Vico Herder Mannhardt

This Thursday I held my seminar in front of the smallest possible audience – yes, you guessed it: One person. A young man in his first semester. Two ladies excused themselves in e-mails the day before with illness, and three simply did not show up.
I had a little chat with the head of the institute just before the session, and she told me that the institute faces a strange situation: The newly introduced fees swept a lot of money into the university cassa and – as the others too – she was enabled to hire some people for additional seminars, lectures etc.
One had to be skipped already because of lack of interest from the students. Another one should lead to a small exhibition and possibly a small publication, but it is highly doubtful whether these goals can be reached because too few take part: It is about dancing halls in villages (“Tanzsäle” auf dem Lande), their functions, and the remains. The colleague simply has not enough students to collect the necessary data by traveling over land.
Fact is, there are currently simply too much possible offers in stock for this small institute. I wish she could scrap the money together and finance me an employment.

It was the third session. In the first we had to talk about technical things. In the second I spoke about the brothers Grimm. I realized that the connection to the scientific situation at the end of the 18th century was missing: Wilhelm and Jacob G. did not fall from the sky, they stood in some tradition. To understand what their big achievement was, the basical foundation of a new science called “Germanistik”, it is necessary to see what was before. One of their teachers was the great Herder, who took over some ideas from Giambattista Vico. One of Wilhelm Grimm‘s disciples was a man called Wilhelm Mannhardt, who is important for his mythological thinking and his than new methods of data-collecting. So from Vico’s first writings (1699/1700), via Herder, Grimm to Mannhardt (died 1880) one can show the development of mythological thinking and ideas over a period of roughly 180 years.

Vico started to publish his first ideas after he was appointed professor of rhetoric in Naples 1699; his magnum opus is called scienza nuova and was published 1744 in the last version, third edition. At his lifetime literally nobody was interested in this book. Vico wrote a universal history, from the beginning to the 16th century. He is the first that formulates the basics for all that comes later and today is called “cultural science”, “Kulturwissenschaft”. Based on his thoughts in the 19th century the methodological principles of “Geisteswissenschaft” (“humanities”) will be formulated, especially by Dilthey.
Herder is un-avoidable when you deal with philosophy or the humanities in the second half of the 18th century in the empire. He knew Vico’s writing, developed it further and passed these ideas to his disciples – together with an incredible amount of his own, deep, humanistic philosophy. The Grimms, universal as they were, built on Herder’s ideas and helped to found the new science called “Germanistik”. Mannhardt, as saied above is one of their most striking disciples.
It is all about the idea of “Mythologie”: What is left? Can we go back to the origin? Is there something to be found in the oral traditions, in song, in “Sage”, fairy tales? This “mythological school” was based on the idea of continuity. All very romantic. And already Wilhelm Grimm had quarrels with Achim von Arnim and Clemens Brentano, hard core romantics, about the tone, the kind of language that should be used in the “Kinder- und Hausmärchen“, the large collection of fairy-tales: WIlhelm did not like them to “work over” it, he wanted to keep the original tellings he and his brother collected from the people; the romantics wanted the “Volkston”, so the language would become even more “folkish” – does this word exist? Wilhelm published the “Deutsche Mythologie” (German Mythology) in three volumes and it was a tremendous success. Had a heavy impact and sparked a lot of similar collections, boosted the science.
Mannhardt was an avid reader and started to study in Berlin and Tuebingen. He came to the conclusion that the data-base was too small and that comparison should be used to find out the possibly oldest versions of a folk-tale. It was a one-man-enterprise. He was of poor health with a crippled spine, asthma and a heart-condition. He was without the backing of an institute – he could not get a full duty professorship, collapsed some times – and earned his living as librarian in Danzig.
He kept on working and published his “Wald- und Feldkulte der Germanen” (cults of the Germans in forests and fields). In the preface he gives a critic of the mythological school up to his time and outlines what he did and what should be done. The two volumes were printed in Berlin in the 1870s. He died from a heart-attack 1880 on 25th of December, 49 years old.

That is it in a nutshell. For further reading as far as the philosophical and methodological content is concerned I recommend you to have a look in the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy for Vico and Herder. Sources about Mannhardt are only in German (BBKL, ADB) avilable. Next week I’ll talk about Wilhelm Heinrich Riehl and billiards.

