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Broadly Speaking: A Companion Interview

Nicholas Heron on Kantorowicz’s Dante

Nicholas Heron is Research Fellow in the Institute for Advanced Studies in the Humanities at the University of Queensland, Australia. He is the author of Liturgical Power: Between Economic and Political Theology (Fordham UP, 2018) and the translator of Giorgio Agamben’s Stasis: Civil War as a Political Paradigm (Stanford UP, 2015). He is currently researching the intellectual and cultural history of the “end of history” thesis.

Heron spoke with contributing editor Shuvatri Dasgupta about his essay “The Superhuman Origins of Human Dignity: Kantorowicz’s Dante,” which has appeared in the current issue of the JHI (82.3). 

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Shuvatri Dasgupta: The existing literature on Kantorowicz’s ideas on sovereignty and monarchy have focused on questions of history-writing, nationalism, and the interplay between politics and theology in his understandings of the European Renaissance. Your article takes a step back from that and looks at the politico-affective crisis of a twentieth-century intellectual, caught between Germany and America, between atomistic liberalism and atheistic communism, and between the model of the modest ethical human, on one hand, and the transcendental superhuman, on the other. The article tells a riveting story of an ideological maneuver conducted by Kantorowicz through his readings of Dante’s ideas of sovereignty: first as a defense of imperial sovereignty, and later as a formulation of individual sovereignty. You argue that this shift in his understanding of Dante remains the key to his conceptions of sovereignty that were formulated in his seminal text The King’s Two Bodies. Let me start by asking you to elaborate on the intellectual polarities in which Kantorowicz’s found himself, and the context in which these polarities were produced, over the course of the twentieth century, since as you illustrate in the article, they played a seminal role in shaping his understanding of Dante.

Nicholas Heron: Kantorowicz’s personal and intellectual itinerary exerts an undeniable fascination. The key events are well known, and richly detailed in Robert E. Lerner’s recent biography, but allow me quickly to recount them here. Prior to 1933, he was, among other things, an enthusiastic volunteer combatant in the violent liberation of Munich from the short-lived Soviet Republic (he later claimed to have killed communists); a member of the erotically charged circle of young men gathered around the austere figure of the elderly poet Stefan George, whose spiritual yearnings were directed toward a “Secret Germany” that inhered behind the official one; and the author of a charismatic biography of the Holy Roman Emperor, Frederick II, whose front page was adorned with the characteristic insignia of the Blätter für die Kunst imprint of the Bondi publishing house—a swastika—and was rumored to have been admired at the highest echelons of the Nazi party. A meteoric academic rise to a professorship in Frankfurt was then brought to an abrupt halt in 1934 after a single semester when he was debarred from teaching on account of his Jewish heritage. Finally, in 1950, after forced emigration from Germany to the United States, he became embroiled in the loyalty oath controversy at Berkeley, where, in the context of the escalating Cold War, he bravely refused to sign the oath disavowing communism, and was consequently dismissed from his academic post—for the second time in a career spanning less than two decades. This amazing sequence has led some commentators to speak of an ideological transformation and even of a conversion: from anti-communist militant to communist sympathizer.

Compelling as this narrative may be, however, there’s little evidence to support it. (The Fundamental Issue, the self-published pamphlet where Kantorowicz outlined his opposition to signing the oath, and whose argument draws on the same intellectual resources I examine in my piece, tells a very different story.) For my part, I was more interested in the continuities that extended across this tumultuous period. Arguably no figure looms larger here than Dante, who occupies a prominent place in the Frederick biography (1927) and is the subject of the luminous final chapter of The King’s Two Bodies (1957). Between the two, he is a recurring reference in the lectures Kantorowicz presented at Berkeley in the intervening years. Focusing on a subtle shift in Kantorowicz’s use of Dante, I offer a more modest explanation for the apparent change in his commitments. His youthful participation in the hero worship that characterized the activities of the George Circle, I argue, made him unusually attentive to what could be described as the liturgical, ceremonial and, indeed, affective dimensions of power. This was what subsequently became the focus of his scholarly investigations.   

SD: In the introductory section of the piece, you note very interestingly that in the recent biographies of Kantorowicz, his chapter on Dante has been employed to separate him from a shared genealogy with Schmitt on the concept of political theology. Whilst for Schmitt political ideas (as well as the concept of the political itself) were secularized theological formulations, you show how Kantorowicz’s formulation of the concept of sovereignty in The King’s Two Bodies is an attempt at the reverse—”a spiritualization of the secular.” What does that tell us about Kantorowicz’s conceptualization of the political, and how did this notion evolve with his understanding of sovereignty? 

NH: Political theology is a highly contested term, which can mean very different (and even opposed) things. For example, it can be religious or non-religious; prescriptive or non-prescriptive, etc. In Schmitt himself, it functions both normatively and empirically: on the one hand, as an index of the ungrounded character of modernity; on the other, as an instrument of conceptual-historical method. To the extent that this term is useful for historians, it is in the latter respect. And here Kantorowicz’s work offers an interesting example.

