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Dinner Speech - Carolin Duttlinger


Exercising Concentration: Self-Help Literature in the Weimar Republic

Prof. Dr. Carolin Duttlinger
Modern German Literature and Culture
University of Oxford

Exercising Concentration: Self-Help Literature in the Weimar Republic
When Dec 07, 2016
from 05:30 PM to 06:00 PM
Where FRIAS, Albertstr. 19, Seminar Room
Contact Name
Contact Phone +49 (0)761 203-97398
Attendees Nach Einladung / by invitation
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From the second half of the nineteenth century onwards, attention had been at the centre of experimental psychological research into the human mind. By the early 1900s, this research began to filter through into social practice. First, through a sophisticated network of psychological aptitude testing; second, through strategies of self-improvement to be implemented by the individual. Key to both fields was psychotechnics, a branch of applied psychology, which was used to optimize recruitment and training by testing workers’ mental capacities; concentration and attention span were among the main faculties to be assessed. But ultimately, this drive towards cognitive optimisation started with the individual. A plethora of self-help books tapped into collective anxieties about concentration as a faculty in decline. Comparing three self-help books from the 1920s, I will showcase some of these approaches, which ranged from meditation and comprehensive programmes of self-fashioning to new technologies.