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Humanities and Social Sciences Colloquium - Evi Zemanek


Ozone as Pharmakon: A Popular Media Phenomenon

Jun.-Prof. Dr. Evi Zemanek
German Studies
Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg

Ozone as Pharmakon: A Popular Media Phenomenon
When Jun 19, 2017
from 11:15 AM to 12:45 PM
Where FRIAS, Albertstr. 19, Seminar Room
Contact Name
Contact Phone +49 (0)761 203-97362
Attendees universitätsöffentlich / open to university members
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Leafing through popular magazines from the second half of the nineteenth century, today’s readers would be surprised to find amusing advertisements for ozone as a universal remedy. After C.F. Schönbein discovered the malodorous gas in 1839, it not only received considerable attention in chemical research; it also became an object of fascination and controversy in an emerging public media discourse. My starting point is a literary case study on Theodor Fontane, which detects the author’s obsession with air and discusses his conviction of a connection between ‘aerial input’ and ‘creative output’ with reference to traditional ideas of ‘inspiration’, thus it offers new insights into how poetic production can be affected by air quality and result in a unique olfactory poetics. This talk focuses on Fontane’s ambivalent reflections on ozone – which he first praises as a miracle cure and then fears as a poison – and compares them to cultural myths about this pharmakon, in contrast to the increasing scientific knowledge about O3. It draws on unknown cartoons and poems found in satirical magazines from the era of industrialization in the attempt to outline a cultural history of ozone as a peculiar media phenomenon.