It is difficult to establish with any precision how Kantorowicz understood this term and where he drew it from, since he is quite evasive, perhaps for good reason, on precisely this point. But he certainly did not view the relationship between theology and politics, or between church and state, either as unidirectional or as normatively weighted toward one or the other side; instead, he always stressed the interplay between the two, the mutual “borrowings” and “exchanges,” to use his own terms. I think we can draw a more general observation from this approach: that intellectual innovation, whether at the level of conceptual formation or institutional design, does not take place in a vacuum, but by means of the specific and finite intellectual resources available for manipulation at a given moment. And that this applies in both directions. When Kantorowicz speaks of “a spiritualization of the secular,” I don’t think we should overdetermine this apparent inversion of the secularization thesis, as if it were intended somehow to unsettle a competing model of political theology. Rather, I think we should take it as a genuinely historical claim, which argues that putatively secular political concepts and institutions can also in turn be invested with spiritual contents.   

SD: What I also found extremely thought-provoking in your piece was your methodology in tracing the shift in Kantorowicz’s arguments, and the ease with which you illustrate the complex interrelationship which ideas share with their contexts. In your essay, not only did you situate Kantorowicz’s works in their historical context, but you also located his biographers, commentators, and intellectual interlocutors in a shared web. What challenges did you encounter in your conceptual exploration of Kantorowicz’s formulation of sovereignty, in terms of recovering this dense transcontinental and transtemporal context?

NH: In a footnote to his 1955 essay “Mysteries of State,” Kantorowicz refers tantalizingly to the “genealogy of ‘superman’.” Based on my analysis of his Berkeley lectures, I knew that it was possible to reconstruct the key points in this genealogy. I also knew that this genealogy provided the critical frame for understanding his evolving interpretation of Dante. But I didn’t want to commit myself to this history, which, while of considerable interest, is certainly not above criticism. Nor did I want to present myself as a dantista, something for which I felt (and still feel) completely unqualified. The solution, as I saw it, was to emphasize Kantorowicz’s own context and to make his reception of Dante the focus of my study. As someone with a PhD in literature, I have a broad interest in how intellectuals used literary sources during this period. As it turned out, it was the reference to Jacques Maritain’s dialogue Théonas from the same footnote that suggested the larger argumentative context to me. It was Maritain’s attempt to reclaim the superman idea for his Christian humanism that helped me to position Kantorowicz’s account of Dante’s “Man-Centered Kingship” (and the competing genealogy in which this formed a part) in relation to a wider set of debates regarding the so-called crisis of man from the period in which he was writing and teaching. 

I’d like to add something further here about how I view contextualization. My sense is that too strong a dichotomy between contextual and exegetical approaches to texts (broadly conceived) is often insisted upon, as if one were permitted to explore the one only in the absence of the other. The same could also be said, in the literary sphere, for the supposed opposition between historicist and formalist approaches. I’m much more interested in the relationship between the two. Recovering the context in which a text was written and, more importantly, received, invariably opens a new perspective on it. In this sense, contextualization––far from entailing historical reductionism––becomes intellectually enabling, insofar as it allows one to read a text that we think we know very well under an entirely new aspect. That’s part of what I wanted to achieve here.   

SD: Let me turn away from questions of sovereignty for my final question, and instead turn to the category of human dignity. In your piece, you narrate how dignity bridges the gap between human and transcendental realms of being in Kantorowicz’s readings of Dante. How do you as an intellectual historian, through your investigation of this moment in the larger global histories of sovereignty in the twentieth century, intend to contribute to the ongoing conversations on state power and human dignity? In other words, could you elaborate on your concluding sentence in the article: “it is humanity that is identified with dignity, rather than, as we hear more often today, dignity with humanity”?

NH: Human dignity is a notoriously elusive concept. In the nineteenth century, Schopenhauer famously called it “the shibboleth of all clueless and thoughtless moralists.” Whoever utters this lofty expression, he argued, can count on it remaining uninterrogated, for their interlocutor is typically more than happy to have it attributed to them! Since that time, its ubiquity has been firmly established, yet without (though perhaps this partially accounts for its success) its meaning necessarily being clarified. Something of the difficulty, as Schopenhauer already intuited, is captured in the semantic history of the term. In contemporary usage, it means something like inherent value or worth. But the Latin dignitas, from which it stems, refers to an elevated position or rank—and hence to something external to whoever is identified with it. How to account for such an extraordinary semantic transformation?

Kantorowicz’s “genealogy of superman,” as I reconstruct it, offers one possible explanation. Namely, that the progressive loosening of the highly restricted model of imperial and papal sovereignty, which culminates in the omnipresent theoretical sovereignty of the modern individual, passes through a decisive intermediary phase: Dante’s elaboration of a dignity of “man” as such, understood here as a paradoxical sovereignty of the individual apart from the office. What’s fascinating about this account, as you’ve already touched upon, is that it entails not just a secularization of the spiritual, but also what Kantorowicz calls a spiritualization of the secular. That is, it sees Dante and his Renaissance interpreters already participating in what could be characterized as a divinization of humanity, one that is neatly captured in the invented Latin formula—homo instrumentum humanitatis—through which Kantorowicz epitomizes his presentation of Dante’s moral-political views. If nothing else, I think this serves as a timely reminder that dignity is always a relative, and never an absolute, concept, even (and especially) when it appears to be otherwise. That is what I was trying to convey in the final sentence of my article.


