BMCR 1996.07.14

Altertumswissenschaft in den 20er Jahren

, , Altertumswissenschaft in den 20er Jahren : Neue Fragen und Impulse. Stuttgart: F. Steiner, 1995. 469 pages. ISBN 9783515065696. DM 124.

Despite its title, this book in fact surveys major trends in German classical studies throughout the twentieth century. The 1920s are highlighted because, as Flashar observes in his Einleitung, they marked a final flowering of innovative scholarly development in Germany before the “Break” caused by National Socialism in the thirties. Also, the methods of analysis and the interpretive presuppositions that emerged or peaked in the twenties departed decisively from the positivistic approach dominant in the nineteenth century and epitomized in the twentieth by the work of Wilamowitz-Moellendorff. The new critical procedures and assumptions have affected scholars right up to the present, encouraging a self-conscious redefinition of the purpose and relevance of classical studies in reaction to contemporary historical and social conditions. Fifteen specialists discuss the trends of (approximately) the twenties in various subdisciplines of classical studies.

Manfred Landfester, “Die Naumburger Tagung ‘Das Problem des Klassischen und die Antike’ (1930). Der Klassikbegriff Werner Jaegers: seine Voraussetzung und seine Wirkung” (11-40). Landfester provides a concise account of a doctrinal shift in classical studies in Weimar Germany. The champion of the new program was Werner Jaeger, who succeeded Wilamowitz-Moellendorff to the chair in Greek at Berlin in 1921. Jaeger insisted on the supreme value of ancient Greek culture, especially in philosophical thought, for modern students. In the aftermath of the thoroughly demoralizing First World War, many intellectuals sank into a profoundly pessimistic, Spenglerian view of the course of western civilization. Jaeger and others in the field of classical studies felt that a renewal of values could be effected by a proper appreciation of the achievements of classical Greece. What Eduard Spranger dubbed a “Third Humanism” might restore the spirits of thinking people in a time of moral crisis. Jaeger emphasized education (paideia) and the continuing relevance of ancient Greek values to those of modern times. His formulation of the “classical” privileged Greek intellectual history, the educative thrust of Greek cultural phenomena, and a view of history as a teleological process in the Aristotelian sense. Jaeger founded a series of monographs and two new journals, while issuing programmatic statements at scholarly conferences, most notably, the Naumburg colloquium in 1930, where Jaeger, Wolfgang Schadewaldt, Paul Friedländer, Eduard Fränkel, and others delivered papers typifying the new outlook. Landfester also reviews the effects of this movement outside Greek studies, in Romance languages and literature, Anglistik, German language and literature, history of Christianity, protestant theological scholarship, New Eastern studies, and Latin philology. Rather than influence, he finds reaction against Jaeger’s ideas, with emphasis on discontinuities in cultural development. Even within Greek studies, Bruno Snell, Karl Reinhardt, and others in the 1930s exposed the deficiencies of Jaeger’s new humanism. Jaeger tried to accommodate his idealized view of the world of the Greek polis, in which the individual subordinated himself to the greater good of the state, to National Socialist political ideology in “Die Erziehung des politischen Menschen und die Antike,” published just after Hitler became chancellor in 1933. This ensured the ultimate rejection of the Jaegerian humanism on moral grounds, quite apart from the problems inherent in its distorted view of ancient intellectual history.

