TANGLED UP IN TRUTHS: GERMAN LITERARY CONCEPTIONS OF NATURE BETWEEN ROMANTIC SCIENCE AND OBJECTIVE EMPIRICISM Public Deposited

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  • March 19, 2019
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  • Brandt, Lindsey
    • Affiliation: College of Arts and Sciences, Department of Germanic and Slavic Languages and Literatures
Abstract
  • This dissertation explores the relationship between literature and science in German-speaking Europe of the 1830s and 1840s against the backdrop of large shifts in conceptions of nature and natural inquiry. Many scientific and literary writers of this period reflected on the increasing tensions between early 19th century Romantic science and modern empirical science, as well as the implications of these tensions for fields such as biology and geology. The key texts examined in this context include Lorenz Oken’s journal Isis; Carl Gustav Carus’s Neun Briefe über Landschaftsmalerei and Zehn Briefe über das Erdleben; Annette von Droste-Hülshoff’s essay “Westfälische Schilderungen aus einer Westfälischen Feder” and poems “Die Mergelgrube” and “Der Hünenstein”; Adalbert Stifter’s painting “Bewegung II” and prose tale Kalkstein; and Georg Büchner’s prose work Lenz, trial lecture “Über Schädelnerven,” and dissertation on the nervous system of the barbel fish. Several of the texts examined here seek to reconcile the newer trend toward objective empiricism with older elements of nature discourse reflected, for instance, in Friedrich Schelling’s Naturphilosophie and the aesthetic-scientific approaches of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe and Alexander von Humboldt. As such, the writers in question often advocate for aesthetically inspired ways of knowing nature (i.e., through literature, Stimmung-oriented landscape painting, and more poetically attuned forms of science) as necessary complements to empirical science. Defending the aesthetic perspective was especially important at this time, as a rising trend toward disciplinarity threatened to isolate modes of knowledge—such as poetry and science—that were previously considered inextricable from one another. Particularly within the realm of literary history, this period of the 1830s and 1840s is typically framed in terms of political events; likewise, literary works are often interpreted and categorized based on their authors’ political views. My findings suggest that, by examining the literary and scientific writings of this era in dialogue with one another, another reading of this period is possible. Namely, literary and scientific authors across the political spectrum express common concerns about the increasingly complicated relationship between humans and nature, as well as the capacity of the arts and the sciences to gain knowledge about that relationship.
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  • In Copyright
Advisor
  • Gellen, Kata
  • Koelb, Clayton
  • Downing, Eric
  • Pfau, Thomas
  • Trop, Gabriel
Degree
  • Doctor of Philosophy
Degree granting institution
  • University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Graduate School
Graduation year
  • 2015
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  • Chapel Hill, NC
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