Shuvatri Dasgupta received a Bachelor’s and a Master’s degree in History from Presidency University, Kolkata, India. She was also an exchange student and Charpak Fellow at Sciences Po Paris (Reims campus). She is currently a doctoral candidate in the Faculty of History, University of Cambridge, and is funded by the Cambridge Trust and Rajiv Gandhi Foundation Fellowship. Her doctoral dissertation is tentatively titled “A History of Conjugality: On Patriarchy, Caste, and Capital, in the British Empire c.1872-1947.” By using the lens of Social Reproduction Theory (and Marxist-feminist scholarship in general), it attempts to establish the importance of uncovering histories of marriage not just as legal or gender histories, but as the origin point of private property ownership and capitalist exploitation. Her general research interests include global history, gender history, intellectual history and political thought, histories of empire, histories of capitalism, Marxist and Marxist-Feminist theory, and critical theory.

Featured Image: Photos, Ernst Kantorowicz Collection, AR 7216, Leo Baeck Institute I, 1/12.

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Broadly Speaking: A Companion Interview

Joseph Streeter on Ancient Concepts of Tolerance

Joseph Streeter is a historian of late antiquity with a side interest in the anthropology of religion. He is the co-editor, with Michael Whitby, of a collection of G.E.M. de Se. Croix’s essays entitled Christian Persecution, Martyrdom, and Orthodoxy for Oxford University Press, and of the essay “Should we worry about belief?” for the journal Anthropological Theory.

Streeter spoke with contributing editor Pranav Jain about his essay “Conceptions of Tolerance in Antiquity and Late Antiquity,” which was published in the current issue of the JHI (82.3) and is currently available open access. 

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Pranav Jain: In your article, you sometimes use the words tolerance and toleration interchangeably. In early modern history and historiography, the two are often treated as distinct. Toleration is about belief whereas tolerance is more about daily practices. Even if Locke or Bayle believed in a particular form of religious toleration, the lived reality was, of course, more complex. Can one make a similar distinction when discussing Antiquity? 

Joseph Streeter: I doubt that there is a clear distinction between tolerance and toleration, whether in ordinary language or in the historiography of toleration, and historians who distinguish between the terms often do so in different ways (and they tend not to maintain the distinction consistently throughout their work). So, for example, Benjamin Kaplan stipulates a definition of toleration as a practice of “peaceful coexistence with others who adhered to a different religion” and I think implicitly identifies tolerance with something more principled, while Stuart Schwartz distinguishes “the history of religious toleration, by which is usually meant state or community policy” from the history of religious tolerance, which he describes as a history of “attitudes or sentiments.”  

For my part, I modify a distinction drawn by Jeremy Waldron and distinguish the disposition of tolerance from the political principle of toleration and suggest that people in antiquity could conceive of the former but not the latter. I focus on ‘tolerance’ because the term seems to me to have a broader and less exclusively normative use in ordinary English than ‘toleration.’ We can talk of someone as having a ‘tolerance’ for spicy food or pain or alcohol, and it does not seem right to me to think that the word has a different sense in these contexts from its sense in, say, talk of religious tolerance (in defining ‘tolerance’ as a ‘personal virtue,’ Waldron gives the concept an ethical content that it does not really have). So it is conceptions of, and attitudes toward, tolerance in the broad and not necessarily moral sense of ‘putting up with’ something that I have in mind in the article.

All of this is a roundabout way of saying that I suspect that the distinction you describe, which is one between tolerance/toleration understood as an informal and not necessarily principled practice of ‘getting along’ or coexisting, and tolerance/toleration understood as a more principled stance toward normatively objectionable views or practices, does not map in any settled way onto a distinction between tolerance and toleration. As such, any iteration of this distinction will be more or less stipulative in respect of the use of the terms ‘tolerance’ and ‘toleration.’

The distinction itself is certainly important and relevant to the study of late antiquity, although the notion of ‘practices of toleration’ or of toleration/tolerance as a practice is a difficult one to pin down. Often what historians are trying to explain by recourse to these terms is why we do not see more inter-religious or inter-confessional violence, given the radically exclusionary terms that religious ideologues use in articulating their differences with others. And what they look at are practices or contexts of social interaction in which religious differences do not, for whatever reason, ‘show up’ or are not salient, or where some other set of norms governs behavior. Some of the most important work on this subject in the historiography of late antiquity is Peter Brown’s discussions of the norms of conduct inculcated in elite education (paideia), which cut across religious differences and, he suggests, to some degree mitigated the effects of the more strident rhetoric that we see in our sources (especially Christian ones). And from ancient letter collections and elsewhere we see how elite ties can cut across religious differences. So while I doubt that there can be coherent late antique conceptions of religious toleration, I do not mean to imply that there is nothing that we can call religious toleration in the period.  

PJ: You effectively show how early modern writers sometimes misread ancient thinkers in their search for arguments that supported their own positions. Naturally, one can also argue that 20th-century historians did something similar to early modern thinkers. Though this leads to distortions and misinterpretations, is there something that we can still learn from such misreadings? 

JS: I am not sure that they tell us anything about intellectual life in late antiquity, at least not directly. But we can learn a great deal from thinking about them, both about late antiquity itself in coming to see that they are misreadings, and about the ideological forces that shape our own ways of thinking about late antiquity in understanding why they arise. For they are expressions of deep ideological forces, and not just errors. 

