Wilfried Barner

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Wilfried Barner in April 2010

Wilfried Barner (born June 3, 1937 in Kleve ; † November 22, 2014 in Göttingen ) was a German literary scholar (Germanist) and an important Lessing expert.


Wilfried Barner was born on June 3, 1937 in Kleve am Niederrhein as the son of a grammar school teacher and a child welfare worker. In 1957 he passed his school leaving examination at the humanistic Wilhelm-Dörpfeld-Gymnasium in Wuppertal-Elberfeld and studied Greek, Latin and German philology at the Universities of Göttingen and Tübingen from 1957 to 1963. He received his doctorate in 1963 in Tübingen on recent Alkaios papyri from Oxyrhynchos ; the reviewers Walter Jens , Ernst Zinn , Hildebrecht Hommel and Wolfgang Schadewaldt gave the dissertation the grade summa cum laude . In 1968/1969 Barner completed his habilitation on baroque rhetoric at the University of Tübingen. His habilitation thesis received great attention; According to Conrad Wiedemann , “a new era in baroque research” began. In 1970 he was appointed professor of modern German literature as the successor to Friedrich Beißner . In 1992 he was appointed to the chair for modern German literature at the University of Göttingen , succeeding Albrecht Schöne . He taught there until his retirement in 2002 and died on the night of November 21-22, 2014 in Göttingen.

Visiting professorships have taken him to the universities of Cincinnati, Jerusalem and Melbourne as well as to Princeton University and Cornell University (Ithaca, New York).

His main areas of work were humanism, baroque, the Enlightenment (especially Lessing), the age of Goethe, literature after 1945, research on traditions and the history of German studies.

Barner is the main editor of the works of Gotthold Ephraim Lessing and u. a. (Co-) editor of the journal Germanistik (since 1987), the yearbook of the German Schiller Society (since 1988) and the workbooks on literary history (since 1978). He also founded the online database Literarisches Leben: Internet database for German-language literature from 1945 to 2000 and headed it from 2000 to 2003.

Barner was a member of the German Academy for Language and Poetry in Darmstadt (since 1997) as well as the Academy of Sciences in Göttingen and the Royal Danish Academy of Sciences in Copenhagen.


  • 1972 Prize of the Göttingen Academy of Sciences
  • 1986/87 Research grant from the Historisches Kolleg .-
  • 1991 Dr. hc Université de Strasbourg


»Anyone who wants to get to know the magic of precise reading as an element of an analytical process that begins with the construction of the object must study the works of important philologists: works by Erich Auerbach , Ernst Robert Curtius , Richard Alewyn , Albrecht Schöne , Peter Szondi , Wilfried Barner , Hans-Jürgen Schings . «- Peter-André Alt

Fonts (selection)

As an author

  • More recent Alkaios papyri from Oxyrhynchos (The Oxyrhynchus Papyri, part XXI, 1951) . Hildesheim: Olms, 1967. [Dissertation].
  • Baroque rhetoric. Investigations into their historical foundations . Tübingen: Niemeyer, 1970; (2nd edition 2002, ISBN 978-3-484-10839-4 ). [Habilitation thesis].
  • Productive reception. Lessing and the tragedies of Seneca . Munich: Beck, 1973. ISBN 3-406-00446-6 .
  • From Rahel Varnhagen to Friedrich Gundolf. Jews as German Goethe admirers . Göttingen: Wallstein, 1992. ISBN 3-89244-023-9 .
  • Pioneers, schools, pluralism. Studies in the history and theory of literary studies . Tübingen: Niemeyer, 1997 [anthology of previously published articles]. ISBN 3-484-10754-5 .
  • Goethe and Lessing. A difficult constellation . Göttingen: Wallstein, 2001. ISBN 978-3-89244-408-4 .
  • "Think out loud with a friend". Lessing studies. Edited posthumously by Kai Bremer. Göttingen: Wallstein, 2017. ISBN 978-3-8353-1905-9 .

As editor

  • (with Gunter E. Grimm , Helmuth Kiesel , Martin Kramer): Lessing. Epoch, work, effect . Munich: Beck, 1975 (6th edition 1998). ISBN 3-406-05804-3 .
  • Gotthold Ephraim Lessing: Works and Letters . Frankfurt am Main: Deutscher Klassiker Verlag, 14 volumes, 1985–2003.
  • Tradition, norm, innovation. Social and literary tradition in the early days of the German Enlightenment (= writings of the historical college. Colloquia, vol. 15). Munich 1989. ISBN 3-486-54771-2 ( digitized version )
  • Literary Studies - A History? (= Writings of the Historical College. Lectures. Vol. 18) Munich 1990. ( digitized version ).
  • Literary Criticism - Claim and Reality. DFG symposium 1989 . Stuttgart: Metzler, 1990. ISBN 3-406-05804-3
  • One text and one reader. World literature for lovers . Göttingen: Wallstein, 1994. ISBN 3-89244-083-2
  • History of German literature from 1945 to the present . Munich: Beck, 1994 (2nd, updated and expanded edition 2006, ISBN 3-406-54220-4 ).
  • (with Christoph König): Change of times. German literature before and after 1945 . Frankfurt am Main: Fischer-Taschenbuch-Verlag, 1996. ISBN 3-596-12963-X
  • Lateral reading. World literature between the disciplines . Göttingen: Wallstein, 1997. ISBN 3-89244-269-X
  • (with Christoph König): Jewish intellectuals and the philologies in Germany: 1871–1933 . Göttingen: Wallstein, 2001. ISBN 3-89244-457-9
  • (with Anke Detken and Jörg Wesche): Texts on modern myth theory . Stuttgart: Reclam, 2003. ISBN 3-15-017642-5
  • Gotthold Ephraim Lessing: Laocoon. Letters, antiquarian content . Frankfurt am Main: Deutscher Klassiker Verlag, 2007. ISBN 978-3-618-68022-2

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. Oliver Junge: How play spaces are created. On the death of the German specialist Wilfried Barner . In: Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung of November 24, 2014, p. 17.
  2. Always also Wahl-Tübinger remained: The Germanist Wilfried Barner died at the age of 77 years . In: Schwäbisches Tageblatt, Tübingen edition, from November 26, 2014.
  3. Literary life
  4. Peter-André Alt : The promises of philology . Göttingen: Wallstein, 2007, p. 20. In the accompanying footnote, Alt zu Barner mentions Barner's book Productive Reception as an example .