The Practices of the Enlightenment: Aesthetics, Authorship, and the Public (Columbia Themes in Philosophy, Social Criticism, and the Arts)

The Practices of the Enlightenment: Aesthetics, Authorship, and the Public (Columbia Themes in Philosophy, Social Criticism, and the Arts)

Language: English

Pages: 320

ISBN: 023117246X

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub

Rethinking the relationship between eighteenth-century Pietist traditions and Enlightenment thought and practice, The Practices of Enlightenment unravels the complex and often neglected religious origins of modern secular discourse. Mapping surprising routes of exchange between the religious and aesthetic writings of the period and recentering concerns of authorship and audience, this book revitalizes scholarship on the Enlightenment.

By engaging with three critical categories―aesthetics, authorship, and the public sphere―The Practices of Enlightenment illuminates the relationship between religious and aesthetic modes of reflective contemplation, autobiography and the hermeneutics of the self, and the discursive creation of the public sphere. Focusing largely on German intellectual life, this critical engagement also extends to France through Rousseau and to England through Shaftesbury. Rereading canonical works and lesser-known texts by Goethe, Lessing, and Herder, the book challenges common narratives recounting the rise of empiricist philosophy, the idea of the "sensible" individual, and the notion of the modern author as celebrity, bringing new perspective to the Enlightenment concepts of instinct, drive, genius, and the public sphere.











creation, Greschat shows that Arndt’s use of images does not fit into this general teleological approach to nature. See Martin Greschat, “Die Funktion des Emblems in Johann Arnds ‘Wahrem Christentum’,” Religions- und Geistesgeschichte, 20 (1968): 154f. 9.  Johann Arndt, Sechs Bücher vom Wahren Christenthum (Philadelphia: J. Köhler, 1854), 22. Unless otherwise indicated, I shall be using and citing from this copy of Arndt, owned by Columbia University. All translations from Arndt are my own.

potential ways of contextualizing such a faculty, by asking not only about its religious, ethical roots but also how the capacity for taking a “disinterested interest” situates the speaking biped with regard to other animals. How does this curious faculty of being able to contemplate something without being attracted or driven to it by a particular interest, appetite, or drive fit in with regard to ways of conceiving of human motives as opposed to or in line with animal motives? This will be the

certain things as good and laudable, and condemn others as bad or blameworthy, independently of any reflection.”7 In other words: instinct is what leads to a gut-level moral reaction. Clearly, instinct in this sense is deeply involved with questions about the natural, precultural moral makeup of the human being. Thus the Yverdon entry on instinct argues that, just like the view of somebody suffering makes us feel compassionate, it also makes us judge the attempt to help this person a beautiful

adjoining practices have found ample scholarly attention, especially by historians of book culture, media, and literacy but also by scholars of eighteenth-century literature and society, differing according to geographical focus and disciplinary specialization.1 Martha Woodmansee has studied the social, historical and primarily economic contexts for the emergence of such new concepts as the original genius as the prototype of the poet and artist and disinterested interest as the key marker of

steep myself in the first book of Moses, and there, amidst the widespread tribes of herdsmen, find myself both in the greatest solitude and the greatest company. (PT 113; SW XIV 155) This retelling, according to the narrator, represents the only means by which he can demonstrate to his readers how during his boyhood he did not get entirely confused and lost in the dispersed life he was leading. Reading and contemplating that part of the Bible offered him a place of rest from fragmented

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