To generalize, I think the modern intellectual historiography of late antique religious toleration has a strongly anachronistic character, both in respect of its central claims and its methods. This is manifested most obviously in the sometimes wildly anachronistic language used to characterize the late antique arguments: consider Hubert Cancik and Hildegard Cancik-Lindemaier’s talk of the emperor Jovian’s “liberale Religionspolitik” and of Themistius’ “demand for state neutrality in matters of religion” (“die Forderung des Themistios nach Neutralität des Staates in Religionsangelegenheiten”). It is also, I think, manifested in the repeated claims that a given late antique thinker has ‘anticipated’ some doctrine commonly associated with the enlightenment or with the work of a 19th-century liberal. Quentin Skinner’s strictures against such talk may have been too strong, but I think he was right to regard it as fishy. At least, it seems to me implausible on its face that Tertullian anticipated Constant or the enlightenment, or that a piece of propaganda by Themistius may have shared ‘something of the spirit’ of a treatise by Mill, especially when we consider the radical differences between the social, political, and intellectual contexts in which these texts were produced. 

There are also subtler anachronisms. Thus historians have tended to treat as clear certain familiar-looking expressions or claims which, if read in relation to their contemporary linguistic contexts, are anything but. In the article I use the example of Tertullian’s expression libertas religionis, and more can be said about the way scholars have read and excerpted the passage in which this expression occurs. But I could equally have used his claim, at Ad Scapulam 2.2, that “the religio of one neither hinders nor profits another” (nec alii obest aut prodest alterius religio).  If we translate this as “the religion of one neither hinders nor profits another” it may look unexceptionable, and this is how historians routinely take it. But Tertullian’s claim is about religio, and it looks extremely strange when read against earlier and subsequent usage of that term (including by Christians). Yet it has received little attention, even though Tertullian does not appear able to maintain it within the text itself. For later in Ad Scapulam—which is a short text—he boasts about the benefits to the empire as a whole from the fasts and prayers of Christians.        

The question, then, is why the historiography of late antique religious toleration should have this character. My own view, which I hope to develop more fully soon, is that this historiography has been shaped by, and is therefore in a sense part of, two related ideological projects. The broadest we may call the project of liberal self-definition. There has been some interesting work on the history of definitions of the liberal tradition, especially by avowed liberals—I’m thinking particularly of Duncan Bell’s 2014 article “What is liberalism?,” but also of the discussion of liberalism in Raymond Geuss’s History and Illusion in Politics. As both authors argue, these definitions are almost inevitably pieces of advocacy, which seek to incorporate as part of the liberal tradition as many established or attractive principles or concepts as possible. Another way to put this is to say that there is a strong tendency toward anachronism in liberal definitions of the liberal tradition. Bell’s interest is in how thinkers like Locke came to be classified as liberals, but it should not surprise us that late antique thinkers also came to be treated as, in effect, proto liberals, especially when we remember that quite prominent liberal thinkers have themselves contributed to the historiography of late antique religious toleration (I cite Ernest Barker in the text, but one might note also that the Italian liberal and later prime minister Luigi Luzzatti claimed that Themistius’ defence of ‘libertà di coscienza e dei culti’ was superior to the arguments for toleration in the work of Montaigne, Spinoza, Locke, Voltaire, Vinet, and Mill).  

The second and earlier ideological project is that of the first proponents of freedom of conscience, and later of religious toleration. The now standard canon of late antique tolerationist texts—Tertullian’s Apology 24.5-6 and Ad Scapulam 2, Lactantius’s Divine Institutes 5.19, Themistius’s Fifth Oration, and Symmachus’s Third Relatio—is the creation of these thinkers/political actors. The methods they employed in creating this canon were not the holistic and contextualist methods that guide modern historical scholarship, but were more akin to what is now sometimes called ‘quote-mining’: the opportunistic excerption of superficially familiar and useful pieces of text, with little consideration for the linguistic and textual contexts that gives these textual units their sense (at least as historical texts). Of course, none of this would matter if modern scholars had shown that these texts advocate freedom of conscience/religious toleration/freedom of religion using modern historical methods. But it seems to me that they have not done this, and that scholarship on late antique religious toleration tends to recapitulate the methods of early modern scholarship as well as the themes. Discussions tend to focus very narrowly on the standard passages, with little consideration for their textual and linguistic contexts. My suspicion is that modern historians confront these texts ‘knowing’ that they contain arguments for freedom of conscience/religious toleration/freedom of religion—it is not uncommon to see this treated as a settled piece of historical knowledge. But the circumstances under which it became settled should give us pause, and it seems to me that when we read these texts historically, it becomes both much less clear what the authors are arguing—this is true particularly of Tertullian and Lactantius—and much less clear how we should describe what the authors were doing in making their arguments. To say that Themistius and Symmachus ‘argued for’ freedom of religion or ‘advocated’ freedom of religion seems to me to imply that that notion already had a place within contemporary thought, and I think that is not right. 

So we can learn a lot by attending to these misreadings, above all in becoming aware of the historical and ideological forces that, often unbeknownst to us, shape our sense of particular texts and of the positions that people could take in these texts. And I suspect this is as true for early modern scholars as for scholars of late antiquity. 

PJ: You dwell a great deal on the notion of insult. It is not one that scholars of early modern religious toleration talk about a lot. What can they learn from it? In other words, can we read someone like Locke differently if we think more about insult and social status?

JS: I must preface my response to this question by emphasizing that I am not an early modernist, but a historian of late antiquity with an interest in early modern intellectual and cultural history. What I say here therefore is just what seemed striking to me as a fairly well-informed outsider to the field—I do not claim for it anything more than that.