Joachim Latacz, “Reflexionen Klassischer Philologen auf die Altertumswissenschaft der Jahre 1900-1930” (41-64). Latacz charts reaction between 1932 and 1972 to the shift in classical scholarship from unalloyed positivism to a new humanism. No easy task, since the history of scholarly movements, methodologies, and philosophies is seldom an object of systematic study; scholars go about their business without formulating or reflecting carefully (in print) on the theoretical presuppositions of their work, apart from obiter dicta in reviews, occasional remarks in lectures, in short, parerga (Appendix III usefully list nineteen examples). Latacz begins with a lecture delivered by Bruno Snell at Amersfoort in 1932 and not published at the time because of the political climate in Germany. Snell rejects both the old style positivism and the new humanism of Jaeger, preferring a more sophisticated historicism, directed to explication of the essential meaning or inner structure of the literary work or historical document. The details of Plato’s existence as citizen, political theorist, and artist are worthy of study but should not preempt in-depth examination of his work as a philosopher. Latacz next discusses Kurt von Fritz, who surveyed ten post-World War I books (by e.g. Snell, Schadewaldt, Solmsen, Reinhardt, and others) in an omnibus review also published in 1932. Von Fritz, too, eschews the programmatic new humanism and praises writers who reveal the distinctive meaning of the work itself in all its foreignness (Fremdheit) even if that makes it incompatible with any modern interpretive ideology or criterion of evaluation. Latacz’s third philologist is Karl Reinhardt, who spoke on “Die klassische Philologie und das Klassische” in Frankfurt in 1941. Reinhardt warns of the dangers of an arid historicism, stemming from the prestige of the revered Wilamowitz. He sympathizes with Nietzsche’s appeal for a vital, engaged, healthy humanism, but finds no concomitant practical methodology in his work. For Reinhardt, the raison d’être for classical studies is a better, more immediate apprehension of the ancient world. Ideological programs like the third humanism only interfere with our apprehension of deeper levels of artistic structure. Latacz’s last core sample comes from an Einführung in die Geschichte der Klassischen Philologie, published by two young scholars in 1972 and reflecting the outlook of students and younger professors at the Frankfurt Seminar für Klassische Philologie. This book is devoted to formulating an appropriate role for the discipline at a time of upheaval (the sixties) in universities and society at large. The authors see the need for a theory and praxis that will place learning at the service of mankind; the positivism of a Wilamowitz is preferable to the false humanism of Jaeger, who “ist nicht Humanist, sondern Historiker des Humanismus.” The goal must be to show the pertinence of the intellectual achievements of the ancients to our own lives and times. Latacz remarks that this ongoing effort to define the relevance of the discipline is the best legacy from the theoretical ferment of the twenties. A valuable appendix shows in chronological arrangement the great German “Lehrer,” beginning with Wilamowitz, their “ältere Schüler,” “jüngere Schüler,” and “Enkelschüler” of the present day.

Uvo Hölscher, “Strömungen der deutschen Gräzistik in den wanziger Jahren” (65-85). Hölscher begins by remarking on the tremendous influence of Wilamowitz, his students, and other adherents on Greek philology during the early part of the twentieth century in nearly every university in German-speaking Europe. He isolates four scholars—Paul Friedländer, Werner Jaeger, Walter F. Otto, and Karl Reinhardt—who altered the nature of classical studies in the thirties. All four reacted against the historicism of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Hölscher points out that the opposition of historicism and humanism (or “classicism,” Klassizismus), which preoccupied scholars in the twenties and later, had had its roots in the nineteenth century. “Scientific” scholarship emerged in the era of the humanism of Lessing, Goethe, Schiller, and Hölderlin; later, Wilamowitz and Nietzsche represented antipodes in the dispute over the relative merits of positivist philological and historical inquiry on the one side and deep aesthetic apprehension of classical culture on the other. The four figures Hölscher discusses worked, in part under the influence of the Stefan George Circle, to disclose the essential meaning of specific texts. The scholar must be aware of the historical conditions of the work’s origin, but his goal must be to bring an immediate, direct appreciation of the inner form and essence of the work. In Hölscher’s view, this aim was achieved best by Reinhardt, least effectively by Jaeger, whose overemphasis on paideia interposed a veil between the student and the products of Greek culture. Reinhardt’s major scholarly works and his occasional remarks on his interpretive philosophy reject the call for any doctrinaire theoretical grounding for our understanding of the ancient world.

Glenn W. Most, “Πόλεμος πάντων πατήρ. Die Vorsokratiker in der Forschung der Zwanziger Jahre” (87-114). Most explains the tremendous surge of scholarly and popular interest and publication on the Presocratics in the twenties. In 1903, Hermann Diels rendered all previous editions obsolete when he brought out the first volume of his epochal Die Fragmente der Vorsokratiker, which provided systematically derived texts of the fragments together with a German translation. This was the sine qua non for the explosion of interest in the Presocratics, which came, however, only some two decades later. The moment of detonation—the twenties—was determined by specific developments in intellectual history: these included a general interest in “primitivism,” initially as reaction against the banality of late nineteenth-century industrial life, but, more immediately, as a function of a painful post-war awareness of just how dire a threat primitive forces posed to civilized life. Also significant were the philosophical works of Martin Heidegger and Ernst Cassirer and the anthropological writings of Lucien Levy-Bruhl, Marcel Mauss, Bronislaw Malinowski, the Cambridge anthropologists, and the early work of younger scholars like Karl Meuli and Louis Gernet. However, the most crucial spur to interest in the Presocratics was Nietzsche, who asserted their importance as thinkers in and of themselves, apart from their place in the development of philosophical thought in Greece. Paradoxically, at a time when general interest in Nietzsche was cresting, classicists, like other intellectuals, were reading and discussing him privately, but not citing him in their published work—so decisive and intimidating was Wilamowitz’s veto power. Nonetheless, the perceived similarity of Nietzsche to Heraclitus in style (aphoristic, mercurial, often obscure) and thought (stress on conflict, tension, and paradox) engendered and colored interpretations of both thinkers, and of the Presocratics generally, in the twenties, as Most shows with telling quotations.

