Romantic Anthropology

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Our Research Project

Like the - far better researched - anthropology of the Enlightenment, Romantic Anthropology is focused on the "whole man " as a unity of body and soul. The anthropological literature - mostly written by authors with a medical background and a leaning towards natural philosophy - deals with basic questions of physiology and psychology, the history of the individual, of nature and of the cosmos; as well as with special problems such as somnambulism, magnetism, the subconscious, dreams, love, insanity, the doppelgänger-syndrome, gender, etc. The heyday of Romantic Anthropology was, roughly speaking, the years between 1810 and1840; although in psychology Romantic Anthropology exerted its influence well into the '70s. Its traces can still be detected in the works of Freud and the philosophy of life ("Lebensphilosophie") of the early 20th century.
The aim of our research project is to rediscover and to map this "lost continent". The authors, institutions, periodicals, and books, and the major works of secondary literature are to be found and made accessible.
As part of the project, a research archive has been set up. The most important articles and books of Romantic Anthropology as well as the most important secondary works have been collected (in the original or as copies). All these texts are accessible in print and via a database; a workstation with computer, printer, scanner and a copy-machine are be at the disposal of all interested researchers who come to Saarbrücken. Here a selevtion of some important authors:
Johann Heinrich Ferdinand von Autenrieth; Franz von Baader; Karl Ernst von Baer; Christoph Heinrich Ernst Bischoff; Joachim Dietrich Brandis; Karl Friedrich Burdach; Carl Gustav Carus; Ernst Friedrich Eberhard; Joseph Ennemoser; Johann Eduard Erdmann; Immanuel Hermann von Fichte; Johann Christoph Fleck; Jakob Friedrich Fries; Christian Ludwig Funk; Georg Friedrich Christian Greiner; Franz von Paula Gruithuisen, Friedrich Wilhelm Hagen; Eduard von Hartmann; Johann Christian August Heinroth; Karl Wilhelm Ideler; Johann Samuel Ith; Ludwig Heinrich von Jakob; Dietrich Georg von Kieser; Johann Michael Leupoldt; Christian Gottfried Daniel Nees von Esenbeck; Jakob Salat; Karl Albert Scherner; Gotthilf Heinrich Schubert; Henrich Steffens; Paul Ignaz Vitalis Troxler; Heinrich Benedikt von Weber.

This collection should be of equal interest to workers in the fields of literature, philosophy, pedagogics, medicine, psychology and the history of science.

Why are literary historians interested in this subject?

The answer seems fairly obvious: almost all authors of High and Late Romanticism (e.g. Hoffmann, von Arnim, Brentano, Eichendorf) and several of their contemporaries (such as Goethe, Jean Paul and Kleist) addressed anthropological themes, problems and questions in their writings – and these passages show obvious affinities to the opinions and conclusions of Romantic Anthropology. After all, the professional anthropologists dealt with the main theme of literature: i.e. man. A comprehensive reconstruction of Romantic Anthropology – still unachieved –would enable us to consider Romantic literature in its context, and thus greatly contribute to a better understanding of the literary texts of this period.


Alexander von Humboldt`s dedication page to Goethe, 1807: the genius of Poetry (Apollo) is removing the veils which cover a statue of Nature, shown as the goddess Artemis of Ephesus. Etching after a picture by Bertel Thorwaldsen.



The staff and their publications






We are deeply indebted to our sponsors:


The Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft in Bonn, which has provided a grant for staff, books and travel necessary for the setting up of the project.


The Universitätsbund Erlangen, which provided generous support in 1996 and 1997, donating the computer equipment and other material for setting up the "Romantic Anthropology" research archive.


The FernUniversität Hagen, which also supported the creation of the archive and provided office space and equipment.


The Universitaet des Saarlandes, which financed the transfer of the archive from Hagen to Saarbruecken.

We would like to thank those named here for their generosity and the confidence which they have placed in us.



This page was designed by Uli Wunderlich, and translated by Adam Lawrence. Update: Manfred Engel. Please contact Prof. Dr. Manfred Engel if you have any questions.

FR 4.1 - Germanistik / Universität des Saarlandes
Last update:  2003-07-26 (me)