Sensing Sound in Literature-Talents

Encountering the auditory and shared experience of literature


Mission Statement

The goal of the Sensing Sound in Literature-Talents faculty project, based in the English Literatures and Cultures Department, is to challenge students with an auditory, intermedial engagement of poetic texts from Northern Ireland and Ireland through a radio broadcasting collaboration with HORADS 88,6, the hosting of a traveling Poetry Jukebox, and a performance of poetry on stage at Rosenau. We will approach the sense of sound as a unifying and democratizing force to mark the 25th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement as an expansion of our 2022/23 School for Talents faculty project on the tactility of Irish literary texts.

Our target audience is composed both of Anglistik students enrolled in seminars on ‘Ecologies of Sound: Poetry & Radio’ and ‘Performance Poetry’ (as mentors) and of year 9 Hölderlin-Gymnasium Stuttgart pupils (as mentees) led by their teacher Rebecca Mahle.

Jessica Bundschuh teaching the pupils of 9b at the Hölderlin-Gymnasium Stuttgart
Enrolling in the Winter Semester 2023-24 HS: Ecologies of Sound: Poetry & Radio, will enrich you in the following ways:
  • participation in a two-day workshop on auditory encounters and mutuality
  • experience the power of literary texts that heighten the senses
  • collaboration with the poet Scott McKendry, the novelist Helen Cullen, and the Irish literature scholar Alex Alonso on the impact of radio on Irish poetry
  • discover on-site methods for engaging with literary texts through sound in a collaboration with HORADS 88,6 and a translation of texts on a Poetry Jukebox from Belfast
  • deepen interpersonal skills through the mentoring program
  • gain ECTS credits.
A Texual Analysis course on Performance Poetry in Summer Semester 2024 will be available to second-semester students who would like to participate in the second half of the project.

Educational aspect/ skills they will learn:

  • Engaging with literature/ poetry in a new way
  • Certificate of participation
  • Expressing themselves creatively
  • Getting an idea of university and student life
  • Getting into contact with university students through the mentoring program


08 - 09 December 2023 Making a Radio Program (with Scott McKendry, Alex Alonso, Helen Cullen, and Lion Oeding of HORADS)
28-29 June 2024 2024 Performance Poetry (with poets Victoria Kennefick, Luke Morgan, and performance specialist Isabel Schmier, in coordination with a poetry reading at Rosenau)


Mission statement

During this one-year project  extending from winter semester 2022-23 to the summer semester 2023  we explored the sensory perception of touch through a series of creative, hands-on, ecological workshops and interactions to establish connections across border politics, social isolation, and the climate crisis. 
Our target audience was composed of both University of Stuttgart Anglistik students enrolled in a Summer Semester 2023 Hauptseminar on Tactile Irish Literature (as mentors) and year 10 pupils at the bilingual Gynmasium in Stuttgart-West, Königin-Olga-Gymnasium (as mentees).

‘Navigating Change: New Solutions’

As an outreach event inspired by our Sensing Literature-Talents Faculty Project, we participated in the kick-off event for the new group of participating students in the School for Talents ‘Navigating Change: New Solutions’ 2023 program. For a group of students from a variety of faculties – from engineering, to the humanities and the sciences – we listened to the ode from John Keats, “To Autumn,” with a focus on how Keats activates the senses and conjures up an ecosystem within the poetic frame.  

Then, the students broke into interdisciplinary groups and built their own micro-ecosystems out of plants and materials that the School for Talents team had procured for this very workshop! Above all, they got their hands in the soil and engaged with the materials on a tactile level. The resulting spaces were functional and they responded to a specific ecological crisis, while activating as many senses as possible. Ultimately, each group wrote a poetic text to encourage visitors to dwell in what they had created: a three-dimensional poem. Like Keats, they chose a season and a name for their ecosystem. And many incorporated snippets of Keats’s language in their tactile system of change!

Gallery of Micro-Ecosystems

FOLDING & ARCHIVING GEOGRAPHIES: A Poetic Conversation Between Belfast & Stuttgart

In early July 2023, the contributions of over 50 students, instructors, and poets (Padraig Regan, Manuela Moser, and Stephen Connolly) collided with the insights and expertise gained from two semesters dedicated to examinations of poetry and literature of touch to culminate in a two-day workshop devoted to a poetic exploration and archiving of a public space: the Travertinpark in Stuttgart-Bad Cannstatt. The workshop’s goal was to become keenly receptive to the sense of touch, a sense often drowned out by the sensory impressions of our more prevalent interfaces with the world, like seeing or hearing. Documented below are the efforts of each of the six teams in unearthing and archiving a select period of the park’s long and varied history as a space or place, making its skin palpable even from a distance and reaching beneath it to reveal where past and present still abut today. This project collaborated directly with the Makerspace [] under the direction of Sannah König.

