In the following, it "will be assumed that Goethe's role in German literary history is not just the result of his literary "works and their reception by later scholars, but also the consequence of his strategies of self-projection. It is "well recognized that Goethe "was a master in the art of projecting his poetic genius and that Germanistik "was highly receptive to his own accounts of the emergence of his "works, to the point of tending to construct a normative aesthetics for German literature on that basis. Cognitive linguistics has demonstrated the mental and emotional force of linguistic metaphor, showing the systematic connection between conventional metaphors and the conceptualization of the objects and processes they refer to.
Discussion must be selective and "will highlight the metaphors by which Goethe shaped his roles as "origin," "goal," and "liberator" of German literature. The power of these metaphors continues to be evident in recent accounts of literary history, raising the question whether they can be evaded in favour of different metaphors that might yield alternative histories.
Goethe's consummate skill as a poet made him a master of metaphor, that most poetic of techniques for stimulating the reader's imagination. It is no less evident in his comments about his own processes of creativity, as emerges for example in a letter to Friedrich Heinrich Jacobi "written in Murray Abraham in the lead. From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.
Journal of Medieval History. Accessed online 26 October The "Ring Parable" is found in the third tale of the first day, although the characters here are Saladin and Melchisedech as the wise Jew. The Guardian. Eric Bentley once said that this becomes a bad, "preachy" play in English translation: not so in Edward Kemp's excellent version. The Telegraph. Edward Kemp's fine translation, which combines Germanic seriousness with a winning English wit, and cuts the sprawling four-and-a -half hour original down to a manageable playing time of less than three hours, was first presented at Chichester in The Mason Gazette.
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George Mason University. Retrieved 25 March Jewish Review of Books. Smith's notion of sympathy, i n a discussion of Sophocles' depiction of the mythical character P h i l o c t e t e s. Lessing argued that Sophocles had purposely heightened Philoctetes' s u f f e r i n g i n order to accentuate the sympathy f e l t for him by the audience; Greek heroes were unabashedly portrayed as being capable of expressing great anguish, something which s t o i c a l Romans and refined. Europeans had learned how to suppress, to t h e i r own detriment.
Smith had argued, i n a section of The Theory of Moral Sentiments c i t e d by Lessing, that excessive expressions of pain such as Philoctetes' represent a "breach of decorum" that only disgusts the beholder, who cannot sympathetically "go along" with such excessive emotion.
Lessing disagreed with t h i s attempt at formulating "general rules for our sentiments"--there are many si t u a t i o n s i n which we don't despise powerful expressions of anguish; and when such expressions are dampened, as they were i n Roman g l a d i a t o r i a l spectacles, the audience i s conditioned to turn away from "nature. As I have already mentioned, Lessing gave the t r e a t i s e a c r i t i c a l l y favourable review i n , the year i n which he p u b l i s h e d Miss Sara Sampson, one of the f i r s t German examples of "domestic tragedy.
That Sara was w r i t t e n and performed a year before the correspondence on tragedy suggests that the experience of w r i t i n g the p l a y and seeing i t performed must have had an impact on Lessing's subsequent views. The p l a y seems aimed at arousing a good deal of sympathetic i d e n t i f i c a t i o n from i t s audience f o r the main characters, most notably Sara, the v i r t u o u s heroine 91 whose only flaw was to follow her passion. And t h i s i t seems to have done, given the emotional response evoked by i t s early performances.
Not very much happens during most of the play; instead there i s a l o t of discussion of sentiments, hopes for the future, and events which happened i n the past. There i s mention of love, l u s t , and even i l l i c i t sex and bastard offspring--not much d i f f e r e n t from contemporary daytime soap-operas, loaded as they are with the language of f e e l i n g.
And although the drama takes place i n the p r i v a t e space of rooms at a country inn, and explores the tragic personal r e l a t i o n s h i p s of r e l a t i v e l y ordinary human beings, i t would be wrong to conclude that Lessing was simply supplying an "opportunity for The very act of bringing such "private" material to the "public" at large represents an important step towards a new understanding of just what counted as issues of p u b l i c concern, and thereby what sorts of people constituted "the p u b l i c.
