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Herder Jahrbuch VIII/2006 (review)

From: Goethe Yearbook
Volume 19, 2012
pp. 287-289 | 10.1353/gyr.2012.0007

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This is a fine collection of articles by scholars from three countries. All of the contributions, whether in German or English, are well researched and expand our knowledge of Herder and the eighteenth century. Günter Arnold (Weimar) and Rüdiger Singer (Göttingen) consider Herder’s appropriation and reinterpretation of the ancients. Arnold reviews Herder’s excerpt on Lucretius in the Ideen zur Philosophie der Geschichte der Menschheit, while Singer explores the impact of Philoctetes’s wailing in Sophocles’s tragedy on Herder’s cathartic poetics of unarticulated sounds as found in several of his writings, such as Kritisches Wäldchen and the Abhandlung Über den Ursprung der Sprache. Singer makes clear the differences between Herder and Lessing on the nature and function of catharsis and advances the original idea that Herder’s indictment of the “höhnischen Geistergeheul” of the figure of Lenore in Gottfried August Bürger’s poem by the same title actually constitutes a call for “Mit-Menschlichkeit” (80). Rainer Schmusch (Saarbrücken) examines, for the first time, the reception of Herder in the history of German musicology, while Sonia Sikka (Ottawa) carefully considers Herder’s anti-racism without glossing over the young writer’s evaluative judgments about individual peoples. In effect, Sikka shows why it is that Herder avoided the words “blood” and “race.”

In addition to the coverage of Herder, there are two articles on the work of his contemporaries. Edward T. Larkin (Durham) defines what he calls the Platonic borders in the writings of Friedrich Heinrich Jacobi, and F. Corey Roberts (DeKalb) reassesses J. G. Hamann’s historical language and the subjective communication of truth. Karin Tebben (Heidelberg) establishes parallels between Herder’s historical-philosophical understanding and the autobiographical practice of writing in the work of Peter Härtling. We will focus primarily on three additional articles and the review essay that concludes the volume.

Ernst A. Menze (Rhinebeck) expands our knowledge of the reception of Herder’s ideas on religion and theology on the American transcendentalists. Two of Herder’s writings became wellsprings of creation that advanced the cause of transcendentalists like Octavius Brooks Frothingham, George Bancroft, George Ripley, Theodore Parker, and Elizabeth Palmer Peabody: Vom Geist der ebräischen Poesie and the Briefe, das Studium der Theologie betreffend. O. B. Frothingham considered Herder to be a companion in the search for those “springs of inspiration in the human mind, whence all poetry proceeded” (28). George Bancroft wrote in the twentieth volume of The North American Review that Herder’s Briefe, das Studium der Theologie betreffend “are full of instruction and good sentiments,” while, he adds, Herder’s essay on the spirit of Hebrew poetry “is full of original, profound, and interesting criticism . . . illustrating the rich imagery, the brilliant and sublime thoughts and language of the ancient prophets” (31). George Ripley praised Herder as “‘the grand High Priest of Humanity’ and the ‘unwearied seeker of spiritual Truth and Beauty’” (32). With respect to women’s contributions to the transcendentalist movement, three of the six parts of Elizabeth Palmer Peabody’s essay on The Spirit of Hebrew Poetry were published in The Christian Examiner, in 1834, albeit eight years after she had composed them. We look forward to Menze’s future treatment of Herder’s reception in the work of Margaret Fuller’s “favorite,” Theodore Parker.

Katherine Arens begins her excellent contribution, “Herder’s Journey to Hermeneutic Conversion,” by recounting Herder’s Auseinandersetzung with Friedrich Just Riedel’s aesthetics in the Fourth Kritisches Wäldchen and following the argument into the Journal auf das Jahr 1769. She suggests that Herder respected readers as potential agents of knowledge whose readings are “performable” (44). Herder’s employment of the metaphor of the ship is understood not simply as a sign for his journey but as his self-authorization as a reader (51) and, we could add, the writer’s self-legitimation. Arens presents Herder in “a new role as an intellectual, a new servant of and leader for the state,” dedicating himself to “the practical projects of state-building through pedagogy” (57). Whether or not Herder was the first to account for the historical data within the knowing subject and his or her purposes...



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