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Religion, Reason, and Culture in the Age of Goethe

Religion, Reason, and Culture in the Age of Goethe

Elisabeth Krimmer
Patricia Anne Simpson
Copyright Date: 2013
Published by: Boydell and Brewer,
Pages: 288
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  • Book Info
    Religion, Reason, and Culture in the Age of Goethe
    Book Description:

    The eighteenth century is usually considered to be a time of increasing secularization in which the primacy of theology was replaced by the authority of reason, yet this lofty intellectual endeavor played itself out in a social and political reality that was heavily impacted by religious customs and institutions. This duality is visible in the literature and culture of late eighteenth- and early nineteenth-century Germany. On the one hand, authors such as Goethe, Schiller, and Kleist are known for their distance from traditional Christianity. On the other hand, many canonical texts from the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries -- from Goethe's 'Faust' to Schiller's 'Die Jungfrau von Orleans' to Kleist's 'Michael Kohlhaas' -- are not only filled with references to the Bible, but invoke religious frameworks. 'Religion, Reason, and Culture in the Age of Goethe' investigates how culture in the Age of Goethe shaped and was shaped by a sustained and multifaceted debate about the place of religion and religious difference in politics, philosophy, and culture, enriching our understanding of the relationship between religion and culture during this foundational period in German history. Contributors: Frederick Amrine, Claire Baldwin, Lisa Beesley, Jane K. Brown, Jeffrey L. High, Elisabeth Krimmer, Helmut J. Schneider, Patricia Anne Simpson, John H. Smith, Tom Spencer. Elisabeth Krimmer is professor of German at the University of California, Davis. Patricia Anne Simpson is professor of German at Montana State University.

    eISBN: 978-1-57113-879-8
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. vii-viii)
    E. K. and P. A. S.
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 1-18)
    Elisabeth Krimmer and Patricia Anne Simpson

    Shortly after the attacks on the Twin Towers on 11 September 2001, Jürgen Habermas was awarded the Peace Prize of the German Booksellers. In his acceptance speech, he chose to address the role of religion in secular society. Unlike many others, Habermas does not simply cast the tenets of the Enlightenment, the Age of Reason, as antidotes to religiously motivated violence.¹ Rather, Habermas declared that the process of secularization remained incomplete, and he characterized contemporary Western society as postsecular. In his conversation with Pope Benedict XVI, Habermas further explored this topic. He is curious about the prepolitical sources that feed...

  5. I: Wieland and Herder

    • 1: “Über Glaubenssachen filosofieren”: Wieland on Reason and Religion
      (pp. 21-55)
      Claire Baldwin

      Throughout his long and productive career as a publicist, novelist, essayist, philosopher, and educator, Christoph Martin Wieland grappled with the meaning of religion for individuals and human societies.¹ Wieland’s work is of particular interest to the study of religion and secularization in German Classicism because he demonstrates how secular interests can shape serious intellectual engagement with religious concerns. Wieland’s approach to religious questions is multivalent, but it is decidedly this-worldly rather than theological. Wieland’s writings on religion are distinguished by his rationalist critique, his political and social pragmatism, and his anthropological focus on how religious experience provides insight into human...

    • 2: Personal Impersonalism in Herder’s Conception of the Afterlife
      (pp. 56-76)
      Tom Spencer

      The Enlightenment took enormous interest in a wide variety of religious topics: the existence of God, the problem of evil, the meaning of revelation, ecclesiastical authority, the status of scripture, religious tolerance, and immortality. This last issue is particularly important as one of the essential components, along with the existence of a moral God, of a “natural” theology that could be fully derived or endorsed by reason. Furthermore, reflection on immortality plays directly into the urgent discussions in the eighteenth century about autonomy, freedom, and progress; the way one envisions a hereafter profoundly reflects and legitimates the way one envisions...

  6. II: Schiller and Goethe

    • 3: Clever Priests and the Missions of Moses and Schiller: From Monotheism to the Aesthetic Civilization of the Individual
      (pp. 79-98)
      Jeffrey L. High

      By 1788, Friedrich Schiller (1759–1805) could look back on nearly a decade of blasphemous production regarding prophets, priests, and organized religion.¹ In 1789, after several years of assaulting the negative social and political functions of Jesus Christ and Christianity, Schiller, then a professor of history, turned his attention to the Hebrew prophet Moses in the lecture “Die Sendung Moses” (The Mission of Moses or The Legation of Moses),² delivered at the University of Jena in the summer of 1789 and published in Schiller’s journal Thalia in 1790.³ In light of recent charges of blasphemy (and—in an insightless or...

    • 4: “Then Say What Your Religion Is”: Goethe, Religion, and Faust
      (pp. 99-119)
      Elisabeth Krimmer

      When it comes to religion, Goethe’s reputation is anything but spotless. Heinrich Heine famously referred to Goethe as “der große Heide” (the great heathen).¹ August Wilhelm Schlegel took this one step further when he called Goethe “einen zum Islam bekehrten Heiden” (a heathen who converted to Islam).² Wolfgang Frühwald points out that in an altar painting by Konrad Eberhard for the St. Clara Hospital in Basel, Goethe is grouped with the heathens who cannot be converted by St. Paul.³ Similarly, Prince Metternich opposed the creation of a Goethe monument because of Goethe’s spotty record on religion, declaring that we should...