On the other hand, there i s the larger question of what was involved i n dramatizing the pri v a t e sphere of middle-order characters. In Sara. In r e t r e a t i n g to a country inn at a distant l o c a l e , Sara and Mellefont are indeed withdrawing into a pri v a t e refuge i n which human. The s u f f e r i n g heroine, with a l l of her sentiments and desires and v i r t u e s , c a l l s f o r t h a sympathetic response from an audience that can i d e n t i f y with her fee l i n g s , including those of powerlessness; an audience that i s beginning to conceive of i t s e l f as being comprised of individuated moral actors who share common feelings and perceptions, a "public" of "private" i n d i v i d u a l s.
As Sarah Maza has argued, the emerging genre of melodrama and Miss Sara Sampson must be counted as a proto-melodrama was a r a d i c a l l y democratic way i n which writers sought morally to "reach out to, and shape, an 93 emergent 'public sphere'" i n an increasingly de-sacralized moral universe. Not s u r p r i s i n g l y , from the date of Sara's p u b l i c a t i o n onward, Lessing began to assume the p o s i t i o n of leading German writer i n the consciousness of the reading p u b l i c.
In p r a c t i c i n g a method of analysis that p r i z e d r a t i o n a l c r i t i q u e over u n c r i t i c a l acceptance of l i t e r a r y "truths," Lessing was not, however, intent upon undoing the work of h i s dramaturgy; rather, such an approach served to l i f t the project of Publikum-formation e n t a i l e d there to a higher plane, one of c r i t i c a l distance.
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Lessing seemed to be i n s t i n c t i v e l y aware that o b j e c t i v i t y requires some measure of c r i t i c a l distance; and i f " t h e newly-emerging German pu b l i c was to 94 be competent as a judge of matters of, concern, i t would need to develop protocols of discussion which allowed for dispute and disagreement without c a l l i n g into question the whole enterprise of public discourse, and without descending to the l e v e l of personal attack.
This tack s h i f t e d emphasis from the stature of the w r i t e r to the subject-matter i t s e l f ; anyone could p a r t i c i p a t e i n the discussion, as long as they were w i l l i n g and able to penetrate to the core, to the n i g g l i n g d e t a i l s and obscure facts that served to anchor discussion and give r i s e to widely agreed conclusions. Lessing's c r i t i c a l writings were guides to t h i s nether-world, guides which were, i n today's parlance, " i n t e r a c t i v e , " and hence conducive to a sense of p a r t i c i p a t i o n i n a shared enterprise, one which was u l t i m a t e l y subject to the judgement of the larger c r i t i c a l p u b l i c.
Lessing's general view i n the B r i e f e i s that German scholarship and l e t t e r s are i n a "sorry state;" the muses i n Germany don't have many " f i e r y friends," and genius finds l i t t l e support. A Bolingbroke f a l l s into the hands of [these] lads W i l l then a bear not come forward, and t h r o t t l e the rascals? Bergmann must not only not know English; he must know nothing at all.
And a clue to the d i v i d i n g - l i n e i n Lessing's mind between proper and improper c r i t i c i s m occurs soon a f t e r the passage c i t e d above, where Lessing chides Wieland for his harsh attack upon Utz: "Mr. Wieland holds himself to be offended, and instead of likewise attacking his opponent from the side of the writer, he fastens upon the moral character of same with a pious g a l l , [and] a p i e t i s t i c pride Cramer, Lessing was i n turn attacked by the moralist and pedagogue J. Lessing r e p l i e d d i s d a i n f u l l y to what he considered a low personal attack; and he turned the tables on Basedow, arguing that Cramer himself had taken the c r i t i c i s m better than Basedow.
And 97 besides, "Mr.
Cramer i s to be sure a meritorious theologian But Mr. Cramer i s a human being; could he not have Cramer's p o s i t i o n as a respected theologian was not to determine the reception of h i s writings.
What someone has written i n the past should not a f f e c t present judgement. Because I hold him to be a great genius, must he always be r i g h t by me? Exactly the opposite: because I hold him to be a great genius, I am on my guard. E a rly on, for example, he asks whether Wieland was r i g h t , i n h i s Plan einer Akademie zur Bildunq des Verstandes und Herzens iunaer Leute.
