The Indo-German Identification

The Indo-German Identification

Reconciling South Asian Origins and European Destinies, 1765-1885

Robert Cowan


Camden House



The nineteenth-century development -- and later consequences -- of the imagined relationship between ancient India and modern German culture.
In the early nineteenth century, German intellectuals such as Novalis, Schelling, and Friedrich Schlegel, convinced that Germany's cultural origins lay in ancient India, attempted to reconcile these origins with their imagined destiny as saviors of a degenerate Europe, then shifted from "Indomania" to Indophobia when the attempt foundered. The philosophers Hegel, Schopenhauer, and, later, Nietzsche provided alternate views of the role of India in world history that would be disastrously misappropriated in the twentieth century. Reconstructing Hellenistic and humanist views of the ancient Brahmins and Goths, French-Enlightenment debates over the postdiluvian origins of the arts and sciences, and the Indophilia and protonationalism of Herder, Robert Cowan focuses on turning points in the development of an "Indo-German" ideal, an ideal less focused on intellectual imperialism than many studies of the "Aryan Myth" and Orientalism would have us believe. Cowan argues that the study of this ideal continues to offer lessons about cultural difference in the "post-national" twenty-first century.
Of great interest to historians, philosophers, and literary scholars, this cross-cultural study offers a new understanding of the Indo-German story by showing that attempts to establish identity necessarily involve a reconciliation of origins and destinies, of self and other, of individual and collective.

Robert Cowan is Assistant Professor of English at Kingsborough Community College of the City University of New York.


September 2010
236 pages
9x6 in
Studies in German Literature Linguistics and Culture
ISBN: 9781571134639
Format: Hardback
Library eBook
Camden House
BISAC LIT004170, HIS014000
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Table of Contents

Introduction: History Is Personal
Prologue: Original Attributes, 425 B.C.-A.D. 1765
As Flood Waters Receded: The Enlightenment on the Indian Origins of the Arts and Sciences
Seeds of Romantic Indology: From Language to Nation
Hindu Predecessors of Christ: Novalis's Shakuntala
Reconcilable Indifferences: Schelling and the Gitagovinda
Fear of Infinity: Friedrich Schlegel's Indictment of Indian Religion
Hegel's Critique of "Those Plant-like Beings"
Schopenhauer's Justification for Good
Nietzsche's Inability to Escape from Schopenhauer's South Asian Sources
Epilogue: Destinies Reconsidered, 1885-2004
Conclusion: The Intersection of the Personal, the Philosophical, and the Political


The book's biggest achievement is its ability to reveal, time and again, the co-existence of Indophilia and Indophobia amongst Germany's most celebrated thinkers. LANGUAGE AND HISTORY

Carefully researched . . . . Cowan's discussion (of Novalis and Schelling's) appreciation of (Hinduism) as a precursor of Christianity reinvigorates a sadly flagging interest in this important chapter of German intellectual history. . . . Cowan brings a fresh perspective on Hegel, Schopenhauer, and Nietzsche as well. . . . The wealth of information Cowan provides about the personal philosophies of German intellectuals in the 18th- and 19th centuries will undoubtedly prove very useful . . . . GERMAN QUARTERLY

Robert Cowan's book takes the scholarly discourse on German Orientalism in an important new direction with his thoroughly-researched and well-argued reminder that the subjects of our work were real human beings, real individuals, who brought their personal psychological, philosophical, religious, and political baggage to the reading table. H-NET GERMAN REVIEWS

The book's biggest achievement is its ability to reveal, time and again, the co-existence of Indophilia and Indophobia amongst Germany's most celebrated thinkers. LANGUAGE AND HISTORY

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