg.
  • 1963 - 1967 : Professor of English, English Department, University of Köln.
  • 1963 - 1982 : Founding member and member of the Board of the Research Unit "Poetik und Hermeneutik."
  • 1963 - 1994 : Editor of Theorie und Geschichte der Literatur und der Schönen Künste: Texte und Abhandlungen (Fink).
  • 1966: Editor of Immanente Ästhetik - Ästhetische Reflexionen: Lyrik als Paradigma der Moderne (Fink).
  • 1967 - 1972 : Member of the Council for establishing the University of Bielefeld.
  • 1967 - 1991 : Professor of English and Comparative Literature, Department of Literature, University of Konstanz.
  • 1968: Visiting appointment, English Department, Colgate University, Hamilton, New York.
  • 1970 - 1971 : Fellow at the Center of the Humanities, Wesleyan University, Middletown, Connecticut.
  • 1970: Die Appellstruktur der Texte: Unbestimmtheit als Wirkungsbedingung literarischer Prosa (Universitätsverlag).
  • 1970: Spensers Arkadien: Fiktion und Geschichte in der englischen Renaissance (Scherpe).
  • 1970: Editor of Dargestellte Geschichte in der europäischen Literatur des 19. Jahrhunderts (Klostermann).
  • 1971 - 1991 : Chairman of the Planning Committee of the University of Konstanz.
  • 1972: Der implizite Leser: Kommunikationsformen des Romans von Bunyan bis Beckett (Fink).
  • 1972: Editor of Henry Fielding und der englische Roman des 18. Jahrhunderts (Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft).
  • 1973 - 1974 : Fellow at the Center of Advanced Studies in the Humanities and Social Sciences, Wassenaar, Holland.
  • 1974: Visiting appointment, Graduate Program of Comparative Literature, University of Toronto, Ontario.
  • since 1975: Fellow of the Heidelberg Academy of Arts and Sciences.
  • 1976: Visiting appointment, German Department, University of California, Irvine.
  • 1976: Poggioli Lecture, Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts.
  • 1976: Der Akt des Lesens: Theorie ästhetischer Wirkung (Fink).
  • since 1978: Professor of English, Department of English and Comparative Literature, University of California, Irvine.
  • 1978: Teaching Fellow, School of Criticism and Theory, University of California, Irvine.
  • 1978: Senior Old Dominion Fellow, Council of the Humanities, Princeton University, Princeton, New Jersey.
  • since 1979: Honorary Member of the British Comparative Literature Association, Cambridge, England.
  • 1979: Die Artistik des Mißlingens: Ersticktes Lachen im Theater Becketts (Winter).
  • 1982: Editor of Theorien der Kunst (Suhrkamp).
  • 1983 - 1984 : Visiting appointment, English Department, University of Zürich.
  • 1984 - 1998 : Member of the Selection Committee of the Alexander von Humboldt-Foundation, Bonn-Bad Godesberg.
  • since 1985: Honorary Member of the Modern Language Association of America, New York.
  • 1985: Hanes-Willis-Lectures, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill.
  • 1985 - 1986 : Fellow at the Center for Advanced Study, Hebrew University, Jerusalem.
  • since 1987: Honorary Foreign Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, Boston, Massachusetts.
  • 1987: Laurence Sternes "Tristram Shandy": Inszenierte Subjektivität (Fink).
  • 1988 - 1991 : Co-Director of the research project "Institutions of Interpretation," sponsored by the German-Israeli Foundation for Scientific Research & Development, Jerusalem.
  • 1988: Shakespeares Historien: Genesis und Geltung (Universitätsverlag Konstanz).
  • 1989: Walker-Ames Lectureship, University of Washington, Seattle.
  • 1989: Keynote speaker at Hanyang University, Seoul, Korea, on the occasion of its 50th anniversary celebration.
  • 1989: Editor of Languages of the Unsayable: The Play of Negativity in Literature and Literary Theory (Columbia University Press).
  • 1989: Prospecting: From Reader Response to Literary Anthropology (Johns Hopkins University Press).
  • 1989: Editor of Theodor A. Meyer: Das Stilgesetz der Poesie (Suhrkamp).
  • 1990 - 1996 : Member of the Board of the Franz-Rosenzweig-Center for German-Jewish Literature and Cultural History, Hebrew University, Jerusalem.
  • 1990: Fingieren als anthropologische Dimension der Literatur (Universitätsverlag Konstanz).
  • since 1991: Member of the Academia Europaea, London.
  • 1991: Professor emeritus as of October 1, 1991, at the University of Konstanz.
  • 1991: Scholar at the Rockefeller Study and Conference Center, Bellagio, Italy.
  • 1991: Das Fiktive und das Imaginäre: Perspektiven literarischer Anthropologie (Suhrkamp).
  • 1992: Theorie der Literatur: Eine Zeitperspektive (Universitätsverlag Konstanz).
  • 1993: Spielstrukturen in Shakespeares Komödien: "Sommernachtstraum"-"Was ihr wollt" (Winter).
  • 1993 - 1994 : Chairman of the committee for establishing the "Großbritannien-Zentrum" at the Humboldt-University, Berlin.
  • 1994: Wellek Library Lecturer at the University of California, Irvine.
  • 1994 - 1999 : Co-Director of the International Conference of Humanistic Discourse research project, sponsored by the Alexander von Humboldt-Foundation, Bonn, and University of California, Irvine.
  • 1995: Visiting appointment, University of Basel.
  • 1995: Das Großbritannien-Zentrum in kulturwissenschaftlicher Sicht (Humboldt-Universität).
  • 1996: Editor of The Translatability of Cultures: Figurations of the Space Between (Stanford University Press).
  • 1998: Stepping Forward: Essays, Lectures and Interviews (Crescent Moon).
  • 2000: The Range of Interpretation (Columbia University Press): Iser's Wellek Library lectures.
  • 2000: Presidential Lecture, Stanford University, California.
  • 2000: Ph.D., Honoris Causa, New Bulgarian University, Sofia, Bulgaria.
  • 2000: Werner Heisenberg Medal, Alexander von Humboldt-Stiftung, Bonn.
  • 2000 - 2001 : Senior Distinguished Andrew W. Mellon Fellow, National Humanities Center, North Carolina.
  • 2001: Corresponding Fellow, British Academy, London.
  • 2001: Senior Fellow for Life, School of Advanced Study, University of London, 2001.
  • 2005: Professor emeritus at University of California, Irvine.
  • 2006: How to Do Theory (Blackwell).
  • 2007: Died in Konstanz, Germany.