Lessing i s n ' t sure, and goes back to the texts used by Wieland. It seems more probable that Homer was as l i t t l e understood by a l l Greeks as Klopstock i s by a l l Germans. The Greeks were not as superior as Wieland supposes; the philosophy which was generally studied, for example, was not the "true" philosophy according to A r i s t o t l e , but that of the Sophists; the main i n t e r e s t was i n learning to speak w e l l.
Wieland, when one obviously sees that he i s intent on f l i n g i n g dust i n his readers' eyes. The p a t r i o t i c contempt that he has for h i s nation leads me to suppose i t. Cramer's Nordische Aufseher. Yet he d i d a l l he could to draw i n readers not f a m i l i a r w i t h the subject matter, sometimes even asking them f o r t h e i r patience, as he committed the necessary e v i l of grubbing around i n the minutiae of a n t i q u a r i a n scholarship.
I haven't read the Sketches, only paged through i t -. Dusch makes out of t h i s science Dusch does not possess enough wit and inventiveness to be a poet; and not enough thoroughness and sharpness of mind to be a philosopher. But he has enough of each to make a passable d i d a c t i c moral poem. E a r l y on he argued, against Wieland, that " A l l sciences share p r i n c i p l e s w i t h each other, and must e i t h e r be pursued at once, or each one And t h i s approach was obviously at root empirical, taking as i t s point of departure the material a r t e f a c t rather than received opinion or r a t i o n a l demonstration.
Lessing's famous l e t t e r 17 of the B r i e f e , which emphatically attacked Gottsched for h i s "Frenchifying" exercise i n the theatre, was premised on the notion that Germans would have been better served i f they had been exposed to Shakespeare rather than French writers; besides being more suit e d to "German" s e n s i b i l i t i e s , his works would have been productive of better "taste" among Germans, as models, and would have helped awaken German "Genies.
Klopstock's changes to h i s Messias deserved to be studied with great care, since "One studies therein the f i n e s t rules of a r t ; because what the masters of a r t. Useful i n s i g h t s , rules and generalizations could only be b u i l t upon a s o l i d foundation, whether i t be the texts of great poetic geniuses, or h i s t o r i c a l or textual d e t a i l s.
That i s why good t r a n s l a t i o n s were so important to Lessing; how could Germans begin to c u l t i v a t e an authentic indigenous l i t e r a t u r e when chosen models were not presented i n the proper idiom? On the other hand, i f i t was important to s t a r t from a firm empirical foundation, i t was also necessary to analyze c r i t i c a l l y and discuss r a t i o n a l l y the matter i n question.
It was towards the end of Lessing's major involvement with the p e r i o d i c a l that he made his most e x p l i c i t reference to t h i s assumption, i n a number written by Mendelssohn but quoting Lessing. The issue at stake concerned the degree of control an author can expect to have over h i s work; can others p r i n t "corrected" editions without the author's permission?
Lessing's reply argues that Whoever p u b l i c l y publishes h i s writings, makes them through t h i s act p u b l i c i j u r i s , and so therefore i t i s open to anyone to o u t f i t them more comfortably for the public, according to t h e i r own i n s i g h t s. If the suggestions are frowned upon, so can the l i v i n g author p u b l i c l y r e j e c t them, and the public has the pleasure of passing judgement. Yet he had, together with Rammler, published an "improved" e d i t i o n of Logau's poetry, and so had h i s own reasons for f e e l i n g as he did.
Nonetheless, Lessing here encapsulates h i s basic l i t e r a r y -c r i t i c a l stance towards "the p u b l i c , " an emerging e n t i t y which he himself had been working to constitute and shape i n the B r i e f e. Although, as he stated i n the Laokoon. As such he incorporated some of the leading currents emanating from the European Republic of Letters i n an emerging v i s i o n of an enlightened German pub l i c.
About this book
The Hamburaische Dramaturaie The story of the r i s e and f a l l of the Hamburg National theater i s well known, as i s Lessing's p a r t i c i p a t i o n i n the enterprise as l i t e r a r y adviser and publisher of the Hamburaische Dramaturaie. Some have seen the whole episode as a concrete example of the e x i s t i n g gap i n German l i f e between i n t e l l e c t u a l developments and s o c i a l r e a l i t y ; aimed at an expanding national Biirgertum, and emerging from the mental universe of t h i s loose s o c i a l grouping, the theatre was unable to garner the support of i t s intended audience, which d i d not possess enough of the material and i n t e l l e c t u a l resources required to maintain such an amibitious e n t e r p r i s e.
