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Title:The German Essay of The Eighteenth Century: An Ecology
Author(s):Van Der Laan, James M.
Department / Program:German
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Subject(s):Literature, Germanic
Abstract:The German essay of the eighteenth century shows us a very different view of the age from that presented in the standard handbooks and literary histories. Its emergence in the eighteenth century is itself most revealing of the age. The social and cultural climate of the century in general and the socio-cultural situation of its authors in particular gave rise to, and came to expression in, the essay form. As a sociological profile of the authors illustrates, the essay form developed in accord with their specific training and experience, their social, cultural, and historical provenance. Both theme and form of the essay reflect the character and disposition of the age.
The essay reveals the eighteenth century as an age of liberation from dogmatic and doctrinaire modes of thought. An open form with no overriding principle of organization, the essay is itself an expression of freedom and liberation. It permits stylistic license--freedom of expression, formulation, and exposition. In the essay, its product and mirror, the eighteenth century appears far less analytical and positivistic than is generally maintained.
The essay conveys the disintegration and disorientation of the age by its indefinite and tentative form. It is a fragment, in fact, a form without form. At the same time, the essay shows a concomitant reorientation, for it is experimentation with form and ideas, a search for form, for new foundations and values. The ethos of the essay is experimentation and search.
Authors cultivated a form consonant with the spirit of the times. The message of the form is the necessary bias of human perception and comprehension. The essay proclaims the relative character of knowledge and the interpretive base of reality. It presents a subjective, incomplete, and fragmentary version of reality.
What the essay reveals to us contradicts received notions about the eighteenth century. As reflected in the essay, the age accepted and affirmed man's inability to fathom ultimate reality and so acknowledged it subjective basis. Indeed, the essay of the eighteenth century is a harbinger of the solipsistic philosophy of a subsequent generation.
Issue Date:1984
Description:268 p.
Thesis (Ph.D.)--University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, 1984.
Other Identifier(s):(UMI)AAI8409845
Date Available in IDEALS:2014-12-16
Date Deposited:1984

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