Course Chronology

The following chronology of courses taught by Wolfgang Iser at the University of Konstanz and at the University of California, Irvine was assembled with the assistance of Dr. Rolf Eichler and Christa Schellhammer (Konstanz) and Arielle Read (Irvine). Although every effort has been made to list every course taught by Iser at these institutions, this chronology is not definitive. Course titles frequently do not exactly match the titles supplied by Iser for the course materials in Series 2 of this finding aid. At Konstanz, courses are offered during Winter (Oct.-March) and Summer (April-Sept.) semesters. Also at Konstanz, Iser frequently taught Doktorandenkolloquium (doctoral colloquia), for which individual titles were not available for this chronology. At Irvine courses are offered during Fall (Oct.-Dec.), Winter (Jan.-March), and Spring (April-June) quarters.

Courses taught at UCI are explicitly noted; all other courses were taught at Konstanz.

  • Winter 1968: Der englische Roman der Aufklärung Joyce und Beckett Moderne ästhetische Theorien. Intention und Leistung
  • Summer 1969: Shakespeares Tragödien Spenser's Shepheardes Calender Moderne ästhetische Theorien. Intention und Leistung II
  • Winter 1969: Der moderne englische Roman. Einübung in praktische Literaturkritik Romantische Odendichtung Kolloquium für Aufbaustudenten über Kunsttheorien des Pragmatismus und der Semiotik
  • Summer 1970: Modernes englisches Drama Lyrische Montagen. T.S. Eliots Waste Land und Ezra Pounds Cantos Kolloquium für Aufbaustudenten über Kritik ästhetischer Theorieentwürfe
  • Summer 1971: Theorie literarischer Kommunikation Laurence Sterne, Tristram Shandy Kritik ästhetischer Theorieentwürfe (Rader, Krieger/Vivas, Margolis)
  • Winter 1971: Shakespeares Historien Fiktion in der Tradition des Empirismus und in der Literatur
  • Summer 1972: Der viktorianische Roman Arkadien in der Literatur der Renaissance
  • Winter 1972: Englische und amerikanische Lyrik des 20. Jahrhunderts Der Fiktionsbegriff in der Tradition des Empirismus
  • Summer 1973: Bürgerliches Trauerspiel und sentimentale Komödie Fiktion und Fiktionstheorie von der Aufklärung bis zur Gegenwart
  • Summer 1974: Der englische Roman des 18. Jahrhunderts Phänomenologie des Lesens
  • Winter 1974: Shakespeares Historien Kunsttheorien der Gegenwart
  • Summer 1975: Moderne englische Lyrik Becketts Dramen
  • Winter 1975: Shakespeares Tragödien Romantische Odendichtung Fiktion und Fiktionstheorie von der Aufklärung bis zur Gegenwart
  • Winter 1976: Dickens und Thackeray Modernes englisches Drama Kunsttheorien der Gegenwart
  • Summer 1977: Shakespeares Historien Schäferdichtung der Renaissance
  • Winter 1977: Dickens und Thackeray Entblößte Fiktion Vorlesungskurs: Moderne englische Lyrik
  • Winter 1978: Romantische Odendichtung Shakespeares Tragödien Kunsttheorien der Moderne
  • Summer 1979: Henry James: The Ambassadors und Joseph Conrad: Lord Jim Das englische Drama des 20. Jahrhunderts
