Anthropology and the German Enlightenment: Perspectives on Humanity
What was the role of anthropology in the German Enlightenment? Why did this discipline emerge as one of the most popular modes of inquiry in the eighteenth century, permeating fields as disparate as aesthetics, medicine, and law? As the essays in this volume show, the "body" of Enlightenment knowledge was by no means universal. During the German Enlightenment the study of nature, humanity, and everything that humanity created was the topic of the day. But the period that defined moral reason as the sovereign human faculty also applied its scrutiny to the body that such a mind inhabited. What did it look like? Could moral superiority be deduced from physiognomy? In the massive effort to "educate" the German populace on what were seen to be the fundamental, a priori differences (physical and moral) between the sexes and the races, the European bourgeois man was considered to embody all human virtues and talents and stem from the only race and sex capable of ruling itself democratically and rationally. To examine the role of anthropology in this enterprise, contributors to this volume were asked to investigate what constitutes the German Enlightenment's interaction between its self-proclaimed rationalism and the pervasive presence of the non-traditional; that is, the corporeal. How, for example, do German enlightenment thinkers explain racial and gender difference, illness, fate, and religious faith in a universe supposedly designed and government by beneficent reason? Furthermore, how do those not accounted for in the "universal" realm of reason view the disseminators of rationality? The essays in this volume are presented in three groups: the "anthropologies" of the German enlightenment (Faull, Craig, Leblans); the anthropologies of women (Dawson, Richardson, Poeter); and the anthropologies of race (Figueira, Eze). Those thinkers examined range from the influential figure of Count Nicholas von Zinzendorf in the early eighteenth century to George Christoph Lichtenberg, Johann Kaspar Lavater, Wilhelm and Jakob Grimm, Germaine de Stael, Johann Gottfried Herder, and Immanuel Kant. These contributions provide more than an arena for the dissemination and discussion of things pertaining to human nature in the German Enlightenment. They also broaden the scope of Germanistik in North America by pointing out the breadth of Enlightenment anthropologies and by providing a postcolonial and feminist critique of notions of the human start in the eighteenth century.
Contributors: Katherine M. Faull, Charlotte M. Craig, Anne Leblans, Ruth P. Dawson, Ruth Drucilla Richardson, Elisabeth Poetrt, Dorothy M. Figueira, and Emmanuel Chukwudi Eze.
About the editor:
Katherine M. Faull is Professor of German and Comparative Literature at Bucknell University.
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