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The Topography of Modernity

Karl Philipp Moritz and the Space of Autonomy

by Elliott Schreiber

Publication Year: 2012

Karl Philipp Moritz (d. 1793) was one of the most innovative writers of the late Enlightenment in Germany. A novelist, travel writer, editor, and teacher he is probably best known today for his autobiographical novel Anton Reiser (1785-90) and for his treatises on aesthetics, foremost among them Über die bildende Nachahmung des Schönen (On the Formative Imitation of the Beautiful), published in 1788. In this treatise, Moritz develops the concept of aesthetic autonomy, which became widely known after Goethe included a lengthy excerpt of it in his own Italian Journey (1816-17). It was one of the foundational texts of Weimar classicism, and it became pivotal for the development of early Romanticism.

In The Topography of Modernity, Elliott Schreiber gives Moritz the credit he deserves as an important thinker beyond his contributions to aesthetic theory. Indeed, he sees Moritz as an incisive early observer and theorist of modernity. Considering a wide range of Moritz's work including his novels, his writings on mythology, prosody, and pedagogy, and his political philosophy and psychology, Schreiber shows how Moritz's thinking developed in response to the intellectual climate of the Enlightenment and paved the way for later social theorists to conceive of modern society as differentiated into multiple, competing value spheres.

Published by: Cornell University Press


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p. 1-1

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. 2-7


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pp. vii-viii

List of Illustrations

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pp. ix-x

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pp. xi-xii

This is a book about institutions, and I am appreciative of the support of two in particular that have helped make it possible. The Department of Germanic Studies at Indiana University, Bloomington, provided substantial financial support for my research. ...

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Introduction: Shifting Perspectives

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pp. 1-12

In 1785, the journal Berlinische Monatschrift published a short essay that revolutionized aesthetic theory. The work of art, it contends, comprises a whole that is absolutely complete in itself. That is to say, in contrast to the mechanical arts, works of fine art serve no external purpose; rather, each is guided solely by an inner purposiveness. ...

Part I: The Spaces of Art and Myth

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1. Toward an Aesthetics of the Sublime Augenblick: Moritz Reading Die Leiden des jungen Werthers

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pp. 15-35

One of the hallmarks of modernity is its restless and relentless pace of change, whose origins social historians have traced to the second half of the eighteenth century.1 Already before the seismic shifts of the French Revolution, there emerged in Germany a conception of Neuzeit, a time that was felt to be always radically new.2 ...

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2. Beyond an Aesthetics of Containment: Trajectories of the Imagination in Moritz and Goethe

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pp. 36-60

Together with the sense of a new, accelerated time, the reading revolution in the eighteenth century also provoked a widespread fear among producers and consumers of texts: the fear that reading, and in particular the consumption of sentimental novels, overstimulate the imagination. Such inner turmoil, it was felt, rocked the foundations of individual well-being, ...

Part II: The Spaces of Cognition and Education

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3. Laying the Foundation for Independent Thought: Enlightenment Epistemology and Pedagogy

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pp. 63-80

In 1778, when Moritz completed his studies at the University of Wittenberg, a pedagogical reform movement was sweeping through Germany. Founded by Johann Bernhard Basedow and drawing on a long line of Enlightenment thought, the Philanthropist movement promoted a method of education that fostered the natural order of children’s cognitive development. ...

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4. Thinking inside the Box: Moritz contra Philanthropism

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pp. 81-102

In 1785, toward the end of his career as a schoolteacher and the year before his departure for Italy, Moritz published a two-tiered critique of Philanthropism.1 To begin with, his novel Andreas Hartknopf: Eine Allegorie extends the line of antiauthoritarian critique examined in chapter 3, applying it to the Philanthropist movement as a whole. ...

Part III: The Spaces of the Political and the Individual

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5. Raising (and Razing) the Common House: Moritz and the Ideology of Commonality

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pp. 105-130

In addition to an epistemological and pedagogical critique, the Kinderlogik also mounts a keen political critique. In his discussion of the fifth and sixth copperplates, Moritz returns to the figure of the house but employs it in a new manner, as a metaphor for the state. He uses it to distinguish between two opposing forms of government: ...

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6. Pressing Matters: Moritz’s Models of the Self in the Magazin zur Erfahrungsseelenkunde

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pp. 131-153

Although it seems counterintuitive, social historians have argued that the bourgeois public sphere in the eighteenth century arises out of the private domain. According to Jürgen Habermas’s genealogy in The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere, the public sphere in its first, apolitical form is born in the world of letters ...

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Conclusion: Moritz’s Inner-Worldly Critique of Modernity

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pp. 154-160

The topographical projects of the Enlightenment tend to totalize. This tendency characterizes, for instance, the work of one the most renowned German geographers of the second half of the eighteenth century, Anton Friedrich Büsching, the director of the Gymnasium zum Grauen Kloster in Berlin where Moritz was a teacher until 1786. ...


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pp. 161-170


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pp. 171-180

E-ISBN-13: 9780801466014
E-ISBN-10: 0801466016
Print-ISBN-13: 9780801478086
Print-ISBN-10: 0801478081

Page Count: 160
Publication Year: 2012

Edition: 1