The journal appeared i n twice-weekly numbers s t a r t i n g i n May , although from number 32 onward they appeared sporadically, and numbers appeared i n , a f t e r the Nationaltheater had been dissolved.
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Like much of Lessing's writings the journal ranged widely over a number of topics, mostly r e l a t e d to the theatre, engaging the reader i n l i v e l y dialogue. The main difference now i s that Lessing's primary adversary i s not German mediocrity, but rather French mediocrity. The Hamburg experiment was to be a "national" one, and Lessing was c l e a r l y concerned to formulate an indigenous dramaturgy that would help give r i s e to a more s e l f - c o n f i d e n t and self-conscious German p u b l i c.
The Dramaturaie begins, as i t ends, with an extended, d i r e c t reference to the nature and r o l e of the public v i s - a - v i s the whole enterprise; by now Lessing was more confidently aware of the ent i t y , and of h i s r o l e as i t s preeminent German agent. He begins by s t a t i n g that i f nothing more has been accomplished than an as s o c i a t i o n of friends having "combined to work according to a common plan for the public good," much w i l l have been gained.
And i s i t not i n the hands of the public to improve and redress whatever i t may here f i n d defective? Only l e t i t come, and see and hear, and examine and judge! Its voice s h a l l never be contemptuously ignored, i t s judgement s h a l l always be r e s p e c t f u l l y heard. But every minor c r i t i c must not deem himself the public, for not every amateur i s a connoisseur. Not every one who can f e e l the beauties of one drama, the correct play of one actor, can on that account estimate the value of a l l others. To have a one-sided taste i s to have none at a l l.
True taste i s general. Although i t i s a r e l a t i v e l y i n c l u s i v e v i s i o n , or perhaps because i t i s , not every amateur c r i t i c with a pen and an opinion may count himself to speak for t h i s public; the judgement of the Publikum as a whole must be mediated by the true connoisseur who i s able to range over the e n t i r e realm of taste, making i t s possession more general. As he stated at the outset, the " f i n e r portion of the p u b l i c " may be expected to approve of a l l exertions made for the "general good;" the aim must be general s o c i o - c u l t u r a l improvement, not the advancement of any one set of narrow i n t e r e s t s.
Lessing opens the Dramaturaie. This project i s not simply " c u l t u r a l , " because as Lessing states i n an e a r l y number, the theatre i s the "school of the moral world. Whereas the French. The stage of the French i s at l e a s t the pleasure of a whole c i t y ; whereas i n the l e a d i n g German c i t i e s the Bude i s the laughing-stock of the mob.
He speaks at the beginning of the Dramaturaie of the need to l e t passions r i s e before the eyes of the spectator i n a steadily-growing measure, so that the spectator must "sympathize" sympathisieren with it. The misfortune of those whose circumstances are s i m i l a r to ours n a t u r a l l y penetrates most deeply into our souls; and when we sympathize with kings mifc Konigen M i t l e i d haben , we do so as with human beings, and not kings.
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Whole peoples may be involved, [but] our sympathy Sympathie requires a s i n g l e object, and a state i s a far too abstract concept for our sentiments. He consequently now gives greater p r i o r i t y to "fear," or "sympathy r e f e r r e d onto ourselves," as a c e n t r a l element i n tragedy. A r i s t o t e l i a n "middle characters" who are neither too virtuous or too base, and c e r t a i n l y not too elevated i n s o c i a l rank. Lessing follows A r i s t o t l e i n the assumption that i n d i v i d u a l characters should properly portray the universal, probable q u a l i t i e s of a c e r t a i n character; 1 4 9 and for a l l these reasons he r e j e c t s Diderot's a s s e r t i o n that "serious comedy" should now concern i t s e l f with depicting characters as a function of s o c i a l standing, or what we would c a l l " class.
The distance between theater and world, as Lessing himself states, need not be great. Are they to read t h i s? At one point Lessing confronts the p o s s i b i l i t y , r a i s e d by others, that too much c r i t i c i s m could damage the nascent German theatre, and oppress emerging genius. Such "wise gentlemen" know l i t t l e what they want when they "lament so amusingly over the unfavourable impression which c r i t i c i s m makes on the p u b l i c. He goes on to say that "Whoever reasons r i g h t l y , also invents; and whoever wants to invent, must also be able to reason.