I came to the subject of insult through the subject of tolerance. The genesis of this article lay in a study of the ancient vocabulary that is somewhere in the semantic neighborhood of our term ‘tolerance,’ terms or expressions which involve some notion of putting up with something uncomfortable, painful, or unpleasant (one of the terms—anexikakia, or ‘putting up with bad things’—seems to me a pretty good synonym for ‘tolerance’). That is, I wanted to look at the contexts in which ancient authors talked of something like ‘tolerance,’ and to see what might count as an object of tolerance for them—rather than starting from our own conceptions of religious tolerance/toleration and seeing what (if anything) the ancients might have to say about these. And it quickly became apparent that insult, and the question of how to respond to insult, was extensively thematized in ancient and late antique literature. In particular it was a locus around which people articulated their conceptions of honor, as well as the transcendence of the ethics of honor (in the case of the Stoics) or the overturning and redefinition of the ethics of honor (in the Christian case).

With respect to Locke in particular, the focus on insult perhaps helps us to see what he leaves out. One of the consequences of the Christian conception of slavery to God that I discuss is that it tends to make discourse about God highly personal: it is, in a sense, discourse about oneself, insofar as one is a slave of God, or at least it is discourse to which one has a fundamentally interested relationship, since one’s standing is wholly bound up with and dependent upon God. One of the things that is very striking about reading Locke after reading anything by a late antique Christian, is the disinterestedness of his attitude toward what had hitherto been central doctrinal issues. As Locke treats them, theological claims about, say, the trinity are just expressions of opinion, whereas in the late antique context they were expressions of belief and much more—expressions of praise, contempt, etc.—and they are apprehended first under these more emotive terms, and only after some abstraction as expressions of belief.  My suspicion is that it is Locke’s framing of the question of tolerance that allows him to adopt this attitude much more than any argument that he makes, that the—to us innocuous—phrase “mutua inter Christianos tolerantia” is doing a lot of work, and that excluding God from the question of tolerance makes it much easier for him to make his case. That he is in some way gerrymandering the question of tolerance seems especially apparent if we look at, say, heresiological texts from the mid-17th century, which seem much closer to late antique authors like Ambrose and Chrysostom than they do to Locke, insofar as they draw very close connections between heresy and blasphemy, or offenses against God (this is clear from only a brief look at a work like Thomas Edward’s Gangraena). For the authors of these works, God is very much within the social context in which questions of tolerance arise.   

As I said, these observations may or may not be pertinent. But one issue I would like to think about more, and about which early modernists are much better qualified than me to examine, is how the framings of the human relationship to God current in early modern Europe shaped the possibilities for tolerance. In the translation of the Letter to the Romans in The King James Bible, Paul introduces himself as a “servant of Jesus Christ,” whereas in the Greek New Testament he is a ‘slave,’ a doulos. Now I assume that to be a servant in early 17th century England was to have a much less degraded status than a doulos in the early Roman Empire (and by implication, that to be a master in that context is to have a much less exalted status). What are a servant’s obligations to his master? Presumably they are not as binding or all-consuming as those of a doulos to his master.       


Pranav Jain is a PhD student at Yale University working on early modern Britain, and a contributing editor at the JHI Blog.

Featured Image: William Blake, “The Blasphemer,” ca. 1800. Courtesy of Tate.

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Broadly Speaking: A Companion Interview

Lisa Hellman & Birgit Tremml-Werner on Translation in Early Modern Diplomacy

Lisa K. Hellman works in the intersection between social, cultural, maritime, and global history, with a special interest in gender. Her first project focused on the everyday life of Europeans in the ports of Canton and Macau. In her second project, she compared their experiences with those in other Asian ports, primarily Nagasaki. In her current project, she follows 18th-century prisoners of war in Siberia and North Asia. The core question driving her is how intercultural interaction changed the lives of the men and women involved.

Birgit Tremml-Werner is a researcher at the Centre for Concurrences at Linnaeus University, Sweden, where she teaches in the Master programme in Colonial and Postcolonial Studies and works on a project entitled “Encountering Diplomacy in Early Modern Southeast Asia”. She received her PhD in History from the University of Vienna in 2012 and worked as postdoctoral fellow at the University of Tokyo and the University of Zurich. Her research includes Tokugawa Japan’s foreign relations, the social history of colonial contact zones in maritime South East Asia and global intellectual history.

Hellman and Tremml-Werner spoke with contributing editor David Kretz about “Translation in Action: Global Intellectual History and Early Modern Diplomacy,” the introduction to the cluster of articles on translation and diplomacy in the current issue of the JHI (82.3). 

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David Kretz: For the special issue of JHI 82.3, you have assembled a series of articles on the role of translation in Early Modern diplomacy, combining New Diplomatic History’s focus on actors outside the official diplomatic corps in foreign relations with an intellectual history focus on the cross-cultural migration of concepts. You emphasize three findings in particular. First, that a number of go-betweens—missionaries, merchants, scholars, prisoners of war, etc.—functioned as translators in an expanded sense, that includes inter-lingual, inter-medial, and inter-cultural translations. Secondly, that power differentials between actors, languages, and media everywhere need to be taken into account when considering translations. Thirdly, that mutual understanding was only one goal and often not the primary one. The careful management of vagueness and misunderstanding was often just as crucial, if not more important both to the actors themselves and for our historical understanding.

