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Schiller's "On Grace and Dignity" in Its Cultural Context

Schiller's "On Grace and Dignity" in Its Cultural Context: Essays and a New Translation

Jane V. Curran
Christophe Fricker
Copyright Date: 2005
Published by: Boydell and Brewer,
Pages: 240
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  • Book Info
    Schiller's "On Grace and Dignity" in Its Cultural Context
    Book Description:

    Friedrich Schiller is not only one of the leading poets and dramatists of German Classicism but also an inspiring philosopher. His essay "Über Anmut und Würde" (On Grace and Dignity) marks a radical break with Enlightenment thinking and its morally prescriptive agenda. Here Schiller does not pursue the prevalent interest in the individual artist as genius or in the creative act; instead, he establishes a harmony of mind and body in the aesthetic realm, putting down his thoughts on aesthetics in a systematic way for the first time, building on his own earlier forays into the field and on an intensive study of Kant. The popular essay form allowed Schiller to combine condensed thought with clear and rhetorically effective presentation, but his innovation here is his insistence on a freedom for art that affirms the moral freedom of reason, reuniting the human faculties radically separated by Enlightenment thought. Schiller sees aesthetic autonomy as the way forward for civilization. This is the first English scholarly edition of this pivotal essay, accompanied by the first comprehensive commentary on it. The essays focus on various facets of Schiller's essay and its socio-historical and philosophical context. Schiller's analysis is examined in the light of the thematic context of his plays as well as its surviving influence into the twentieth century. Contributors: Jane Curran, Christophe Fricker, David Pugh, Fritz Heuer, Alan Menhennet. Jane V. Curran is Professor of German at Dalhousie University, Halifax, Nova Scotia. Christophe Fricker is a D. Phil. candidate at St. John's College, Oxford.

    eISBN: 978-1-57113-664-0
    Subjects: Language & Literature, Sociology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. vii-vii)
  4. Notes on References and List of Abbreviations
    (pp. viii-viii)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. 1-18)
    Jane V. Curran and Christophe Fricker

    Pygmalion creates statues marked by a certain majesty but lacking grace. Only when the goddess of beauty appears to the artist in a dream is he capable of making statues so perfect that he wishes them to come alive. This eventually happens, and the figure moves gracefully. This version of the myth of Pygmalion with its notable opposition of two characteristics comes from the French Enlightenment author André-François Boureau-Deslandes.¹ It speaks to us even today: we still talk about dignity of bearing and about grace if we are attracted to a person because of a special air about him or...

  6. The Cultural Context

    • Schiller’s Essay “Über Anmut und Würde” as Rhetorical Philosophy
      (pp. 21-36)
      Jane V. Curran

      If their letters are to be considered reliable evidence, relations between Schiller and Kant remained cordial and gentlemanly, despite the fact that Schiller’s essay “On Grace and Dignity” was written partly as a corrective to Kant’s position in the Critique of Judgment. Schiller’s premise, if not his structural point of departure, taken from the formula he had earlier established, already demarcates the margin that separates his views from Kant’s moral didacticism: “Schönheit ist . . . nichts anders als Freiheit in der Erscheinung” (NA 26:183, Beauty is nothing other than freedom in appearance). Liberated from the need to settle aesthetic...

    • Schiller as Citizen of His Time
      (pp. 37-54)
      David Pugh

      While it would be hard to maintain that “Über Anmut und Würde” has much in the way of overt political content, the treatise was certainly written at a time of high political tension. In late 1792 and early 1793, Schiller had started drafting a theory of beauty in a series of letters to his friend Christian Gottfried Körner, while at the same time considering an intervention in the trial of King Louis XVI in Paris.¹ It is unknown what precisely he was proposing to say, but it is certain that it would have included a plea to spare the King’s...

    • Sensuous-Objective: Beauty in the Realm of Human Freedom: On the Language of Concepts in Schiller’s Essay “On Grace and Dignity”
      (pp. 55-80)
      Fritz Heuer

      Schiller’s thought confronts us with the proposition that humans only ever reach the unity of human Being*¹ within the realm of the laws of beauty. The task of cultivating beauty results from this. This is as true for art and the artist as it is for man’s relationship with himself. Schiller calls this task “Aesthetische Erziehung” (Aesthetic Education), and his essay “On Grace and Dignity” deals with it too. Professor of Universal History at Jena and citizen of his time (NA 20:311),² Schiller was concerned about the unfolding of the French Revolution and threw out a broad challenge with his...

    • From Romantic Dream to Idyllic Tragedy: Idealism and Realism in Schiller’s Dramas, Before and After Kant
      (pp. 81-104)
      Alan Menhennet

      In the briefe über “don karlos,” Schiller talks of a dream. Prefiguring “On Grace and Dignity,”¹ he speaks of achieving “den vollendetsten Zustand der Menschheit” (NA 22:162; humanity in its most perfect state). He calls this dream “romanhaft” (fanciful, far-fetched). He could as easily have said romantisch, for in general eighteenth-century usage the words were almost interchangeable. Contact with practical politicians, indeed, is said to have cleansed Posa’s idealism of das Romantische. Not entirely, though, for when it comes to explaining his treatment of Carlos, the “Bilder romantischer Größe” (NA 22:176; images of romantic greatness) he has imbibed from Plutarch,...

    • The Poet as Herald of Grace and Dignity: The Influence of Schiller’s Twin Concepts on Stefan George
      (pp. 105-120)
      Christophe Fricker

      Happiness may be all in the mind, but it is also found in the constitution of people who show forth grace and dignity: “Laß [die Schönheit] die Glückliche sein, du schaust sie, du bist der Beglückte” (let [beauty] be happy; if you see it, you are the happy one), says Schiller in the poem “Das Glück” (Happiness). And a little further on he says about the person listening to a singer inspired by God: “Weil er glücklich ist, kannst du der Selige sein” (both quotations NA 1:410; Because he is happy, you can be overjoyed). Schiller’s transcendental philosophy is constantly...

  7. The Text

    • On Grace and Dignity
      (pp. 123-170)
      Friedrich Schiller

      Greek fable portrays the goddess of beauty wearing a girdle² that has the power to impart grace and love to the wearer. She is the divinity who has the Graces³ for companions.

      The Greeks still maintained a distinction, then, between grace, or the Graces and beauty, since they attached attributes to them that do not apply to the goddess of beauty. All grace is beautiful, since the girdle of charm is a possession of the goddess of Cnidus; but not all beauty is graceful, because Venus remains as she is, even without the girdle.

      According to this allegory, only the...

    • Ueber Anmuth und Würde
      (pp. 171-222)
      Friedrich Schiller

      Die griechische Fabel legt der Göttinn der Schönheit einen Gürtel bey, der die Kraft besitzt, dem, der ihn trägt, Anmuth zu verleyhen, und Liebe zu erwerben. Eben diese Gottheit wird von den Huldgöttinnen oder den Grazien begleitet.

      Die Griechen unterschieden also die Anmuth und die Grazien noch von der Schönheit, da sie solche durch Attribute ausdrückten, die von der Schönheitsgöttinn zu trennen waren. Alle Anmuth ist schön, denn der Gürtel des Liebreizes ist ein Eigenthum der Göttinn von Gnidus; aber nicht alles Schöne ist Anmuth, denn auch ohne diesen Gürtel bleibt Venus, was sie ist.

      Nach eben dieser Allegorie ist...

  8. Notes on the Contributors
    (pp. 223-224)
  9. Index
    (pp. 225-232)
  10. Back Matter
    (pp. 233-233)