Continued Existence, Reincarnation, and the Power of Sympathy in Classical Weimar

Continued Existence, Reincarnation, and the Power of Sympathy in Classical Weimar

Lieselotte E. Kurth-Voigt


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Camden House



A study showing that the ancient lore of reincarnation was a living part of the thought of Weimar Classicism.
In Wieland's novel Agathodaemon, Apollonius ponders fundamental questions that have fascinated a host of poets and philosophers Throughout history. Intensely aware of this tradition, the writers of German Classicism eagerly participated in searching for answers, and one possibility for continued life, the transmigration of the soul, caught their abiding interest. Wieland was the first among them to treat these ideas in greater detail, presenting an extraordinary variety of perspectives on preexistence, reincarnation, and the concomitant concept of 'sympathia,' the compelling inherent affinity that characterizes certain human relationships. Goethe included these notions in his poetry, novels, and dramatic works many times, and, firmly convinced of the permanence of man's soul, or his entelechy, he often expressed his hope for continued life in correspondence and conversations. In 1781-82 Schlosser and Herder presented their contrasting views on reincarnation in five connected dialogues that were attentively received in Weimar. And in his early works and letters the young Schiller also participated in the ongoing discourse concerning these topics. The present study traces the development of these concepts in ancient literature, Judaism, and early Christianity; it outlines their discussion during the Enlightenment and indicates the importance of Orientalism for Western views on reincarnation. The final and major part of the book treats the reception of these ideas in the writings of the Weimar classicists.


June 1999
280 pages
22.8x15.2 in
Studies in German Literature Linguistics and Culture
ISBN: 9781571131560
Format: Hardback
Camden House
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Table of Contents

Greek and Roman Heritage
Judaism and Early Christianity
Early Enlightenment
Dissenting Views and Satirical Voices
Christoph Martin Wieland
Johann Georg Schlosser and Johann Gottfried Herder
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
Friedrich von Schiller
Later Voices: Toward Romanticism
Concluding Observations


Kurth-Voigt shows an impressive mastery of both primary and secondary sources and her argument is persuasive. JOURNAL OF EUROPEAN STUDIES'Kurth-Voigt has given us a work of mature scholarship that opens up new vistas to all interested in a panoramic view of the period and its authors. Additionally, (the book) puts Seelenwanderung in historical and literary perspective.' GERMANIC NOTES AND REVIEWS 'Well written.... Scholars and students of the eighteenth century should find reading (the work) to be a memorable experience.' MONATSHEFTE'(The) book would be a useful tool in provoking classroom discussion and alerting students to the art of careful reading....' COLLOQUIA GERMANICA'This informative and clearly articulated study should serve as a handy reference work.' GERMAN QUARTERLY

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