Helmut Lethen

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Helmut Lethen presents his book Die Staatsräte at the Leipzig Book Fair 2018 .

Helmut Lethen (born January 14, 1939 in Mönchengladbach ) is a German scholar of German studies and cultural studies .


After graduating from high school in 1959, Helmut Lethen volunteered for the Bundeswehr and was promoted to lieutenant in the reserve . He studied at the Universities of Bonn , Amsterdam and the Free University of Berlin . Lethen was a student activist and was one of the students who disrupted the opening of the German Association of German Studies in West Berlin in 1968 . Until 1975 he was a member of the Maoist KPD-AO .

Lethen was introduced in 1970 on the topic of “New Objectivity 1924–1932. Studies on the literature of the White socialism " doctorate . 1971 to 1976 he was assistant at the Free University of Berlin and from 1977 to 1995 professor in Utrecht ; he also held various visiting professorships. In 1995 the call came to Rostock , where in 1996 he received the chair for the latest German literature. He retired in 2004 . From October 2007 to February 2016 he was director of the International Research Center for Cultural Studies in Vienna . Since 2016 he has been a professor at the Art University Linz .

Helmut Lethen became known to a wider audience through his book publications Behavioral Theory of Cold. Life attempts between the wars (1994) and The Sound of the Fathers (about Gottfried Benn , 2006). In 2014 he received the Leipzig Book Fair prize in the non-fiction / essay category for Der Schatten des Photographer. Images and their reality .

He is married to Caroline Sommerfeld-Lethen (* 1975), an activist of the Identitarian Movement .

In 2018 he claimed that their two sons had been expelled from the Waldorf School in Vienna West because of their mother's right-wing extremist worldview, in his opinion "without any reason" . The school has a different version of this.

Work (selection)


  • New Objectivity. 1924-1932. Studies on the literature of "White Socialism". Metzler, Stuttgart 1970 (also dissertation, Free University Berlin, 1970).
  • Behavioral teachings of the cold. Life experiments between the wars (= Edition Suhrkamp 1884 = NF 884). Suhrkamp, ​​Frankfurt am Main 1994, ISBN 3-518-11884-6 (English translation: Cool Conduct. The Culture of Distance in Weimar Germany (= Weimar and now. Volume 17). University of California Press, Berkeley CA et al. 2002, ISBN 0-520-20109-4 ).
  • The sound of the fathers. Gottfried Benn and his time. Rowohlt, Berlin 2006, ISBN 3-87134-544-X .
  • Scary neighborhoods. Essays on the cold cult and insomnia in philosophical anthropology in the 20th century (= Rombach Sciences. Edition Parabasen. Volume 10). Rombach, Freiburg (Breisgau) et al. 2009, ISBN 978-3-7930-9599-6 .
  • Search for the hand oracle. A report . Wallstein Verlag, Göttingen 2012, ISBN 978-3-8353-1159-6 (autobiography).
  • The photographer's shadow. Images and their reality . Rowohlt, Berlin 2014, ISBN 978-3-87134-586-9 .
  • The Councils of State. Elite in the Third Reich: Gründgens, Furtwängler, Sauerbruch, Schmitt . Rowohlt, Berlin 2018, ISBN 978-3-87134-797-9 .


  • with Monika Wagner (Ed.): Black and White as Evidenz. "With black and white you can keep more of a distance" (= arenas of evidence 1). Campus Verlag, Frankfurt 2015.
  • with Ludwig Jäger , Albrecht Koschorke (Ed.): Pointing to reality. On the problem of evidence in cultural studies (= arenas of evidence 2). Campus Verlag, Frankfurt 2016.


  • Helmut Lethen: A threshold text. The essay "Critical Literary Studies, Trivial Literature and Theory of Manipulation" from 1971 [1] , in: Sabine Koloch (Ed.): 1968 in German Literature / Topic group "The 68ers: Topics, Theses, Theories" (literaturkritik.de archive / Special editions) (2020).

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. a b c Alexander Cammann: Filter bubble with a high esprit . Review, in: Die Zeit , February 22, 2018, p. 49.
  2. Living with rights . ( falter.at [accessed October 24, 2017]).
  3. Volker Weiß : The great staging
  4. Volker Weiß : The great staging