My first question concerns the importance of trust, which you also stress. Could you tell us a bit more about how trust was established, both between official and non-official actors and between different polities? How did the translators you look at gain trust; how did they themselves further it? Do we know of interesting cases when trust was lost, or lost and then restored?

Lisa Hellman: Trust is really an exciting issue when it comes to both translation and diplomacy, and one which I think will have to be considered in terms of its emotional and political layers when translation and diplomacy are combined. A basic understanding of practices of translation is that someone wants to be comprehended by someone else. If you do not manage to present your translation as credible, the translation fails and the interaction will falter. But this is just one part of the story of trust building. What attention to the on-the-ground processes shows, is not only that there could be a rather big acceptance of distrust: cases when the two parties openly distrusted one another and, for example, the wording of a document but still managed to establish a working relationship. Even more interestingly, there are times when friendship and trust were evoked, but on what one might call a superficial level, as part of a diplomatic ceremonial.

Rather than reflecting an emotional trust of the involved actors, phrases evoking “trust” could be called upon to show the earnestness of the intentions. In fact, the involved parties might have felt nothing of the kind, nor did the other party expect it. Translators naturally combined these different types of, and expectations placed on, trust. It is not uncommon to find lamentations of the doubtful nature of a translation (that a traduttore was a traditore was a trope even outside diplomatic relations) coexisting with a reliance on the fact that this person who produced it could find the right words.

Birgit Tremml-Werner: I agree on the point that the importance of trust can hardly be overestimated for processes of translation, when unfamiliar parties interacted with each other. Trust had a material dimension and was thus often created on a non-verbal level, for instance through gestures, bodily comportment, sign language or ritual practices involving the support of objects. Trust building in cross-cultural settings often benefited from repetition of acts proving the good intention of negotiation partners, as these intentions were hard to assess otherwise. The Dutch East India Company merchants who submitted to the rigid foreign policies of the Tokugawa shogunate in exchange for long-term trading privileges are a good example in this regard.

In many cases intermediaries were also essential: Early Modern actors gathered information to evaluate and test the available knowledge of a translation or a translator by interrogating someone they trusted more because of a common language, religion or experience. In other words, the element of personal relations was key in the translation business. This point also calls to mind the example of Jesuit translator João Rodrigues, who is also mentioned in one of the articles in this special issue. Rodrigues became the trusted translator and interpreter of the Japanese ruler Toyotomi Hideyoshi after several years in exile and despite Hideyoshi’s anti-Catholic sentiments. It is believed that Hideyoshi was deeply impressed by Rodrigues’s command of several languages and scripts. Once the Jesuit had gained the despot’s trust, his multilingual expertise made him a powerful broker in many diplomatic incidents on the Japanese archipelago.  

DK: My second question concerns the relation between translation and empire. We hear a lot about how empires impose linguistic, metrical, chronological, legal, etc. standards with the aim of assuring translatability broadly speaking: the unimpeded flow of goods material and immaterial between different parts of the empire, particularly between center and periphery (e.g. Wintroub 2015). In contrast, you stress that “practices of translation … are incompletely understood if translation is seen only as a one-way tool of power through which the metropole reaches and creates the periphery” (457). Translation, by creating and maintaining spaces of ambiguity, just as often protects particular identities and polities from forced homogenization. Could you tell us more about how you see the relation between translation and empire? Are most of the cases you looked at either distinctly serving empire or counteracting it, or is it almost always something in-between? What factors pull it towards either end of the spectrum?

BTW: Indeed, for no empire in history did imperial language policies result in the intended homogenization. Imperial language was often only used for bureaucratic and educational purposes; enforcement of the use of the metropolitan language or prohibitions of not using native languages ended where the private space began. And yet, the loss and extinction of thousands of languages and linguistic practices over the past two hundred years are an undeniable proof for epistemic violence caused by both empires and modern nation-states. However, indigenous language revival campaigns (which often started as grassroots movements) in the Philippines, Taiwan, and many other countries are a reassuring sign for a new trend.

New imperial history and indigenous studies have moreover shown that in many aboriginal societies and first nations, knowledge was disseminated through oral and/or ritual practices rather than in a written form. This very fact needs to be taken into consideration when we want to understand the linguistic, material, and legal impact of language policies of empires. As non-written practices were of an ambiguous nature in the eye of the colonizers, they were better fit to escape the destructive impact of hegemonic language politics.

Lastly, we should also recall the importance of migration in relation to the imperial worlds of translation and language policies. An integration of mobile actors helps us to get away from a binary thinking of translation processes exchanged between a sending metropolitan center and a receiving colonial periphery and instead develop an understanding how ambiguity was a by-product of multi-linguistic and polyvocal encounters and how it contributed to the ever-changing nature of languages.

LH: You are quite right—translation was also a struggle for empires, and the way it unfolded helps us follow the way empires themselves evolved. Eighteenth-century Russia, despite its reputation for ‘looking west’, had more translators for Asian than European languages. I do not think one can see translation as strictly either in the service of empire or subversive, partly because not all empires used unity as a strategy. Consider, for example, the concept of diglossia, used in historical studies to analyze and explain the language strategies of the Habsburg empire: the conscious separation between different languages while keeping a centralized power over translation. What we wanted to emphasize is rather that translation inherently has the potential for both. It certainly can and has been used to create an imperial norm, either for spoken or written language, or both. Another example would be the Qing empire and its application of a written norm. That norm came with a power dimension in the sense that it determined whose language, whose script, and whose words were used, read, and heard.