Peter Lebrecht Schmidt, “Zwischen Anpassungsdruck und Autonomiestreben: die deutsche Latinistik vom Beginn bis in die 20er Jahre des 20. Jahrhunderts” (115-182). Schmidt’s paper seeks to correct the imbalance in the concentration of histories of classical scholarship on developments in Greek studies. He discusses of the evolution of Latin studies as a separate subdiscipline in the mid-nineteenth century, stressing the tremendous influence of Friedrich Ritschl, who put Latinistik on a sound scientific basis and whose students held twelve of the nineteen chairs in Latin in Germany during the second half of the nineteenth century. Schmidt then discusses the role and influence of the historicist Bonn school of Franz Bücheler, including the preeminence of Friedrich Leo, Richard Heinze, and Eduard Norden from 1906 up to the twenties. Latin studies, too, were marked by a tension between positivism and intellectual history during the twenties, but had been marked by a concern with self-definition for many years already. Latinistik was still a weak sister to Gräzistik in the first three decades of the twentieth century: many Latin specialists had in fact begun their careers as Hellenists, and many chairs of Latin were held by Hellenists. This motivated students of Roman history and literature to stress the inner significance of the literary work (proto-new criticism?) and to formulate a notion of the distinctive character of Roman civilization (Römertum); all quite in keeping with the ongoing reassessment of raison d’être within Greek studies in the twenties.

Karl Schefold, “Neue Wege der Klassischen Archäologie nach dem ersten Weltkrieg” (183-203); Adolf Heinrich Borbien, “Die Klassik-Diskussion in der Klassischen Archäologie” (205-245); Mathias Rene Hofter, “Die Entdeckung des Unklassischen: Guido Kaschnitz von Weinberg” (247-257). Three papers deal with archaeology and art history. Karl Schefold, the Nestor of classical art historians and a man who actually studied with some of the great figures in the twenties, provides a succinct survey of archaeological developments in a period “richer in ideas and discoveries than any subsequent decade.” He arranges his discussion by eras investigated, from Bronze Age through the Roman imperial era, noting the major researchers, the principal publications (including new serials and corpora), and the establishment or expansion of museum displays. He also traces various currents of influence on the aesthetic and interpretive outlooks of scholars in this field. Borbien rehearses the engagement with the problem of defining the “classical” in art that preoccupied art historians and archaeologists during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. What are the defining criteria? Is it simply a matter of periodization? If so, what are the chronological limits of the “classical” era? Can other eras make a claim to the adjective? Is there a necessary linkage to political developments? Should historical developments be excluded in favor of a more aesthetic approach, stressing structural perfection or idealization of the natural world? Such questions prompted heated debates and fervent rhetoric in the twenties and thirties, concurrently with the self-reflection of classical scholars involved in formulating the new humanism championed by Werner Jaeger. But the obsession with defining the “classical” waned in the post-Second World War era, being supplanted in the sixties by a “renaissance of Marxist scholarly approaches” stressing political and social factors in the interpretation of the physical remains of the ancient world. More recently apparent is a clear trend to neopositivist inventorying (Bestandaufname). Hofter’s paper is quite narrow in scope, focusing on the career and work of a single influential scholar. Kaschnitz, whose specialty was Etruscan and early Roman art, is most important for his theory of cognition (Erkenntnistheorie). He sought to define the distinctive structural mode of existence and aesthetic appeal of the art of the ancient Mediterranean world, drawing on the philosophical speculations of Hegel regarding the intellect and, especially, of Wilhelm Dilthey regarding the concept of structure as the “central synthetic category” in understanding the historical experience of peoples and the perception of art by individuals.

