Käte Hamburger

Portrait Käte Hamburger
Käte Hamburger
© Bernd Hoffmann, DLA-Marbach

The International Research Centres in the Humanities, funded by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF), are named after the important literary scholar and philosopher Käte Hamburger (1896-1992).

After graduating from high school in 1917, Hamburger began studying philosophy, German and history at the universities of Berlin and Munich. In 1922 she received her doctorate in Munich with a thesis on Schiller’s philosophy of culture and history and then worked as a bookseller. Due to her Jewish origins, she had to flee from the National Socialists to Gothenburg, Sweden, in 1934, where she taught German and also published academic articles. Here she wrote her main work “The Logic of Literature”, in which she was one of the first to use linguistic methods for a systematic analysis of literary writing. With this thesis, she qualified as a lecturer (Habilitation) at the Technical University of Stuttgart in 1957 after returning to Germany a year earlier. In Stuttgart she taught as an adjunct professor until her retirement in 1977. In 1966 she was awarded the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany.

Known today primarily for her narrative theory, Hamburger also published numerous studies on writers such as Thomas Mann, Rilke, Tolstoy and Ibsen. In a lecture given in 1982 on “Heine and Judaism”, she also reflected on her own Jewishness in Germany.

In her scholarly work, she intrepidly crossed the boundaries between the disciplines, tested new methods and correlated different topics and time periods. Thus, she can be a role model for our work in more ways than one.