Germanic Languages | German Culture I
G563 | 2812 | Prof.William Rasch


Historicism, Hermeneutics,and Bildung in the 19th Century

Perhaps the greatest definition of what 19th-century Germans meant by
Bildung is provided not by a German, but by the English critic and
poet Mathew Arnold in his Culture and Anarchy of 1869.  From his
praise of the internal delights of reading to his definition of
culture "as a harmonious perfection, developing all sides of our
humanity; and as a general perfection, developing all parts of
society," Arnold echoes virtually all the major themes of German
neo-humanism.  We will thus start the semester in English hands, but
will then retreat to the familiar comfort of Humboldt, Schiller, and
the other inventors of the ideal of an eminently liberal and
thoroughly classical education.  There we will investigate the rise of
an historically oriented classical philology (Wolf) and its
incorporation as the central ideal of the newly reformed university
(Humboldt).
Arnold's Culture is also a useful starting point because of
its contentious and polemical nature, for by the last third of the
19th century it was felt (in England as well as in Germany) that the
old ideal had been lost, or at least routinized, specialized, and
consumed by relativist historicism and objectivist science.  The
spirit of "sweetness and light" (Arnold) and leisurely
self-cultivation was assimilated to, or superceded by, a capitalist,
industrial, and natural-scientific spirit of progress that eventually
changed the face of the German university and the self-assurance of
what came to be known, defensively, as the Geisteswissenschaften.
Accordingly, we will read some of the texts that originally defined
hermeneutics (Schleiermacher, Boeckh) and the historical school
(Humboldt, Ranke) as well as some mid- and late-century reformulations
and critiques of historicism, philology, and the university
system-especially those by Dilthey and Nietzsche.
	All along, we will dig under the surface of the various
arguments by reading secondary material by the likes of Foucault,
Gadamer, Luhmann, Readings, and Marxist and feminist critics.  We hope
thereby to get not only a sense of these 18th- and 19th-century
debates, but also a sense of the history of the institution in which
these debates are currently examined.

Texts: Arnold: Culture and Anarchy (photocopy)
Dilthey: Der Aufbau der geschichtlichen Welt in den
Geisteswissenschaften (Suhrkamp: 3-518-27954-8)
Nietzsche: Sämtliche Werke in Einzelbänden: Kritische
Studienausgabe: Bd 1: Die Geburt der Tragödie/Unzeitgemäße
Betrachtungen. (dtv/KNO: 3-423-30151-1)
Readings: The University in Ruins (Harvard UP: 0-674-92953-5)
Schiller: Über die ästhetische Erziehung des Menschen (Reclam:
UB 8994)
Photocopy reader