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Karl Philipp Moritz

Karl Philipp Moritz: At the Fringe of Genius

Series: Heritage
Copyright Date: 1979
Pages: 308
  • Book Info
    Karl Philipp Moritz
    Book Description:

    This is the first complete biographical and critical study of Karl Philipp Moritz (1756-93), German novelist, teacher, journalist, and philogist.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-3228-8
    Subjects: History, Language & Literature

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Acknowledgements
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. List of Abbreviations
    (pp. ix-x)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. xi-2)

    Generally speaking, Karl Philipp Moritz is a rather disorganised writer. To deal with him at all is none too easy a task, since much of his work has not been reprinted, and the greater part of it has largely been ignored. In this book I have taken into consideration his whole life, with a detailed examination of most of his works, but particularly of those which seem to make the most coherent and lasting impression on the reader – his novels perhaps, his travelogues and his dissertation upon aesthetic problems,Über die bildende Nachahmung des Schönen. The book has been arranged...

  6. I The Novel of the Self
    (pp. 3-50)

    With Karl Philipp Moritz, everything comes back toAnton Reiser. If this was not entirely true for his contemporaries, it is indubitably true for us today, whether our interest in him is lay or scholarly, and whether it is directed more at his work or more at his life. This latter has a fascination quite its own, for if Rousseau has been plausibly if rather grandiloquently described as ‘a world-historical neurotic,’¹ then Moritz, who resembles him in a number of ways, is at least ‘national-historical’ in the same sense. The story of his early life is his one supreme, and...

  7. 2 Enlightened Man Emergent
    (pp. 51-81)

    When the principal of the Speich troupe of actors makes off with the funds, the last hopes of Anton Reiser are dashed and the autobiographical novel comes to an abrupt conclusion. This fall-away ending is aesthetically effective and appropriate, in the light of the author’s purposes. It was, however, only partly intentional, since it was meant to be merely the dénouement of one part of the work, not of the whole. At one time the author had in mind to continue his story further, but in fact never did so. It was left to Karl Friedrich Klischnig to carry it...

  8. 3 Poor Travelling Creature
    (pp. 82-115)

    In an age in which the bonds of social and moral tradition were rapidly weakening, as was certainly the case in the later eighteenth century, we can see in many philosophers and creative writers the frictions and instabilities generated by the conflict between a would-be autonomous subjectivity of the individual and his nostalgic conception of an objective, universal order. This antagonism emerges clearly in France by the 1750s, most conspicuously in the writings, but also in the life, of Rousseau; it shortly thereafter becomes intense in Germany, and its recognition must be regarded as an indispensable key to the entire...

  9. 4 The Smoke and the Light
    (pp. 116-150)

    ‘For only the individual is real, the composite exists for the most part in the imagination’ (IZ, 12). These are challenging words, suggesting, despite the terminological difficulties they entail, a philosophical position of a fairly radical nature. But we are entitled to inquire how far they represent a genuine insight, thought through and paid for by serious, well-qualified effort, and how far they are simply the hollow diction of a derivative rhetoric. Much more depends on this than the validity of a particular statement. What is hereby queried is the authenticity of Moritz as a thinker and writer, and this...

  10. 5 At the Fringe of Genius
    (pp. 151-183)

    It is commonly believed that German thought first arrived at the conception of the autonomous work of art in Kant'sCritique of Judgment, which appeared in 1790. In fact, however, it was Karl Philipp Moritz who first gave unequivocal expression to this idea, in hisÜber die bildende Nachahmung des Schönen(‘On the Creative Imitation of the Beautiful’), 1788.¹ This little publication may also be regarded as the only systematic statement made of what has been called Goethe’s ‘Roman aesthetic,’² but Goethe’s influence upon it, though decisive, does not deprive author of all claim to originality, and on balance Auerbach’s...

  11. 6 Subjunctives of Success
    (pp. 184-216)

    Moritz arrived in Weimar on 3 December 1788, with the post-chaise, in exceptionally cold, snowy weather. He was penniless and ill-clothed, with ‘nothing but a thin, worn overcoat, so it was a near miracle he hadn’t frozen to death in the open carriage.’¹ But he was still, remarkably enough, in reasonably good health. Quitting Rome on 20 October, he had naturally dallied on the way, visiting Florence, Mantua and Venice, and exhausting the limited travel funds he seems to have borrowed from friends.² He had given no notice of his impending arrival in Weimar, and Goethe happened to be away....

  12. 7 Departure Intestate
    (pp. 217-250)

    The Prussian Academy of Sciences had been founded at the instigation of Leibniz. Under Frederick the Great its affairs were conducted entirely in French, and at the King’s death in 1786 only five of the eighteen members were Germans.¹ In the next few years there began a process of gradual Germanization, in which the driving force was the Graf von Herzberg. Herzberg had been a Minister under the late monarch, and had submitted to his prejudices; now he was flexible enough to recognize that the Gallic bias could not continue, but his recourse was to staunch and often elderly members...

  13. Conclusion
    (pp. 251-252)

    As the permanence of Moritz's literary reputation rests essentially onAnton Reiser, which is the only one of his works – with the solitary exception, perhaps, of theReisen eines Deutschen in England– that is reprinted with any regularity today, so also that book probably contains the best analysis of his mind, the disturbances and excrescences of which are the real stuff of interest in his writings. Moritz stands revealed, certainly, as a second-rate intellect, but as an extremely intriguing and original one. The remorseless depiction of a paranoid illness which is found in his autobiography is hardly equalled in the...

  14. Notes
    (pp. 253-272)
  15. Select Bibliography
    (pp. 273-288)
  16. Chronology: Karl Philipp Moritz
    (pp. 289-290)
  17. Index
    (pp. 291-308)