The project’s focus lied on the functions of self-reflexive metaphors in literary and philosophical texts. The project has traced ways in which metaphors of economy and householding travelled via stoicism, neoplatonism and late antique Christianity into the early modern period and explored their functions in Renaissance literary texts.


Starting from the observation that ancient thinkers often have recourse to the paradigm of an economy of the soul as one of the most potent spatial metaphors that serve to describe basic mental processes, attention is directed towards this type of reference to ideas of spatial ordering, administration, governance-, wealth- and profit-oriented interaction, negotiation, commerce, and traffic in values. These modes of casting psychic dynamics in terms of household management in ancient as well as 16th- and 17th-century authors are understood as attempts to conceptualise the soul and the self that shed a new light on early modern literature.


It appears that Renaissance authors such as Shakespeare, Spenser or George Herbert were keenly aware of ancient knowledge regarding the space of the soul and the cognitive as well as affective potential of economic metaphors for describing and structuring processes of self-reflexion, self-control, and self-governance or for charting epistemological regions of uncertain dimensions. These metaphors fulfill essential intellectual as well as imaginative functions. Transformed by and in their respective literary and poetical contexts, they appear particularly useful in helping to direct and manage the faculties of the mind under challenging conditions or when faced with the need to make far-reaching decisions.

In connection with the questions posed in collaborating with the Topoi research groups (B-3) Oikonomia and (D-4) Immaterial Causes and Physical Space and partly as the outcome of several workshops and conferences, this research perspective informs several publications. Among them are print as well as open access publications.

Related Publications (Selection)

Verena Olejniczak Lobsien, “In Other Words: George Herbert’s Metaphorical Textures”, in: Fabian Horn and Cilliers Breytenbach (Eds.), Spatial Metaphors. Ancient Texts and Transformations, Berlin: Edition Topoi, 2016, 221–242

Verena Olejniczak Lobsien, “Topopoetik der Herrschaft: Allegorische Ökonomien bei Spenser und Shakespeare”, in: Ulla Haselstein (Ed.), Allegorie. DFG-Symposion 2014, Berlin, Boston: De Gruyter, 2016, 382–413

Verena Olejniczak Lobsien, “The Household of Heroism: Metaphor, Economy, and Coriolanus”, in: Shakespeare Survey, 69 (2016), 216–227

Verena Olejniczak Lobsien, Shakespeares Exzess. Sympathie und Ökonomie, Berlin und Wiesbaden: Berlin University Press, 2015

Verena Olejniczak Lobsien, “Topik und Tropik der Imagination: Revisionen frühneuzeitlicher Seelenlehre in Spensers Cantos of Mutabilitie”, in: Andreas Höfele, Jan-Dirk Müller and Wulf Oesterreicher (Eds.), Frühe Neuzeit. Revisionen einer Epoche, Berlin, Boston: De Gruyter, 2013, 255–282