Culture and Identity: Historicity in German Literature and by Maike Oergel

By Maike Oergel

This interdisciplinary research examines the impression of the rising expertise of historicity at the innovations of modernity, identification, and tradition as they built in German notion round 1800. It exhibits how this understanding decided the German thought of the concern of cultural id. Key texts from "Sturm und Drang", "Weimar Classicism", "German Romanticism" and "German Idealism", together with Goethe's "Faust I" and "Wilhelm Meisters Lehrjahre", are contextualised with regards to post-Enlightenment debates on historicity and modernity. The research lines the amendment of the Enlightenment strategies of perfectibility and common beliefs to deal with the recent thought of temporal particularity and impermanence. this can be completed by way of embedding those as soon as static strategies in a ancient method that's powered by way of a self-prompting inner dialectic. via man made absorption in the ancient succession, the dialectical strategy allows the continuity of values, whereas leaving room for discontinuity and distinction via hoping on oppositional successions. The research finds shut connections among the highbrow matters, the literary objectives, and the endeavours to build a latest German id in this interval, which means a miles larger highbrow coherence of the Goethezeit concerning highbrow demanding situations and goals than has been formerly assumed.

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This preserves the equality between the two, but also offers the opportunity to establish aim and purpose for (modern) history and gives the relational progression of history an engine. 30 31 Cf. A. Hewitt, “(Re)zoning the Naïve”, (2003). Not least because of their pre-Hegelian date, Schiller’s dialectics have been considered in need of qualification. The commentary on Naïve und Sentimentalische Dichtung in the Nationalausgabe speaks of a “besondere Art” (quoted by Peter Szondi, “Das Naïve ist das Sentimentalische”, 201); more recently Bernhard Fischer called it a “Vorform” in his article “Goethes Klassizismus und Schillers Poetologie der Moderne: Über Naïve und Sentimentalische Dichtung” Zeitschrift für deutsche Philologie 113 (1994), 225–245, 226.

Wie die Gottheit hinter dem Weltgebäude, so steht er hinter seinem Werk; Er ist das Werk, und das Werk ist Er. […] So zeigt sich z. B. Homer unter den Alten und Shakespeare unter den Neuern; zwey höchst verschiedene, durch den unermeßlichen Abstand der Zeitalter getrennte Naturen, aber gerade in diesem Charakterzuge völlig eins. (NSD, 433)28 As for Herder, Shakespeare represents also for Schiller an ideal of representative cultural achievement that is on a par with ancient cultural achievements, although the cultures these poets represent are profoundly different.

Herder’s interpretation of cultural history establishes three key notions that lay the basis for the discussions of antiquity and modernity to come: difference, yet analogy between the two, as well as relational historical progression from one to the other. Sophocles and Shakespeare represent the same stages in their respective cultures, but the modern poet succeeds the ancient one, Shakespeare has to deal with a “more” of history. In Herder’s insistence on structural ideals the difference between his historicism and that of the early Enlightenment becomes visible: while the latter acknowledged the influence of different cultural and historical situations on culture and understanding, it tended to view the past as closed, in line with its notion of ever-advancing progress, in which a mechanistic and quantitative passing on of knowledge occurred.

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