Andreas Wittenburg, “Bernhard Laum und der sakrale Ursprung des Geldes” (259-274). Bernhard Laum began his career as a classicist in 1908 with a dissertation on Stiftungen in der griechischen und römischen Antike (published 1914) and wrote a provocative study of the origins of money, Heiliges Geld, (published 1924). In the thirties he changed disciplines and became professor of economics at Marburg (1936-1953). Wittenburg speculates that the change resulted from disenchantment at the lack of influence of Heiliges Geld in the field; his article is part rehabilitation and part history of reception. He takes the reader through the five chapters of Laum’s book, describing the construction of the argument for a religious origin of money. Laum maintained that cattle as sacrificial animals, rather than as a medium of exchange, constituted the prototype of money. The apportioning and distribution of roasted cuts of meat at festivals prefigured the symbolic representation of value gradations by metallic currency (n.b. obolos, obelos, obeliskos). Laum cited Homeric evidence and terminology to sustain the contentions in his early chapters; he also drew on anthropological theory and parallels. The last chapter, however, made very sweeping generalizations, without carefully mustering textual or other supporting evidence. German classical scholars who reviewed Laum’s book praised its innovative theories, but faulted and ultimately dismissed it for poor scholarship in its details; however, French scholars, especially Louis Gernet, recognized the importance of and made favorable references to Laum’s work. Wittenburg claims that Laum, despite his lack of recognition, typifies German classical studies in the twenties by his passionate belief in the value of a multi-disciplinary approach and by an admittedly exaggerated representation of a specific point of view (a la Jaeger on paideia?).

Beat Näf, “Deutungen und Interpretationen der Griechischen Geschichte in den zwanziger Jahren” (275-302); Ines Stahlmann, “‘Nebelschwaden eines geschichtswidrigen Mystizismus’? Deutungen der Römischen Geschichte in den zwanziger Jahren” (303-328). Näf detects three areas of special emphasis in the work of scholars of Greek history in the twenties: the political system of the polis (e.g., Viktor Ehrenberg and Hans Erich Stier), Greek economic history (esp. Johannes Hasebroek), and “Hellenismus” (Richard Laqueur, Ulrich Wilcken). These three areas drew particular attention in the twenties because they suited the agenda of demonstrating the relevance of ancient history to modern problems (historia magister vitae). Näf argues that the Greek historical scholarship of the twenties began influential lines of inquiry only in the economic history of the archaic and classical periods. Still, in all areas the call for a deeper understanding of historical forces than that provided by positivist historicism was salutary. Stahlmann discloses areas of special interest for scholars of Roman history during the twenties: late antiquity including decline and fall, social and economic change and attendant anxieties, the search for a “Führer” figure in times of disorientation. These preoccupations—evident in the work of, for example, Johannes Geffcken, Friedrich Münzer, Arthur Stein, and Matthias Gelzer—obviously reflect general concerns of intellectuals in the post-World War I milieu of Weimar Germany. They must also be seen in the light of the events of the thirties, for the conservative, anti-democratic biases of ancient Roman historians in the twenties helped pave the way for national socialism in the thirties, even though none of those historians foresaw or welcomed the Hitler regime.

Renate Schlesier, “‘Arbeiter in Useners Weinberg.’ Anthropologie und Antike Religionsgeschichte in Deutschland nach dem Ersten Weltkrieg” (329-380). Usener’s vineyard was (and is) very large and its workers very numerous indeed. Schlesier begins by identifying the distinctive aspects of Usener’s own methods and results in the neighboring fields of anthropology and the history of religion. He combined a comparative procedure, drawing on diverse ethnological material for the study of social and religious matters in the ancient world with a more phenomenological or hermeneutic procedure, centered on social psychology and cultural history. Schlesier then traces these methods and principles through the work of Usener’s many students and other proponents through second, third, and fourth generations of researchers (e.g.: Usener–Norden–Meuli–Burkert). Also registered are shifts in procedures and principles under the influence of, for example, the work of the Cambridge Ritualists or the racial theories of the twenties and thirties. A valuable 25-page appendix itemizes scholars of various nationalities at work in the vineyard before and after 1918, their principal publications, and a number of more general studies bearing on this branch of intellectual history.

