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  • Querdenker der Aufklärung. Studien zu Johann Georg Hamann by Sven-Aage Jørgensen
  • Staffan Bengtsson
Querdenker der Aufklärung. Studien zu Johann Georg Hamann. Von Sven-Aage Jørgensen. Göttingen: Wallstein, 2013. 223 Seiten. €34,90.

This volume contains thirteen articles that have already been published (one as early as 1961, the rest from the 1980s and 2000s), but “an entlegener Stelle” (7) in places that may easily be overlooked. They concern Hamann’s relation to the “Aufklärung” and have been divided under three general headings: “I. Der Polyhistor,” “II. Der Hermeneutiker,” and “III. Der Metakritiker.” It is no doubt convenient to have them collected in this way, although this reader does not see the many evident reasons (“vielen einleuchtenden Gründe[],” 7) that held the author back from editing them, given that their re-publication in their original form, as the author himself states, has led both to repetitions and to working against obstacles that no longer exist (‘offene Türen einrennen,’ 7). Republishing articles in unchanged form appears justified based [End Page 648] either on an originality that the scholarly community had not properly recognized, but which a reprint will testify to, or on their significant impact (in spite of their inaccessibility) on research in exactly this form, which deserves to be made more accessible for citation or educational purpose. The author’s justification, which addresses unnecessary repetitions and the fact that the articles collected in this volume “Türen einrennt, die vor nicht allzu langer Zeit keineswegs offenstanden” (7) fits, because one of the doors that has been opened by later research, according to the author, is the image of Hamann as a “scharf denkenden Metakritikers” (7), instead of the “alte Bild des irrationalistischen und dunkel orakelnden Magus” (7) and the “hier ausgewählten Aufsätze […] haben zu dieser Änderung des Hamannbildes mit beigetragen” (7). It is clear they belong to a movement with this self-understanding, but less clear that they have actually contributed to such a change, given that they do not provide us with much direct evidence as to what this alleged change is actually based on and amounts to. The title of the book implies a certain tension between the Enlightenment and Hamann, but in the text Jørgensen treats it as a question long decided. Rather than providing a persuasive rationale for the claim of Hamann as a “scharf denkende[r] Metakritiker[]” in the Enlightenment tradition, which we are led to believe the articles will give ample evidence of (but which they do not actually deliver), the “charging of doors already open” illustrates the author’s style of writing, which does not provide careful argumentation and instead charges a point by forceful assertion.

The first article, “Zu Hamanns Stil,” sets out with a complaint about “die alten Verlegenheitsklischees” that Hamann was “unklar” and “die Vernunft entwertet” (17). We find more or less the same kind of complaint in all three parts, in all articles, but very little that actually shows how Hamann’s style, which is indisputably very taxing, can be made clear. As the author himself states in the article “Hamann, Bacon, and Tradition,” it was only a “thorough analysis of some of his major writings” that showed them to consist of “coherent and cogent arguments” (35). In order to show this to the reader, the author must either make Hamann’s work more transparent by reconstructing tacit arguments and hidden meanings in a clearer language, or he has to embed authentic quotations in new and well-defined contexts. Jørgensen does neither. He leaves everything to the reader as it is. His own articles are in German, English, and French (the latter is a translation) and he leaves untranslated quotes in Greek and Latin. The text is a mosaic of quotes that are used to differentiate Hamann’s position from that of an ‘opponent,’ but since the author does not acquaint the reader with the specific context of these quotes, our idea of how these different positions relate to each other remains necessarily vague. The most common opponent he wants to separate Hamann from is “Sturm und Drang” in general, and Herder in particular. We...


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