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20 thoughts on “Vico Herder Mannhardt

  1. Are you reading my mind, or am I reading yours? I’ve been thinking I need to revist the Brothers Grimm lately. I will look into your recommendations further.And next week we’ll be shooting pool (playing billiards) and talking about Riehl? 🙂

  2. What do you need to know about them? Maybe I can be of use. I linked only to the wikipedia. There is a Grimm-society, and a museum in Kassel: http://www.grimms.deThe fairy-tales and the vocabulary are online (“Märchen” , “Wörterbuch”). For further reading I would have to see what is available in English, I know the German literature about them roughly – it is abundant!W.H. Riehl is an important figure for the Bavarian “Volkskunde” – it could be translated with folklore. He was a friend to the king and they used to play some rounds in the morning. So if you want to become a folklorist …

  3. It’s half past one midday and I start to feel bad: Headaches, feeling dizzy. Sometimes I have to gasp for breath. Went to the supermarket, what took my almost an hour, normally it is an affair of 40 minutes max. The throat is rough and my voice … naja. Don’t have to say anything anyway, brain is off. I guess I am an hypochondriack as most men. It is grey, cold and raining – yeah, what do you need sunshine? If this volcano explodes we will face some YEARS of that wheather. Rumblebumblegrummel blaaahhh …Have a happy weekend. Hmpf.

  4. i have a picture taken at the vineyard the grimm brothers started in napa valley…as soon as i find it, i’ll send you a copy! (the vineyard is now called “storybook”get some rest, sugar…*hugs*

  5. One person sounds like my kind of audience for public speaking. I actually like to act (more correctly, I like to ham things up) but public speaking makes me physically ill. Still, it is a strange situation, as you say.

  6. savannahMust be relatives. I will look for a genealogical tree of the family. Zinfandel as I read on a website … sounds promising.lily strangeHello Lily! Did you read from your book publicly? Maybe in a book shop or a place like such.It’s raining. My throat hurts. Feed cold. Bed.

  7. I hope you will feel better by morning.I am trying to understand Grimms Law as it might pertain to my Geneology. European history is so confusing, no wonder you have to have a degree in it to do geneology!-P

  8. Grimms law (Erste Lautverschiebung) – Jessas, that took place – when? In archaic times I think. No linguistics for me …Genealogy is simple: Man + woman = child. 🙂 When do you start and where with your inquiry?

  9. A little. Saw my doctor – actually not my old doc, he had a stroke two weeks ago: I always thought that is something for chain-smoking fast-food-addicted immovabels, not for slim sporty medics that actually live what they preach to their patients. Time for some antibiotikum, breathing is obstructed.

  10. If breathing is obstructed you can have quick relief by taking a couple < HREF="http://www.soledum.de/" REL="nofollow">Soledum<> capsules every 4 hours for a few days. The stuff is a miracle!Gute Besserung!

  11. Fine to see you again.Danke. Never heart of Soledum.Das Einzige das mir dazu einfällt:“Wenn’s vorne kneift und hinten beisst, hilft Klosterfrau Melissengeist.”

  12. Hope you feel better soon. Around here we are having the weather that is capable of getting people sick. One day in mid 50s then the cold comes and back to the 40s and 30s. This last week I watched the 1939 movie -Wizard of Oz. with Judy Garland. Such “Fluff” is good to relax to.Old remedy for congestion is take a large onion-thinly sliced and cook until they are transparent.You rapped them in a towel and place on your chest. Take care.

  13. joyceI am stupid: HAD to go to the library today, only realized how cold that wind is when already en route. Now I am back and will not move one inch out of the house, no matter what. I know about that onion and I once was treated with it. Hot potatoes are also a possibility. My throat is rough, but I can swallow. I will stay with antibiotikum and painkiller, without that my head hurts as bad as in “Chop it off please!”.Judy Garland: Somewhere over the rainbow – hach, that makes me cry. Really, no kidding. It is full of beauty. But I only know the song, did not see that film. I would like to re-watch “King Kong” … or another German 50ties Schmonzette.lgsWelcome! The Greek Goddess sent nice pictures along. I did not know that there is a movie about Beowulf. Its old-english, very long and in Stabreimen – a special form of, well, rhyme.He kills Grendel or Grindel and its mother. Grendel is a monster living in the sea – Beowulf has a special relationship to water itself. Grindel kann be seen as a kind of snake – I once read about the lake-snakes in Canada and much of these stories reminded me of Grendel … Lakes are often seen as entrances into the other world. As I remember the tradition of the Beowulf-epos is pretty good, last version is from the 10th century or so, surely with christian add-ons. then. But it will reach back some centuries, so the real nucleus of it will be found around maybe 500. I will look for information about that upcoming film. Thank you!

  14. “In the age of heroes comes the mightiest warrior of them all, Beowulf. After destroying the overpowering demon Grendel, he incures the undying wrath of the beast’s ruthlessly seductive mother, who will use any means possible to ensure revenge. The ensuing epic battle resonates throughout the ages, immortalizing the name of Beowulf.”Three lines on the site of the “Beowulf”-film, under the point “Synopsis”. Following 17 lines of the „stellar cast“ and what not. It seems to me that it is simply another big overkill of blood and guts and “heroic” blabla, this time decorated with Jollie’s nice titts. Maybe I am totally wrong.

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