As we expand the view of who was a diplomatic actor, we also find those who are making use of imperial frameworks in their own way, perhaps in completely different ways than envisioned by the metropole. Looking broadly at practices of translating such foreign relations, we see how power is fractured. A final example would be the Central Asian go-betweens and informants used in negotiations between the Russian and the Qing empire. This is not to say imperial domination did not happen or was not the aim, but that it was not a straightforward and linear process. For us as researchers, looking at the twists and turns translation took within and for empires is also to reveal other actors of translation and diplomacy than those normally given center stage. That, I think, could also be very fruitful going forward. Then we can find those times when translation was a key cogwheel for imperial homogenization or separation, as well as the times when it worked to undermine political processes. I think they are all equally fascinating.

DK: My own research tries to make the concept of translation useful beyond the confines of comparative literature (for philosophy of history and political theory). I am very enthusiastic about your efforts to make use of the concept in diplomatic and intellectual history and similar efforts for example in anthropology (Severi & Hanks 2014). One thing I often worry about with such attempts to translate—in the literal sense of ‘carrying-over’—the concept of translation itself, is conceptual inflation. ‘Translation’ sometimes seems to be expanded until it includes, in the end, virtually every act of communication and creation in any medium. Are you ever worried about over-expanding the concept in a way that makes it, ultimately, a rather thin notion that explains everything and nothing? If so, how do you think one might go about ‘thickening’ the concept?

LH: I very much sympathize with your worry that the widening of a concept—albeit one that is absolutely necessary, such as here in the inclusion of visual and verbal diplomatic communication alongside written treaties—certainly carries with it the danger of inflating the concept until it implodes and starts being used for everything and nothing. There are, of course, many ways in which one could go about thickening such a concept. One aspect of that thickening, I think, could be through considering comprehensibility. Here I do not mean in the sense of something being a translation only when it has become comprehensible; in the field of diplomacy, commensurability (or incommensurability) has been discussed for decades, but we have seen far too many cases of conscious or unconscious mistranslations, misunderstandings, and silences to evaluate something on the basis of whether it became truly comprehensible to another party or not. I would, however suggest that translation is the intentional act of passing from one form of understanding to another. That passing can be incomplete, it can be faulty, it can be near seamless, but it would be an intentional change. That notion excludes any creation that does not have one (or many) perceived source(s), but rather starts fully new, and such communication that keeps within one form or frame. But this is an issue where there is much that historians can and should learn from anthropologists, and not the least also translation studies, when theorizing past practices.

BTW: I would add that the risk of over-extension of the concept and potential conflation exists not only for ‘translation’ but has also widely been discussed for the concept of ‘diplomacy.’ Using diplomacy to describe nearly any type of negotiation between any two parties, regardless of the characteristics of the entities, the means of interaction or the agenda of the encounter, is highly problematic. At the same time, I am not too worried that scholars interested in nuancing our understanding of past relations would subscribe to such an approach, as it will not produce meaningful results. Popular history, political propaganda, and public opinion present a very different story. Just think of the numerous terms and phrases including the word ‘diplomacy’ that have been coined in relation to the global coronavirus crisis, rendering the use of the label meaningless. To thicken the concept for historical studies, I would suggest strong theoretical underpinnings and clear definitions based on a given historical context. To get a better grip on ‘translation’ and ‘diplomacy’ of the past, it is moreover useful to consider the language of the sources and their original authors.


David Kretz is a Ph.D. student in the Department of Germanic Studies and the Committee on Social Thought at the University of Chicago. His current project contrasts poets and translators as complementary paradigms of historical agency in times of crisis.

Featured Image: Map of Zungharia by Johan Gustav Renat. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Categories
Broadly Speaking: A Companion Interview

Bruce Buchan & Silvia Sebastiani on Race in the European Enlightenment

Bruce Buchan is an intellectual historian whose work traces European political thought through the experience of empire and colonization in the era of Enlightenment. His recent publications include, An Intellectual History of Political Corruption (2014), and Sound, Space and Civility in the British World, 1700-1850 (2019), as well as special issues of Cultural Studies Review (2018), Republics of Letters (2018), and History of the Human Sciences (2019). His most recent papers appear in the Journal of the History of IdeasIntellectual History ReviewModern Intellectual History, and Cultural History. Bruce has held visiting professorships at the University of Copenhagen (2015-16), the École des hautes études en sciences sociales (2017), and most recently was a Fernand Braudel Senior Research Fellow at the European University Institute in 2021. His forthcoming books include a new edited collection, Piracy in World History (Amsterdam University Press, 2021), and a monograph with Linda Andersson Burnett entitled, Racing Humanity: Education, Empire and Ethnography in Scotland’s Global Enlightenment, c. 1770-1820 (in late 2022).

Silvia Sebastiani is associate professor at the Ecole des hautes études en sciences sociales (EHESS) in Paris, where she teaches research seminars on Enlightenment historiography and on race in early modern period in Europe and European empires. Her publications include The Scottish Enlightenment. Race, Gender, and the Limits of Progress (2013), awarded of the “István Hont Prize” for intellectual history, and the co-editon of Negotiating Knowledge in Early Modern Empires: A Decentered View (2014), Simianization. Apes, Gender, Class, and Race (2015), L’expérience historiographique (2016), as well as the “Forum” on  “Closeness and Distance in the Age of Enlightenment” in Modern Intellectual History (2014) and the special issue on Les vitrines de l’humanité in Passés Futurs (2019). Sebastiani has spent the academic year 2017-2018  at the Institute of the Advanced Study, Princeton, as a member of the School in Historical Studies. Her new book on Race et histoire dans les sociétés occidentales (15e-18e siècle), co-authored with Jean-Frédéric Schaub, will be published in September 2021. She is now completing a monograph on the boundaries of humanity in the Enlightenment, focusing on how the great ape contributed to the shaping of human and social sciences.

