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Title: Bildung, the Beautiful Soul, and the German Enlightenment Salon
Author: Kolata, Justine
ISNI:       0000 0004 7962 0121
Awarding Body: University of Cambridge
Current Institution: University of Cambridge
Date of Award: 2019
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My dissertation explores two critical German philosophical concepts: Bildung (self-cultivation) and die schöne Seele (the Beautiful Soul) in the context of Berlin salon culture around 1800. It is the first systematic examination of the relationship between this philosophy and the institution of the salon. My principal goal is to demonstrate that during the period between the Ancien Régime and the Vormärz, the Berlin salons became the space in which this philosophy was performed and put into practice. Although I draw on the broader literature on this topic to elucidate this relationship, I focus on the theoretical formulations of the two most celebrated philosophers of the Beautiful Soul, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749-1832) and Friedrich Schiller (1759-1805), and how their ideas informed the activities of the two most widely recognized salons in post-revolutionary Berlin, those of Henriette Herz (1764-1847) and Rahel Varnhagen (1771-1833). My topic is significant for two related reasons: it lies at the intersection of aesthetic and moral philosophy which represents the core of the German philosophical tradition; and it explores the extent to which the tenets of this philosophy were vigorously debated and practiced in the salon, one of the most vibrant cultural institutions in Germany at the turn of the nineteenth century. No single treatise by the proponents of Bildung and die schöne Seele provides a comprehensive explanation of the theory. Since we lack a single, standardized text to analyze, I have chosen to construct a comprehensive account assembled from the fragments that identifies the commonalities amongst them, and, I believe, most accurately captures the ethos of the philosophy. Beyond examining the theory of Bildung and die schöne Seele, my contributions to the existing scholarship are threefold. First, by exploring the practical enactments of the Beautiful Soul and self-cultivation in the salon space, I will show that these concepts had far greater social and cultural significance than has been argued to date. Second, I articulate an aesthetic theory of the German salon that transforms the way we understand institutions for communication and deliberative democracy. Third, I demonstrate that there was a specific ideological underpinning to the activities of the Berlin salonnières. My dissertation reads the Berlin salons as projects of a radically political nature whose manifesto, as it were, was Bildung.
Supervisor: Ruehl, Martin Sponsor: Tiarks German Scholarship Fund
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
Keywords: Beautiful Soul ; Bildung ; die scho¨ne Seele ; Salons ; Salon Culture ; Salonnie`re ; Enlightenment