Hubert Cancik, “Der Einfluss Nietzsches auf klassische Philologen in Deutschland bis 1945. Philologen am Nietzsche-Archiv (I)” (381-402). Nietzsche’s imprint on the intellectual outlook of classical scholars in the 1920s was immense but largely unacknowledged. Cancik does not seek to delineate the nature and extent of this general, overarching influence. Instead, he first succinctly describes the actual (very considerable) philological work of Nietzsche and identifies his students and correspondents in the field. He then proposes lines of influence by tracking the contacts of scholars with the Nietzsche archive, a product of the hagiographic devotion of Nietzsche’s sister, Elisabeth Förster-Nietzsche; the archive was located first at the family home in Naumberg in 1893 and then in Weimar from 1896, where the ailing Nietzsche spent the last three years of his life. The site was the locus for anniversary celebrations, public lectures, and pilgrimages of serious students [and poseurs: “Hitler often visited … and publicized his veneration for the philosopher by posing for photographs of himself staring in rapture at the bust of the great man”—William L. Shirer]. The collected works of Nietzsche were carefully edited here, and Cancik identifies the classical scholars involved in the preparation of the philological writings. Using registries, letters, and memoirs, he also reconstructs—this is the chief contribution of the article—the record of visits to the archive by classical scholars over the first forty years or so of its existence. Names like Reinhardt (pere et fils), Walter F. Otto, and Werner Jaeger are prominent. Cancik closes by suggesting that further precision in ascertaining the time, duration, and purpose of visits to the archive would facilitate a better appreciation of just how Nietzsche’s work determined subjects and directions of investigation for (especially) German classical scholars.

William M. Calder III, “William Abbott Oldfather and the Preservation of German Influence in American Classics 1919-1933” (pp. 403-421). Calder reviews the course of German influence in the history of American classical studies, divided into the following periods: “The Beginnings” (1636-1853), “Teutonomania” (1853-1914), “The Reaction against Germany” (1915-1935), “Adolf Hitler and American Classics” (1935-1968), “The Second Emigration” (1968-1992). Oldfather, the details of whose training and academic career are compactly summarized, emerges as the champion of the German tradition of university education in the period of “The Reaction.” As the “Czar of Classics” at the University of Illinois, Oldfather published prodigiously and directed no fewer than 170 dissertations. Accused (in 1917) by agents of his own government of “socialist and pro-German sentiments and disloyalty to the United States,” he fought the good fight against anti-German bias within classics as well: Calder cites “Paul Shorey’s hysterical racist harangue of 1919,” J.A. Scott’s ridicule of the German Analytical strain in Homer studies, and Gilbert Norwood’s widely read 1923 article attacking German methods of scholarship. Oldfather’s struggle ended in victory when the triumph of National Socialism in the 1930s drove some twenty eminent, mostly Jewish, refugee scholars to America’s shores and to positions in its top academic institutions. Calder has astute comments on the impact of this unprecedented migration of talent. A smaller second, post-1970, wave of immigrants is also discussed. A final page—really an afterthought—lists “great books” of American classical scholarship in the 1920s.

Albert Henrichs, “Philologie und Wissenschaftsgeschichte: Zur Krise eines Selbstverständnisses” (423-457). Henrichs offers apposite reflections on the value of the history of scholarship in a revised version of a lecture delivered in 1992 in Bad Homburg in honor of Calder, the doyen of classical Wissenschaftsgeschichte. He asserts that the current preoccupation with the history of classical scholarship is the concomitant of a pressing need for a redefinition or revalidation of the profession. While classicists must give priority to interpreting the creations of antiquity, they will better understand their goals and methods in so doing if they are familiar with their predecessors’ efforts to delineate the field and establish first principles. Henrichs examines the apparent dichotomy of attitudes (ardent historicism and the Totalitätsideal vs. humanism and aesthetic sensitivity) embodied in Wilamowitz and Nietzsche. He explores the varying reactions against the masterly and overbearing Wilamowitz’s influential outlook in the careers of some of his most eminent students, especially Werner Jaeger, Rudolf Pfeiffer, Paul Friedländer, Wolfgang Schadewaldt, and Karl Reinhardt. All contended against the master or, as Friedländer put it, against the Wilamowitz in themselves. Thus, for example, definition of such an indispensable and fundamental term as “classic(al)” was a matter of such intense discussion in large part because Wilamowitz abhorred the word as unscientific and misleading. The resurgence of interest in Nietzsche, who believed that the “classical” in the essence of Greek art and thought could be grasped, though not by the purely positivistic procedures of traditional nineteenth-century scholarship, coinciding with the sense of dislocation wrought by the trauma of World War I and other elements of intellectual life in the 1920s (e.g. the Stefan George Circle), spurred scholars to reexamine the place of classical studies in modern society. We live in a time when the need for redefinition is again urgently felt; this makes the controversies, debates, and course changes of earlier practitioners specially instructive, as the papers gathered in the present volume amply prove.