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Spring 2024


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Janina Wellmann’s Form of Becoming reviewed in The British Society for Literature and Science

Writing in The British Society for Literature and Science, Irmtraud Huber offers a detailed, thoughtful analysis of Janina Wellmann’s The Form of Becoming. Click here to read the full review. Click here to learn more about the book. An excerpt appears below:

“Historian of science Janina Wellmann had already demonstrated the rich potential of thinking about rhythm in terms of an episteme that structures knowledge across different disciplines, and also provides a history for this kind of thinking. The Form of Becoming presents an admirable and highly ambitious tour-de-force through philosophy, literature, music theory, instructional iconography and, of course, early embryology….

“Wellmann’s main interest and most ambitious claims concern the importance of what she calls the rhythmic episteme for early epigenetic embryology, but she embeds this argument in a much wider cultural context. The first of three sections explores the importance of rhythm in the work of German theories of literature, art and music in the period between 1760-1830….. In the three chapters of the second section of her book, Wellmann focuses more closely on biological rhythm. She argues first for the centrality of rhythm to Caspar Friedrich Wolff’s theory of epigenesis…. After this tour-de-force through diverse areas of thought, Wellmann finally comes to the concerns which are clearly of most interest to her. If the first two sections of the book focus mainly on discourses about rhythm, on the way and the contexts in which rhythm was discussed around 1800, the third section on serial iconography makes a much more ambitious claim about rhythm as an underlying structure of thought and representation….

The Form of Becoming offers inspiring and thought-provoking reading throughout, and Kate Sturge’s translation admirably retains the verbal elegance of Wellmann’s argumentation.”