  • Winter 1979: Bürgerliches Trauerspiel Shakespeares Historien
  • Winter 1980: Dickens und Thackeray Der englische Roman der Aufklärung
  • Winter 1981: Henry James: The Ambassadors und Joseph Conrad: Lord Jim Englische Lyrik der Moderne Kunsttheorie der Gegenwart
  • Summer 1982: Bürgerliches Trauerspiel Shakespeares Historien Europäische Bukolik: Zur historischen Genese der literarischen Fiktion
  • Winter 1982: Romantische Odendichtung Shakespeares Tragödien Idole, Fiktionen und Fiktionsbegriffe in der Tradition des Empirismus
  • Winter 1983: Modernes englisches Drama: Vom Naturalismus bis zum absurden Theater
  • Summer 1984: Der englische Roman der Aufklärung
  • Winter 1984: Shakespeares Historien Idole, Fiktionen und Fiktionsbegriffe in der Tradition des Empirismus
  • Winter 1985: English 210: Representation in Narrative (UCI)
  • Summer 1985: Englische Lyrik der Moderne Tristram Shandy und Jacques le fataliste
  • Winter 1985: Shakespeares Tragödien Literatur und Spielbegriff
  • Winter 1986: Humanities 270: Theories of Art (UCI)
  • Winter 1986: Der englische Roman der Aufklärung Phantasie und Phantasietheorien
  • Winter 1987: English 225: Fictionality in Philosophy and Literature (UCI)
  • Summer 1987: Dickens und Thackeray Shakespeares Historien
  • Winter 1988: Das Fiktive und das Imaginäre: Grundzüge einer Literaturanthropologie. Teil I: Fiktionalität Spielstrukturen in Shakespeares Komödien
  • Winter 1989: Humanities 270: The Play of the Text (UCI)
  • Summer 1989: Das Fiktive und das Imaginäre: Grundzüge einer Literaturanthropologie. Teil II: das Imaginäre Kanonbildung von der Aufklärung zur Moderne: Dr. Johnson, Matthew Arnold, T.S. Eliot
  • Winter 1989: Englische Lyrik der Moderne
  • Winter 1990: Humanities 270: Theories of Art and their Consequences for Interpretations: Phenomenology, Gestalt, Hermeneutics, and Semiotics (UCI)
  • Winter 1990: Shakespeares Tragödien Dramatische Literatur der englischen Renaissance: Shakespeares Zeitgenossen
  • Summer 1991: Institutionen der Interpretation Thomas Carlyle: Die übersetzbarkeit von Kulturen
  • Winter 1992: Humanities 270: The Fictive and the Imaginary (UCI)
  • Spring 1992: English 210: Institutions of Interpretation (UCI)
  • Winter 1993: Criticism 240: Translatability of Discourses (UCI)
  • Winter 1994: Humanities 270: Anatomy of Interpretation (UCI)
  • Spring 1994: Criticism 240: Modern Theories of Art (UCI)
  • Winter 1995: Humanities 270: Conceptions of Culture (UCI)
  • Winter 1996: Humanities 270: Interpretive Procedures: Readings of Sealed and Open Canons; Hermeneutics, Cybernetics, and the Differential (UCI)
  • Winter 1997: Humanities 270: Modern Theories of Art (UCI)
  • Winter 1998: Humanities 270: Unfolding Interpretation: Iterations of Translatability (UCI)
  • Winter 1999: Humanities 270: Conceptions of Culture in Ethnographical and Anthropological Perspective (UCI)
  • Spring 1999: Humanities 270: Beckett and Theory (UCI)
  • Winter 2002: Humanities 270: Culture as an Emergent Phenomenon (UCI)

