Academic journal article German Quarterly

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

Academic journal article German Quarterly

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

Article excerpt

Curran, Jane V, and Christophe Fricker, eds. Schiller's "On Grace and Dignity" in Its Cultural Context: Essays and a New Translation. Rochester: Camden House, 2005. 231 pp. $65.00 hardcover.

This book combines insightful interpretations of "Über Anmut und Würde" with a much-needed, new translation by Jane V Curran and the original German text. Reflecting recent scholarship, the editors' introduction conveys the sense in which grace is a "transmitted immediacy" that bridges the sensual and the non-sensual. After indicating Schiller's contrast between grace and dignity, they also point to the difficult matter of the precarious, timely connection of the two phenomena, with a glance ahead to the letters "On the Aesthetic Education of Man" as well as to the creative reception of Schiller's notion of the connection. The editors also take note of four questions that are prominent in traditional commentaries on the essay, namely, questions of the essay's consistency as an argument, its rhetorical and its political dimensions, and the influence of Kant and other philosophers on the essay.

Most of the superb, interpretive essays making up the volume's first half ("The Cultural Context") address one or more of these questions. In a provocative opening piece that styles Schiller's work as "rhetorical philosophy," Jane Curran ably demonstrates how "Über Anmut und Würde," composed in the "essay genre" (Benjamin), deliberately embodies its subject matter, thereby forming "a seamless amalgam of theory and practice" that puts to rest any charge that the essay lacks philosophical rigor. The case that Curran makes is no less intriguing than it is compelling, given the host of questions raised by the very notion of a "rhetorical philosophy" (does "rhetorical" here-in the adjectival position-ultimately signify a qualification or even a dispensable device of philosophy or does a "rhetorical philosophy" signify a philosophy that understands its truth-pursuing activity to be thoroughly rhetorical, a matter of persuasion even in the isolation of a philosopher thinking to himself?).

If Schiller's concern for his readers is the focus of Curran's piece, his concern for them as citizens animates David Pugh's contribution, "Schiller as Citizen of His Time," aimed as it is at undermining anachronistic interpretations of the political significance of the political metaphor ("liberale Regierung") employed by Schiller in regard to grace. …

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