Hamann's prophetic mission : a genetic study of three late works against the Enlightenment
Johann Georg Hamann has often been seen as a rhapsodic precursor of Sturm und Drang, but more recent work by theologians has shown that his obscure style is a deliberately constructed tissue of detailed allusions. This genetic study begins with a reconstruction, based on the letters, of the circumstances that first led him to write such texts. An analysis of three late works, Konxompax, the Metakritik über den Purismum der Vernunft, and Golgatha und Scheblimini, then demonstrates Hamann's blanket application of aspects of Lutheran theology in his anti-Enlightenment polemic. Placing Hamann's targets in their wider context, both as. he himself understood it (on the basis of his contemporary correspondence) and also through independent discussion of the aims of Lessing, Kant, and Mendelssohn, reveals the nature of his engagement with them: rather than responding to his opponents' arguments on their own terms, he uses intertextuality to suggest a completely different, Christian, framework which it is their collective error, in Hamann's view, to reject. The substance of Hamann's work thus lies not in intellectual penetration of specific opposing arguments, but in the elaboration of conservative theological ideas and their radical application to the contemporary scene. To an extraordinary degree, Hamann's style compels the reader to unfold the implications of obscure hints and allusions, but this makes it important to establish which ideas are actually present in his writing. Close reading of the texts chosen as illustrations, drawing on existing commentaries, but aiming at a larger overview, shows how Hamann uses the same concepts and method against a wide variety of targets. The richness and complexity of the resulting polemics reveals more about Hamann's own attitudes to the Enlightenment in general than about the specific debates in each case.