The Practices of the Enlightenment: Aesthetics, Authorship, and the Public (Columbia Themes in Philosophy, Social Criticism, and the Arts)
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Rethinking the relationship between eighteenth-century pietistic 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.
The study engages with three critical categories: aesthetics, authorship, and the public sphere, tracing 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.
naturalists to analyze “objects into interlocking parts” and trace “the fit of form to function with an eagle eye for ‘fitness.’ ” 3 By contrast, the practices of attention that I will discuss in this chapter did not have as their goal the precise, detailed observation of natural phenomena within an overall framework of natural theology aimed at understanding and explaining the fitness and utility of each and every creature. Their aim instead consisted in the transformation of the observer and in
not try to find a model for the totality in the individual case. Classes, genres, BEAU TIF UL, NOT INTELLIGENT DESIGN (47) species and individuals are related to the law like individual cases; they are contained by it but they are not able to provide the blueprint of the law. The human being with its high degree of organic perfection, in fact exactly because of having attained this high degree of perfection is the last to be taken as a norm or measure for the other, less perfect animals. No
connection between the well-known and presumably widely spread practices of contemplation in the wake of Johann Arndt’s True Christianity and Immanuel Kant’s central claim that aesthetic judgment expresses the capacity for taking a disinterested interest. Although it is well known that Kant’s childhood was deeply affected by his mother’s Pietism, my argument is not of a biographical nature, nor am I primarily concerned with the more specialized questions of Kant scholarship. Instead, I have
experience is portrayed as one of synesthetic pleasure, arousal, and oral gratification and thus more resembles sexual gratification than the enjoyment of one’s glory. The indulgence of glory is interestingly contained and managed in the narrative presentation. It is addressed through the memory of the terrible performance before M. de Treitorens, when Rousseau had agreed to ROUSSEAU (135) present a musical entertainment composed by him while he was in fact barely capable of reading music.29
P RO D U C T I O N O F P R ES EN C E , A N D T H E F U N C T I O N O F A RT Books 10 and 11, the two books in the exact middle of Dichtung und Wahrheit, narrate Goethe’s stay in Strasbourg during his legal studies, his travels in Alsace and its surroundings, his relationship to the French language and to French literature in the context of his law professor’s attempt to have him augment his legal training in Strasbourg and steer him toward a future career in diplomacy, his friendship with