Andersheit um 1800: Figuren—Theorien—Darstellungsformen eds. by Elisabeth Johanna Koehn, Daniela Schmidt, Johannes-Georg Schülein, Johannes Weiβ, and Paula Wojcik (review)
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Reviewed by
Elisabeth Johanna Koehn, Daniela Schmidt, Johannes-Georg Schülein, Johannes Weiβ, and Paula Wojcik, eds., Andersheit um 1800: Figuren—Theorien—Darstellungsformen. Munich: Wilhelm Fink, 2011. 271 pp.

This installment of the Schriftenreihe Laboratorium Aufklärung contains fifteen contributions from faculty and doctoral students and comprises the selected proceedings of a conference hosted by the Doktorandenschule Laboratorium Aufklärung (DSLA) at the Friedrich-Schiller-Universität Jena in 2009. Interdisciplinary in scope, this collection brings into dialogue scholars and scholars-in-training from various fields of study, including Germanistik, philosophy, comparative literature, political science, and art history. The unifying theme binding these selections together is a reevaluation of commonly held assumptions, within and outside of academia, regarding the supposed dichotomy between literature and philosophy in terms of their respective conceptualizations of Andersheit. The editors of this volume challenge the notion that, in the decades before and after 1800, philosophy focused its attention almost entirely on das Allgemeine (i.e., German Idealism), whereas the contemporaneous l iterary production concentrated its attention on das Besondere (i.e., Frühromantik). The essays in this collection achieve their aim by successfully demonstrating that literature and philosophy “keine hermetischen gegeneinander abgeschotteten Sphären bilden” (17), as well as that the interaction and interconnection between the two fields was highly creative and productive.

After an introductory essay by the editors and initial remarks by Burkhard Liebsch entitled “Eine allzu vertraute Vergangenheit? Zur zwiespältigen Aktualität [End Page 296] des literarisch-philosophischen Milieus um 1800,” the treatment of Andersheit is thematically divided into three categories: Figuren, Theorien, and Darstellungsformen. For the sake of brevity, only one contribution from each category will be discussed here.

The first category, Figuren, interrogates specific representations of Andersheit and their interactions with and effect upon concepts such as individuality, normality, and normativity in fictional and nonfictional texts. Here, Jan Niklas Howe (“Folgerungen für die Missgeburten: Monstrositäten bei Johann Friedrich Meckel und Etienne Geoffroy St. Hilaire”) examines how the scientific terminology and methodology of newly established fields such as teratology affected the conceptualization of human anatomical alterity. Howe convincingly argues that, although these two renowned figures of early nineteenth-century science were deeply separated by perspective and scientific intent, Meckel’s and St. Hilaire’s writings were jointly successful in what Howe terms the “Universalisierung des Monströsen” (93). Their work and theory thereby established a new vocabulary of deformity and abnormality, which was soon to be found in popular language and literature throughout the nineteenth century.

The second category of essays in the collection, Theorien, concentrates on the construction of Andersheit in philosophical and aesthetic discourses around 1800. In her essay “‘Alterität’ in Theorie und literarischer Gestaltung: Fichte, Hegel, Schlegel, Hoffmann,” Bärbel Frischmann demonstrates how an awareness of and appreciation for alterity constitutes an inextricable element within Fichte’s and Hegel’s formulations of individuality and self-awareness. These considerations are followed by a description of alterity’s role in Friedrich Schlegel’s understanding of irony and its relationship to human identity. Frischmann deftly identifies specific manifestations of these three philosophers’ conceptualizations of alterity and the individual in E. T. A. Hoffmann’s work Prinzessin Brambilla. She thereby illuminates a compelling example of the interconnectedness between the philosophical thought and literary practice of the time.

Darstellungsformen, the third and final category, reflects the ways in which alterity can challenge the intelligibility and communicability of extant means of linguistic and visual representation. Silke Förschler, in her fascinating essay “Ikonografie der kleinen Unterschiede: Chardins malender Affe und Menschenaffen in naturhistorischen Illustrationen,” thematizes the ways in which the scientific and popular interest in newly identified ape species during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries led to the establishment of a visual discourse of primate representation. Förschler designates this process as a “Kontinuität von Vorstellungen” (260), signifying the daunting challenges and unimagined opportunities faced by Enlightenment conceptualizations of humanity. She persuasively argues that the ape’s peculiar and sometimes problematic position between humanity and the rest of bestial nature allowed scientists, artists, and writers to depict the human in the animal as well as the animal in the human.

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