But the Hamburg public was not ready to support a high-minded National-theater, and for t h i s and other reasons the consortium running the theatre was disbanded i n e a r l y , and the theatre reverted to actor-management. In some ways the piece can be read as a s e t t l i n g of accounts between Lessing and the "public" he had been s t r i v i n g to shape and educate.
I t i s as though Lessing seeks to make his own intentions c l e a r , and by so doing model a degree of self-knowledge and maturity s t i l l lacking' i n the larger German Publikum. At f i r s t h i s comments appear to betray f a l s e modesty: he can't under-stand why the project's backers might have thought he could be useful to t h e i r undertaking; he was just standing " i d l y i n the marketplace" because of h i s singular uselessness, and his "indifference" towards a l l occupations.
This of course i s only p a r t l y true, but there i s enough ambivalence i n h i s career path to suggest that he wasn't being e n t i r e l y disingenuous. I must force everything out of myself by pressure and pipes. I would be poor, cold, [and] shortsighted i f I had not learnt i n c e r t a i n measure to borrow foreign treasures, to warm myself at foreign f i r e s , and to strengthen my eyes through the glasses of a r t.
I have therefore always been ashamed or annoyed, when I [have] heard or read anything i n disparagement of c r i t i c i s m. I t i s s a i d to suppress genius, and I f l a t t e r e d myself that I had gained from i t something very nearly approaching genius. The close connection between t h i s enlightened s e l f and the p u b l i c sphere i s i n d i c a t e d by the way i n which Lessing goes on to mock Isaac Casaubon's assessment of A r i s t o t l e ' s Didaskalia.
Casaubon had argued that A r i s t o t l e ' s chief aim i n these notices had been the r e c t i f i c a t i o n of chronology. What an "everlasting disgrace to A r i s t o t l e , " Lessing r e p l i e s , " i f he had concerned himself more with the p o e t i c a l value of plays, with the influence of customs, with the education of taste, than with The theatre served as a point of i n t e r s e c t i o n between i n d i v i d u a l and s o c i a l perceptions, a place i n which the broad spectrum of s o c i e t y could be moralized as sympathetic, virtuous s o c i a l actors.
And as Lessing states e a r l y i n the Dramaturaie. Yet the German public i s not ready for t h i s : If the p u b l i c asks, "What has been done? Out [with] the good-natured idea to procure for the Germans a national theatre, when we Germans are not yet a nation! Despite h i s best e f f o r t s , Germans d i d not yet possess enough of a cohesive s o c i a l i d e n t i t y , were not yet enough of an "enlightened p u b l i c , " to contribute to t h e i r own improvement.
Or so, i n h i s darkest of moments, Lessing believed. Yet he had begun a process of socio-c u l t u r a l formation that was to continue, a process aided not only by h i s prose c r i t i c i s m , but also by h i s dramatic works, including notably Minna von Barnhelm and Emilia G a l o t t i. Minna von Barnhelm and Emilia Galotti Both Minna von Barnhelm and Emilia G a l o t t i were important events i n the emergence of modern German theater, and i n German i n t e l l e c t u a l l i f e generally. Minna, Lessing's most popular play, expressed an invigorated German self-consciousness and -confidence i n the aftermath of the Seven Years War, and E m i l i a was to become an i n s p i r a t i o n to a whole generation of German i n t e l l e c t u a l s ; i t was the play l e f t open on Werther's desk when he committed one of the most famous of modern suicides.
Both plays qu i c k l y became c e n t r a l points of reference i n German consciousness, helping to consolidate an emerging German public sphere; Lessing p r a c t i c e d what he preached, providing concrete examples of what he considered to be passable dramatic works. It i s well-established that Minna, as the most successful piece performed i n the Hamburg Nationaltheater, represented a new stage i n German self-awareness. The excitement with which the play was received was due to Lessing's a b i l i t y to problematize the German s o c i o - p o l i t i c a l s i t u a t i o n.
I t brought current subject-matter with p o l i t i c a l relevance to the stage, thematizing for the f i r s t time contemporary l i f e and the recognizable trend of I l l s o c i a l change i n a drama. And i t "paraded before the eyes of the p u b l i c. Yet i t must be remembered that E m i l i a was a tragedy, meant to evoke a strong sympathetic i d e n t i f i c a t i o n from i t s audience, making members more self-aware of t h e i r own s o c i a l and moral p o s i t i o n.
