The Death of Romanticism and its Philological and Historical Consequences

Prof. Suzanne Marchand (Louisiana State University)

Thursday, 13 April 2017, 4.00 – 6.00 pm

PLEASE NOTE CHANGE OF VENUE: The event will now be held in the Baille Room at New College, School of Divinity, University of Edinburgh. Entry is through the Ramsey Lane Wing. The way to the seminar room will be clearly signposted.

This paper begins with a discussion of the similarities and differences exhibited by Enlightened and Romantic studies of the ancient world, noting their common passionate interest in the history of religion and mythology.  It then argues that a turning point toward more ‘modern’ forms of inquiry occurs not in the 1790s but in the 1820s, and is the result less of a new ‘historicism’ than of the embarrassment scholars now felt about previous discussions of mythology, prehistory, and universal history.  The signature controversy of the day, involving Friedrich Creuzer’s immensely popular Symbolik und Mythologie der alten Völker, besonders der Griechen (1810-12), demonstrates the ways in which Romantic (and Enlightened) forms of scholarship came under fire among Restoration liberals terrified of Catholic reaction and idealist speculation.  The paper concludes by discussing the roads out of the Symbolik, one positivistic (prevailing in history writing and philology proper, which split into classical, oriental, and Germanic branches) and one philosophical (prevailing among Hegelians, young and old).  It argues that this was probably a necessary division of disciplinary labor, but one that largely cut academic writing off from popular universal histories, and one that also had the unpleasant outcome of cutting ancient Greece off from the history of the Orient and wider Mediterranean world.

Suzanne Marchand is Boyd Professor of European Intellectual History at Louisiana State University. Her other publications include German Orientalism in the Age of Empire: Religion, Race and Scholarship (Cambridge University Press, 2009) and Down from Olympus: Archaeology and Philhellenism in Germany,1750-1970 (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1996).

This paper is sponsored jointly by the Leverhulme Trust and ECENS.

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