Philipp Tvrdinic, M.A.

Contact:

Graduate School for East and Southeast European Studies
Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München
Maria-Theresia-Straße 21
D-81675 Munich
Tel.: +49 (0) 89 / 2180 - 9592

Project:

Stanisław Lem and Cybernetics

Project Description:

The dissertation project aims to combine different methodical approaches (Michel Foucault’s discourse analysis, Joseph Vogl’s “poetology of knowledge,” and Niklas Luhmann’s systems theory) in order to examine the relationship between literature and science (or knowledge) in the early fictional and theoretical works (roughly from 1956 to 1980) of the dominant figure of Polish science fiction—Stanisław Lem (1921–2006). Lem made the “science” of cybernetics—which originated partly in Norbert Wiener’s antiaircraft research during World War II, and took off globally after 1945, fueled by utopian hopes of bridging the gap between the “Two Cultures,” only to ultimately lose its relevance as a “discipline” in the late 1970s—his poetological basis.

Crucially, cybernetics established a new interdisciplinary paradigm, centering around a powerful analogy: The control of a machine (e.g. of a thermostat) is based on a process of feedback which uses an information input (room temperature) to generate an output (either turn the heating unit on or off)—and this feedback process is structurally similar to the information or communication processes that govern the interactions of humans and other living organisms with their environment—from the single cell to the whole of society. In this way, cybernetics marks an epistemic rupture with wide-ranging implications or possibilities which Lem makes the focus of many of his theoretical and literary thought experiments.

Special attention is paid to the way in which Lem’s texts not only reflect the new paradigm of cybernetics, but are also participating in the formation, stabilization, and possibly the critique of the order of knowledge of the—as Lem christened it in the subtitle of his Cyberiada [The Cyberiad] (1965)—“cybernetic age.”

Curriculum Vitae:

Philipp Tvrdinić studied Literature-Arts-Media and Philosophy at the University of Constance with an additional stay at the Jagiellonian University in Kraków/Cracow. In March 2016, he earned his master’s degree in East European Studies at the Ludwig-Maximilian’s University Munich, writing a thesis under the supervision of Prof. Raoul Eshelman in which he investigated the cultural function of the monster as a regulative fiction of gender norms in the short stories and fantasy novels of the so-called Witcher Saga by Andrzej Sapkowski and in its tripartite role-playing video game adaptation The Witcher I–III by CD Projekt RED. In November 2016, he began his doctoral studies at the Graduate School for East and Southeast European Studies where Prof. Riccardo Nicolosi is his doctoral supervisor.

Philipp Tvrdinić