If the prince had attained what he wanted, then i t might be safe to argue that the play shows no way out of the dilemma i t poses. Yet the prince ends up as unhappy as everyone else : everyone s u f f e r s under the current s o c i o - p o l i t i c a l arrangement, and hence i t i s i n everyone's i n t e r e s t to move towards more humane s o c i a l structures.
I t i s worth asking whether the reform-minded Joseph II would have attended the play's Vienna debut twice i f i t purveyed an e n t i r e l y hopeless, Machiavellian outlook. Individual, "human" consciousness has begun to s t r i p away the layers of custom and usage that support such a system, and i n so doing projects the p o s s i b i l i t y of a new sphere of s o c i a l r e l a t i o n s , one characterised by enlightened i d e a l s of "nature" and "humanity.
The processes of decomposition and reconstruction are simultaneous and ongoing, and are played out before an i n t e r e s t e d p u b l i c that now begins to negotiate such understandings within i t s e l f. Or does i t? Some have argued that despite any such s o c i o - p o l i t i c a l intentions on Lessing's part, the reception of these plays was by no means uniform or t e r r i b l y cognizant of t h e i r s o c i o - p o l i t i c a l dimensions.
Aesthetic and moral concerns seem to have dominated reactions to the plays, and as time went on t h e i r s o c i o - p o l i t i c a l valences were ignored almost e n t i r e l y , as aesthetic preoccupations regarding the plays themselves as well as the a c t i n g performances came to dominate an i n c r e a s i n g l y abstracted c u l t u r a l e l i t e. There was, properly speaking, no Publikum for Lessing's mature drama.
I f a l l of the ramifications of p l o t , character and action were not always perceived or discussed, the fact remains that a more universal, "human" moral s o c i a b i l i t y was being represented i n front of an inc r e a s i n g l y self-conscious and -confident German p u b l i c. And despite the fact that such a Publikum could be less educated and thankful than Lessing wished as he put i t regarding the Vienna public i n 17 7 2 ,, 1 6 8 i t was nevertheless a r i s i n g force i n German l i f e.
She i s not p e r f e c t — s h e gets duped by the c r a f t y Frenchman Ricc a u l t , but she i s c l e a r l y brighter and more level-headed than the s t o l i d Tellheim, who careens from s t o i c reserve to miserable pleading i n the course of the play. Sara and Emilia are more passive, s u f f e r i n g heroines, but they e x h i b i t an honesty and strength of character that shines through the darkness of t h e i r circumstances, and t h e i r "virtue" p r e v a i l s i n the end.
Wherefore a l l these women? Lessing himself asked the question i n a l e t t e r to Gleim i n "Do you think that i n the end I make too much of the g i r l s? In the Dramaturaie he i n e f f e c t argued that men are more properly portrayed as being ambitious with noble pride, and women as tender, loving and ignobly jealous. An ambitious and p r i d e f u l woman i s "against nature;" "offended love" i s a more sui t a b l e motive for harsh actions taken by a woman.
And furthermore, "The v i r g i n a l heroines and Philosophinen are not at a l l to my taste I know of no higher v i r t u e of an unmarried g i r l , than p i e t y and obedience. Rather than supporting a repressive i d e a l , Lessing was portraying the catastrophic r e s u l t of t o t a l withdrawal into the intimate family sphere, i n front of an emerging middle-order "public" of i n d i v i d u a l s who were becoming f a m i l i a r with t h i s modernised "private" domain.
As such he i s r a i s i n g to public consciousness some of the main p i t f a l l s of l i f e i n the private sphere, as well as the inadequacy of pu b l i c l i f e and power relations which were then extant. Yet as I have mentioned, the plays' i n i t i a l c r i t i c s d i d not give them the searching readings that modern scholars do; the contemporary theatre-goer probably received dramas l i k e Minna and Emilia on a f a i r l y mundane l e v e l.