From the guide to the Wolfgang Iser papers, 1952-2000, (University of California, Irvine. Library. Special Collections and Archives.)

Archival Resources
Role Title Holding Repository
creatorOf Iser, Wolfgang. Wolfgang Iser papers, 1952-2000. University of California, Irvine. Library. Department of Special Collections
referencedIn Marli Shoop audio recordings of Eugenio Donato and Wolfgang Iser lectures, 1982 University of California, Irvine. Library. Department of Special Collections
referencedIn Stanford Humanities Center audio-visual materials, 1989-2006 Cecil H. Green Library. Department of Special Collections and University Archives
referencedIn Stanford Humanities Center. Stanford Humanities Center audio-visual materials, 1989-2006. Stanford University. Department of Special Collections and University Archives
creatorOf Wolfgang Iser papers, 1952-2000 University of California, Irvine. Library. Department of Special Collections
Role Title Holding Repository
Relation Name
associatedWith Carlyle, Thomas, 1795-1881 person
associatedWith Fielding, Henry, 1707-1754 person
associatedWith Online Archive of California. corporateBody
associatedWith Shakespeare, William, 1564-1616 person
associatedWith Shoop, Marli person
associatedWith Sidney, Philip, Sir, 1554-1586 person
associatedWith Spenser, Edmund, 1552?-1599 person
associatedWith Stanford Humanities Center. corporateBody
associatedWith University of California, Irvine corporateBody
Place Name Admin Code Country
Subject
Reader-response criticism--Archival resources
Literature--Aesthetics--Archival resources
Criticism--Archival resources
Pastoral poetry, English--History and criticism--Archival resources
Fictions, Theory of--Archival resources
Literature--History and criticism--Archival resources
Imagination in literature--Archival resources
Critical theory--Archival resources
Occupation
Theorists
Literary critics
Function

Person

Birth 1926-07-22

Death 2007-01-24

Germans

German,

English

Information

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