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On the Literature and Thought of the German Classical Era

Hugh Barr Nisbet


Hugh Barr Nisbet

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1These are my essays on some of the central products of the German Classical Era. The topics they explore are key to the literature and thought of that period. All the essays have previously been published in journals or collections, dating from 1979 to 2010, and therefore span a considerable portion of my research into the German Enlightenment. I have selected them as the most important items in connection with problems presented by the major thinkers and writers working at that time.

2In so doing, I wished to provide as wide a coverage as possible of topics and authors within the German classical period. The essays consequently deal with literature (including lyric poetry, the verse epic, the novel, drama and prose dialogue), philosophy, history, history of science, history of ideas, art history, theology and religion, and with writers and thinkers including Lucretius, Winckelmann, Lessing, Herder, Goethe, Schiller, Kant, Hegel, and many others. I have in addition tried to include only those items the main conclusions of which have not, to the best of my knowledge, been superseded or substantially qualified by later research. In re-editing the work, I have confined myself largely to minor corrections, essential updating, and deletion of some passages which I no longer consider strictly relevant.

3I would not have assembled this collection of essays without the encouragement and wisdom of Professor Roger Paulin. Bringing together a selection of my key research in a single volume provides an opportunity to review some of the most important developments in western thought. I hope that this book will help to shed light on the historical and philosophical context in which ideas that are of fundamental significance to the world in which we live were originally developed. I am therefore most grateful to Roger for his foresight in identifying the value of such an initiative. Equally, I wish to thank him for his kindness in supporting the arrangements for preparing and editing the manuscript of these essays.

4I would also like to thank Karl Guthke, a colleague of many decades and a great support to me, who has been instrumental in the approval of this collection for publication. My thanks extend to Alessandra Tosi of Open Book Publishers for her professional guidance and forbearance as I have gone through the time-consuming process of revisiting my past research and preparing this volume for publication. I am also greatly indebted to Dr John Williams of the University of St. Andrews. John is an old friend and colleague as well as a leading authority on the German Enlightenment. He has generously spared a considerable amount of his time to assist me in compiling a detailed index to this collection. I wish to thank him for his tireless and meticulous work and for accomplishing the task with impressive resolve. My colleagues at Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge, have provided friendship and kindness to me for many years. I am particularly grateful to the College for organising funding for the work necessary to finalise the manuscript of these essays. I also wish to thank my son, Marcus, who has assisted me in co-ordinating many of the practical steps necessary to bring this project to fruition.

5Finally, I would like to pay tribute to my late wife, Angela, who was a dear companion to me for nearly thirty years and a devoted supporter of my endeavours. I duly dedicate this volume to her.

6December 2020


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