Sympathetic middle-order were characters engaged i n humorous or t r a g i c s i t u a t i o n s , s i t u a t i o n s with contemporary German relevance. Women characters were featured prominently; although i t i s possible to view some of them as undergoing a process of simultaneous public "enfranchisement and r e s t r i c t -ion, " 1 7 5 they were nonetheless front and centre stage, and i n a c e r t a i n sense stood for both middle-order powerlessness and an "enlightened," "human" and "natural" m o r a l i t y. As such his "public" included both women and men, princes and subjects. Publikum: A Contested Domain From the l a t e r s to the end of h i s l i f e Lessing engaged i n sc h o l a r l y , polemical debates with a v a r i e t y of adversaries.
This e n t a i l e d contesting the veneer of "politeness" which covered over r e a l incoherencies, as well as r e s t r i c t i v e , l i m i t i n g notions of "the public" and what constituted proper subject matter for p u b l i c debate. In general terms, Lessing advocated a d i r e c t , blunt s t y l e of address that made the merits of the case being argued i n front of the p u b l i c the f o c a l point; and t h i s "public" was i n p r i n c i p l e to include everyone.
Lessing's turn towards cosmopolitanism i n h i s l a t e r years i s much remarked upon, i n opposition to his e a r l i e r German nationalism. Lessing's contestation of Publikum and the parameters of public debate, towards the end of h i s l i f e , underlines h i s l i f e l o n g devotion to c o n s t i t u t i n g and shaping an e n t i t y that stood somewhere between "nation" and "humanity.
Under the pretext that he and h i s friends were d i s s a t i s f i e d with various judgements which had been made of works of genius, he didn't merely draw his r e c t i f i c a t i o n s to the a t t e n t i o n of the public, rather himself erected a t r i b u n a l ; and what a t r i b u n a l! He, the head! He, namely! And not without his c i v i l title! Klotz, who thrusts himself forward, to hold court over a Klopstock, and Moses, and Rammler, and Gerstenberg? Klotz, the Privy Councillor.
In that case, the p u b l i c requires that t h i s be a proven name, a name which has earned the p u b l i c ' s t r u s t through the merit of i t s own works; even i f Mr. Klotz were a minister of state and the greatest p h i l o l o g i s t i n Europe, that would make no d i f f e r e n c e. What has he bequeathed to our language, which could make i t proud v i s - a - v i s other languages?
This was i n keeping with comments made i n the B r i e f e. There, he stated that although he was disgusted by the events which had occasioned p u b l i c a t i o n of the essay, he didn't think the public was j u s t i f i e d i n holding i t s e l f above such disputes: [The public] appears to want to forget that the enlightenment of many important points has simple contradiction to thank, and that human beings would not yet be united over anything, i f they hadn't ever squabbled over anything If that part of the p u b l i c which doesn't want to have anything to do with polemical writings happens to be l a r g e l y composed of writers themselves, then i t may be more than p o l i t e s s e that doesn't want to s u f f e r the polemical tone.
I t i s so dangerous to phony names! And as he had throughout his l i f e , he presented himself as an enlightened subject of discourse, one who was not unaware of h i s own l i m i t a t i o n s and of the need for open public discussion; t h i s i n opposition to his unenlightened opponents, who i n t h e i r dogmatic approach betrayed a lack of self-awareness and hence understanding of the f a l l i b i l i t y of t h e i r own theo l o g i c a l p o s i t i o n. When viewed from t h i s perspective, Lessing's vehemence i n these l a t e r controversies stems not only from offended pride or other personal motives, but from a perceived threat to the form of enlightened s o c i a b i l i t y he had been advancing throughout h i s career as a pu b l i c writer.
And Lessing's view of an enlightened Publikum u l t i m a t e l y comprised of humanity at large provided a l i n k between his e a r l i e r e f f o r t s at shaping an authentic "German" national i d e n t i t y and his l i f e l o n g cosmopolitan i d e a l s. Scholars who have recognized at least some of the many facets of Lessing's work as a public writer have tended to remain at a f a i r l y high l e v e l of g e n e r a l i t y i n t h e i r discussions, or have focused on a r e l a t i v e l y d i s c r e t e set of writings or p e r i o d.
Modern selves, as Mandeville so aptly recognized, e x i s t i n performative tension with the norms and gaze of "the p u b l i c " at large. Therefore i t follows that an i n d i v i d u a l l i k e Lessing, who i n another age could have existed quite comfortably i n bookish, antiquarian e x i l e from the world, expended so much i n t e l l e c t u a l energy on the theatre.
