Academic journal article German Quarterly

Aufklarungsforschung in Deutschland

Academic journal article German Quarterly

Aufklarungsforschung in Deutschland

Article excerpt

Dainat, Holger, and Wilhelm Vosskamp, eds. Aufkldrungsforschung in Deutschland. Heidelberg: Winter, 1999. 128 pp. DM 28.00 paperback.

In his introductory essay "Aufklarungsforschung in Deutschland. Einleitung," Wilhelm Vosskamp poses rhetorical questions about the contemporary importance of the Enlightenment. Differentiating between the historical epoch of the Enlightenment and the "project" of the Enlightenment, he offers an answer: "die Konstitutionsprobleme der Moderne im 17. and 18. Jahrhundert offenbaren prinzipielle Strukturen der Moderne; sie bilden damit auch Elemente unserer gegenwartigen Diskussion fiber 'Moderne' and 'Postmoderne"' (1). Despite this insight into the contemporary relevance of the Enlightenment, disagreement rather than consensus prevails in the evaluation of the role of the Enlightenment in contemporary discourse. The volume Aufklarungsforschung in Deutschland contains six essays that analyze historical perspectives of the Enlightenment within the context of German history (and critical discourse).

The first two essays recreate the prevailing interpretive paradigms of the Enlightenment in the 19th and first half of the 20th century. In his cogent essay, Rainer Rosenberg investigates how the Enlightenment was portrayed in German literary histories of the 19th century. He argues that the Enlightenment was integrated into the process of the creation of German identity. A specifically "German" Enlightenment was set apart from, and in opposition to, the French Enlightenment, while German Classicism was viewed as "Vollendung der Aufklarung" (13). Characteristic for German literary histories of the 19th century is the positive interpretation of the traditions of the Enlightenment. A paradigmatic shift begins with Dilthey and Geistesgeschichte. Dilthey is the first to posit Romanticism as the "Vollendung" of the Enlightenment, and sees the Enlightenment as the dynamic force behind the creation of a new view of life and the world. Holger Dainat continues the discussion of Geistesgeschichte and the Enlightenment after Dilthey from 1910-1950. Dainat argues that Geistesgeschichte brings about the "Theoretisierung der Literaturwissenschaft" (24), which raises new questions about the role and importance of the Enlightenment. Intellectuals begin to search for the underlying "Ideen" or "Stromungen" (25) of the epoch.

Three essays documenting new impulses and trends in research on the Enlightenment since the 1960s comprise the second part of the book. Jorg Schonert discusses three dominant interpretive approaches to the Enlightenment since the 1960s: the historical approach with the goal of creating a comprehensive "picture" of the Enlightenment, including cultural and historical diversity; a political approach that corresponds to the politicization of Germanistik in the 1960s; and a sociological approach influenced greatly by Habermas. …

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