Gerald C. Cupchik

Siegfried Schmidt: Founder and Facilitator



In August of 1985 I travelled to the International Colloquium of Empirical Aesthetics that took place at the University of California in Santa Cruz. There I met Dietrich Meutsch and Reinhold Viehoff who were graduate students working with Siegfried Schmidt. Theirs was a world about which I knew nothing; not the themes nor the players, or even the venue. This should not be surprising given that I trained first as a social psychologist in the area of emotion and then as a postdoctoral fellow in visual aesthetics at the University of Toronto with Daniel Berlyne (1972-74). A year later, in 1986, Didi and I were sitting on a very hot summer’s eve by a lake 200 km north of Toronto. Didi told me that there would be a conference on literary aesthetics in Siegen the next year. My response was »that’s nice but what will I do there.« So he sent along reprints and I began to familiarize myself with the NIKOL group. In the end, it all fell into place and the conference changed the direction of my research to include studies on the reception of literature, advertisements, and media.

When we think about our involvement in academic societies, we realize just how central they can be to our professional lives. The International Society for the Empirical Study of Literature, that Siegfried was pivotal in founding, has provided an intellectual home where people who come from very different disciplines work together to advance our understanding of reception processes. This energy sustains us in academic environments where reception studies are on the periphery of the mainstream and where colleagues may not be all that interested in or supportive of our work. I believe that it was Siegfried Schmidt’s sincerity and purpose as a scholar that laid the foundation for IGEL which has become a home to so many of us. For this alone we are indebted to him.

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