His t h e o r i z a t i o n of sympathy, and h i s dramaturgy generally, served both to conceptualize the r e l a t i o n s h i p between inc r e a s i n g l y complex i n d i v i d u a l perception and emotion and t h e i r p u b l i c representation, and to provide a forum i n which a cohesive, s e n s i t i z e d "public" of "private i n d i v i d u a l s " could take shape.
Herder recognized Lessing's stature as a "leading l i g h t " of " t h i s bleary-eyed fog-land" dumpsichten Nebellande , p r a i s i n g Lessing's e f f o r t s toward e s t a b l i s h i n g sound taste and judgement i n the Germanies, as well as h i s "philosophical c r i t i q u e " and d i a l o g i c a l writing s t y l e , a s t y l e which Herder himself took to i t s outer l i m i t s. And i t wasn't Lessing's f a u l t i f "the p u b l i c " hadn't benefitted as much as he had intended from his l a t e r t h e o l o g i c a l controversies.
Lessing, "Ernst und Falk. Gesprache fur Freimaurer," quoted i n t r a n s l a t i o n i n Peter Demetz, ed. Lessing: Nathan the Wise, Minna von Barnhelm. Unless otherwise indicated, c i t a t i o n s of Lessing's work w i l l be taken from Herbert G. Gopfert, general editor, Gotthold Ephraim Lessing Werke. Miinchen, , henceforth Werke, and t r a n s l a t i o n s are my own.
See Herder's perceptive remarks on t h i s score i n Bernhard Suphan, ed. Hans-Georg Werner uses t h i s term selbst-denkenden Kopfs i n reference to Lessing's approach, i n "Zum Verhaltnis zwischen ' o f f e n t l i c h e r ' und 'privater' Sphare im dichterischen Weltbild Lessings," i n Erhard Bahr, Edward P. Lyon, eds. For more on t h i s point see W i l f r i e d Barner, "Lessing zwischen B i i r g e r l i c h k e i t und Gelehrtheit," i n Rudolf Vierhaus, ed.
See for example Lessing's l e t t e r to h i s mother, 20 January , i n Helmut K i e s e l , ed. The European-wide movement of sentimentalism c l e a r l y played a r o l e i n t h i s discussion, and w i l l be treated i n more d e t a i l below. Wiener, ed. This point w i l l be elaborated further i n subsequent sections of t h i s chapter.
Harris and Richard E. Schade, eds. Ohio Bremen u. Wolfenbuttel, , p. One needs only to take into account II Frankfurt am Main, , p. See for example the discussion i n F. Lamport, German C l a s s i c a l Drama: Theatre, humanity and nation Cambridge, , Chapter 1: Classicism and neo-classicism: Germany and the European t r a d i t i o n.
See the discussion of G e l l e r t ' s t r e a t i s e i n S i l v i a Bovenschen, Die imaainierte Weiblichkeit: Exemplarische Untersuchunaen zu Kulturoeschicht-l i c h e n und l i t e r a r i s c h e n Prasentationsformen des Weiblichen , Frankfurt am Main, , p. Although Bovenschen r i g h t l y points -out that despite t h i s kind of opening "Der S c h r i t t aus dem Haus i s t nicht. Jahrhundert Gottingen, ,. Out of many possible examples, I c i t e here Lessing's warm comments to Mendelssohn regarding t h e i r friendship, i n a l e t t e r dated 13 Nov. In Lessing reviewed a s i m i l a r book, Freundschaftliche B r i e f e von J.
In September he announced that "The epoch of a p u r i f i e d gereinigten taste among the Germans has begun with splendid d i d a c t i c poems. In he mentioned that i t might not be so bad to allow contemporary fashionable tastes, f l e e t i n g as they might be, to be joined to more permanent, e s s e n t i a l beauties, i n order to ensure both contemporary and future applause. A l l works of Alexander Pope are worthy of "readers of taste," an expression which he i n c r e a s i n g l y employed.
Reh, eds. BPZ, 2 January , p. See also the reviews of 30 May and 4 July, William Hogarth, The Analysis of Beauty.
Related Der Religionsaspekt in Gotthold Ephraim Lessings Nathan der Weise (German Edition)
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