The Travertinpark’s eponymous sediments predate humans and, therefore, history by myriads of years. Yet, even in the absence of culture, nature has found its own ways of becoming the historian, preserving tales and remains of prehistoric flora and fauna until human accounts incorporated these archival shards into their own timeline. These shards prove the flourishing and recurring relevance of this location long before parks, forts, or quarries began to lean on the space of today’s park and invite stories and thought experiments not just about the absence of human intervention, but about a space assembling, breathing, and breaking – creating an ecological “I” where more conventional storytellers are absent – according to its own rules that are seemingly more endurant and resilient than the many stories we have later layered on top.

The spaces of and adjacent to the Travertinpark have first undergone human re-sculpturing in antiquity as part of the outermost reaches of the Roman empire, establishing both military and – outlasting the former by centuries – civilian settlements. While many walks of life, including our prehistoric ancestors, had already utilized these grounds, antiquity marks a human arrival that not only fundamentally reshaped the appearance of this space beyond what nature had previously drawn up, but also sees a collective ‘claiming’ this space as their own, both attempting to exert control over it and establishing an irreversible link of reciprocal belonging and importance that formally demarcates the prehistoric shaping of this space from a fickle and rapidly evolving human history that has been unfolding and can be retraced since.

While human development – and thereby, history – has continually sped up correlative to our technological expertise, it was not until, considering the timescale of this park’s history, yesterday that this technological, auditory, social, and historic silence has been broken. In the 19th century, the here examined space has given way to train tracks, manufactories, and production plants that, while only very few remain, have left their scars in the now renaturalized skin of the park. That is, sudden changes in vegetation or unnatural and brittle rock ledges make unseen stories of exploitation – both human and nature – visible and invite an exploration of a modernity gone by, of a stepping stone in our past that has fallen into disrepair. This ‘chapter,’ maybe more so than others, challenges the link between remembrance and reparation and makes for an excellent window into the many parallel pasts of the park.

If Roman fortifications have left imprints in the skin of the Travertinpark and Württembergian train tracks added scars and bruises, the gaping wounds arrived alongside the quarries of the 20th century intent on harvesting and commercializing the unusual and resilient rock – travertine – that had been a dormant fundament for half a million years. While this epoch certainly marks an escalation in the re-sculpturing of the park’s space, it also sees its history take on a global scale: The rock is exported and incorporated into buildings across Germany, but in select cases even made it as far as the Netherlands or Argentina, carrying its historical imprints across many borders and linking distant spaces to a very local history. Thus, both the still visible absence of travertine as well its displaced present otherwhere become contact points for stories inexorably linked to the rich past and present of the Travertinpark.

Alongside the many layers and indices of the park’s past, a rather paradoxical sight can be encountered not far from it: Surrounded on most sides by the steel coffin of a power plant serving a sizeable portion of Stuttgart, a road rushes past an array of 14 travertine pillars, each of them 15 meters in height and 90 tons in weight. Nazi architects had intended for this neoclassical piece of architecture to be moved to Berlin and become part of a monument dedicated to Mussolini – only for the pillars never to be picked up and the monument never to be built. Instead, they now serve as manifold reminders of our pasts: The hay day of the travertine quarries, the megalomaniacal nazi rule, and the plentitude of changes this area has undergone since as it sought to keep up with a present marching on. The pillars, at the center of this, serve as the most visible time capsule in the vicinity and, in dwarfing us, but being dwarfed by their surroundings, provide us with a scale for both time and space.

In the face of all of its past industrial and military use, it may not naturally follow that the Travertinpark now has become what it is – a park, renaturalized alongside the gentrification of the adjacent district throughout the last decade. Yet, in an effort to preserve both nature and history, the park, interspersed with info stelae and remnants of industrial machinery, has become a walk-in memorial of its various past purposes and an approximation of nature, of what might have been, had the humans not been. Even now, the space keeps evolving as structures fall into disrepair and the overgrowth reclaims paths, as info posts are vandalized and empty bottles lie around. While the present will probably always sustain the impression to be situated at the ‘end of history,’ this park, more than most urban spaces, highlights that, if there even may be an end, we have most probably not reached it yet.

Dieses Bild zeigt Jessica Bundschuh

Jessica Bundschuh


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