    • 5: Classicism and Secular Humanism: The Sanctification of Die Zauberflöte in Goethe’s “Novelle”
      (pp. 120-138)
      Jane K. Brown

      “Classicism” and “secular humanism ” seems an obvious combination: Goethe, the great pagan, substituted a generalized ethic of humanity (taken in its broadest possible religio-ethical and aesthetic sense) as the social glue that replaced the function of sectarian religion in post-Enlightenment secularized Europe. He offered a heightened version of Enlightenment culture and reason that obviated the need for religion. Through World War I his name alone evoked an entire system of ethics, aesthetics, and even epistemology among writers as disparate as Adalbert Stifter, Wilhelm Raabe, Theodor Fontane, Hugo von Hofmannsthal; and scholars such as the psychoanalytic generation, Hannah Arendt, Norbert...

  7. III: Kleist and Hölderlin

    • 6: Saint Mary’s Two Bodies: Religion and Enlightenment in Kleist
      (pp. 141-165)
      Helmut J. Schneider

      The influence of religious traditions on German thought of the Classical period cannot be appreciated enough. Beginning in the early Enlightenment and spanning literary movements from Sentimentality and Storm and Stress through Weimar Classicism and Romanticism, German literature grappled with this powerful, largely Lutheran and Pietist legacy, which it transposed into its own secular worldview. Literary fiction, aesthetic experience itself, had become the central medium of secularization. This is also reflected in the biographies of many writers of the time; we are reminded of the notoriously high number of pastor’s sons—most prominently perhaps Lessing—many of whom broke away...

    • 7: Catholic Conversion and the End of Enlightenment in Religious and Literary Discourses
      (pp. 166-186)
      Lisa Beesley

      Stories of conversions from Protestantism to Catholicism received a great deal of attention in Germany during the first decade of the nineteenth century. Johann Heinrich Voß’s pamphlet Wie ward Fritz Stolberg ein Unfreier? (How Did Fritz Stolberg Become Unliberated?, 1819) analyzes his friend Friedrich Leopold Stolberg’s conversion to Catholicism and mourns the loss of their friendship. Stolberg’s conversion, from his assault on Schiller’s “Die Götter Griechenlandes” (The Gods of Greece, 1788) to his marriage to a Catholic woman in 1790, occurred during a public struggle over the ethics of conversion. Enlightenment thinkers such as Voß, Klopstock, and Goethe saw membership...

    • 8: Sacred Maternity and Secular Sons: Hölderlin’s Madonna as Muse
      (pp. 187-206)
      Patricia Anne Simpson

      The Age of Goethe hosts a sustained and multifaceted debate about the place of religion and religious difference in late eighteenth-century politics, philosophy, and culture. Judaism, Christianity, Islam, and their respective institutions center the debate at a time when Goethe, Schiller, and the proponents of both Weimar Classicism and writing German into a Weltliteratur (world literature) encroach on religious territories with a commitment to a more culturally encompassing concept of the sacred and the divine, one that included but was not limited to elements of pantheism, polytheism, and mythology. Yet in dominant cultural discourse and practice, a belief in the...

  8. IV: Leibniz, Spinoza, and Their Legacy

    • 9: Leibniz Reception around 1800: Monadic Vitalism and Aesthetic Harmony
      (pp. 209-243)
      John H. Smith

      In chapter 10 of The Romantic Imperative, “Religion and Politics in Frühromantik,” Frederick Beiser argues for the significance of Herder in the crucial process of reinterpreting Spinoza at the end of the eighteenth century in Germany. Specifically, Herder’s 1787 Gott: Einige Gespräche (God: Some Dialogues) introduced a “vitalistic” reading of Spinoza and “self-consciously fuse[d] him with his great metaphysical contemporary: Leibniz.”¹ However, besides another brief mention of Herder’s belief in “combining Spinoza’s monism and naturalism with Leibniz’s vitalism” (182), Leibniz falls out of Beiser’s story. In Beiser’s earlier Fate of Reason Leibniz suffers the same fate, disappearing in the excellent...

    • 10: “The Magic Formula We All Seek”: Spinoza + Fichte = x
      (pp. 244-266)
      Frederick Amrine

      All eyes, it would seem, are on Spinoza at the moment. Much of the credit for this remarkable renaissance is due to Gilles Deleuze, who wrote two books on Spinoza, and then went even further in his best-selling manifesto What Is Philosophy?, anointing Spinoza both the “prince” and the “Christ” of philosophy.¹ And Deleuze is hardly alone in his attentions. Spinoza now looms large in our understanding of the entire Age of Goethe.² The controversy over Spinoza still figures as a minor flap in Lewis White Beck’s classic history, Early German Philosophy;³ but it has become the defining intellectual controversy...

  9. Notes on the Contributors
    (pp. 267-270)
  10. Index
    (pp. 271-280)
  11. Back Matter
    (pp. 281-281)