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Advocating ancient equalities. Pluralising “antiquity” in enlightened universal history

Oergel, Maike


Professor of German and Comparative Cultural Studies


This article investigates the constructions of Hebrew, classical, and “Northern” antiquities put forward by an eighteenth-century network of Anglo-German scholars. It asks to what extent these constructions propose a cultural equality between these competing “antiquities”, how such equality relates to the contemporaneous conception of universal history, and to what extent this development is driven by emancipatory tendencies within Enlightenment thinking. By discussing the changing approaches to Homer, Old Testament texts, and “early” European literature, the article relates the emergence of primitivism and orientalism to Enlightenment historicism and an interest in the sublime, which produces a growing focus on the importance of authentic culture and the role of the bard-poet. By discussing the connections between the work of Joseph Trapp, Thomas Blackwell, Robert Lowth, and Thomas Percy on the one hand, and Johann David Michaelis, Christian Gottlob Heyne, Johann Jakob Bodmer, and Johann Gottfried Herder on the other, the article illustrates the significance in this context of newly emerging Anglo-German scholarly networks and illuminates lesser-known aspects of Anglo-German relations in the second half of the eighteenth century.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Dec 8, 2022
Online Publication Date Feb 27, 2023
Publication Date 2023
Deposit Date Feb 21, 2023
Publicly Available Date Aug 28, 2024
Journal Intellectual History Review
Print ISSN 1749-6977
Electronic ISSN 1749-6985
Publisher Informa UK Limited
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 33
Issue 3
Pages 411-433
Keywords constructions of antiquity; Enlightenment historicism; Orientalism; bard; Homer
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