Buchan and Sebastiani recently spoke with Nuala P. Caomhánach about their article “‘No distinction of Black or Fair’:The Natural History of Race in Adam Ferguson’s Lectures on Moral Philosophy,” which has appeared in the most recent issue of the Journal of the History of Ideas (April, 82.2) and is currently open access.


Nuala P. Caomhánach: Although predominantly known for his contribution to the civic tradition of Scotland’s Enlightenment, your essay highlights how Adam Ferguson’s pedagogical activity, as a professor of moral philosophy at the University of Edinburgh, was a site of ongoing reflection, reorientation, and a testing ground for his studies on the boundaries of human variation and diversity especially with regard to the category of race.  The focus on analyzing lecture notes is striking as you demonstrate how Ferguson’s thinking on race vacillates over time, is suggestive rather than conclusive, and stands in sharp relief to how he omitted this category from the Principles of Moral and Political Science (1792). In thinking about the placement of Ferguson within the intellectual tradition, the focus on his lecture notes suggests a desire to decolonize his published works. First, why do you think race as a category has been dismissed as a minor thread in Ferguson’s thought? Does this reflect on the historical field itself as a whole, and/or does it highlight the kinds of archival material that are examined and are more “acceptable” within the field? In providing ample evidence of how his lecture notes reveal the tension about racial categories for Ferguson, are you suggesting that key historical actors in intellectual thought need to be re-evaluated, and if so, to what end?

Bruce Buchan & Silvia Sebastiani: It would be fair to say that race has tended to be marginalized in the history of Europe’s Enlightenment, not just in Ferguson’s own thought. Although there have been studies, since the post-World War II period and in particular since the 1970s, highlighting how racial categories are constructed at the very moment when the universal and natural rights of “man” are affirmed, it is only in recent years that the racial question has been placed at the center of research on Enlightenment. Our interpretation of Ferguson is not just a matter of decolonizing intellectual history by drawing greater attention to race in Enlightenment thought, as important as that is. For us, race was part of elaborate patterns of thought linking it with historical categories (such as civilization, savagery, and barbarism), and with natural historical frameworks for taxonomizing nature, connecting human populations with climates, geographies, and diseases. Race therefore is not just an important concept in its own right. In the eighteenth century, “man” was included in natural history, and classified as the rest of natural world, such as flora and fauna. This “naturalization” of humankind went hand in hand with its historicization. By emphasizing race, paying greater heed to its articulation in the period and to the questions it raised for intellectuals such as Ferguson, for us is crucial in the continuing quest to properly interpret Enlightenment thought in general. 

Silvia has been working on the implications of this approach for some time, and has made such a significant contribution to the intellectual history of Scottish Enlightenment thought in her The Scottish Enlightenment: Race, Gender and the Limits of Progress (2013). Here she elaborated the connections between race and a range of other concepts, such as gender and nation, that were used to distinguish between human groups, and to make hierarchical prioritizations of some over others. This is what makes the concept of race in Ferguson’s teaching so important for us. Ferguson has previously been interpreted, as you suggest, as a distinctive contributor to a civic tradition of thought by integrating virtue and corruption with stadial historical schemes that charted universal stages of progress from savagery to civilization. Ferguson has also been read, as he was by Karl Marx, for his early formulation and criticisms of the division of labor, and thus of the “progress” of civil society. In both cases, Ferguson’s thought has been viewed through a politico-economic lens, tending to obscure the pivotal contribution of natural history in his construction of knowledge. What we want to show in our paper is that Ferguson’s approach was built on models of natural history then developing in Enlightenment Europe, and that the dialogue with Buffon’s work was central. This shift of emphasis, we believe, has important consequences in the interpretation of Ferguson’s thought.

It was Ferguson’s natural history of the species that enabled him to connect virtue and progress, savagery and race, and this was the framework that he presented so vividly in his lectures on moral philosophy. While it is true to say that race does not occupy a central place in Ferguson’s published works, its prominence in his teaching is a feature of his intellectually distinctive blending of natural history with stadial historical thinking. And we know, as we suggest in our conclusion, that this is precisely how Ferguson was read by those who made colonial voyages and sought to interpret non-European and First Nations peoples according to ideas of race drawn from natural history, and presumptions of savagery dependent on stadial history. This is unfolding research that Bruce Buchan has also been conducting with Linda Andersson Burnett (at Uppsala University), and some of that work can be accessed here.

To return to your question about methodology, our paper is a contribution to the extension of intellectual histories that seek meaning from more fragmentary sources. It would be fair to say that conventionally, intellectual history has sought to trace repertoires of meaning in sources that were made available in quite restrictive contexts. One restriction has been the overwhelming focus on published or unpublished manuscripts—complete works that can be traced to distinct authorship and identifiable readerships. It is not hard to understand why intellectual historians should prioritize such sources, because they offer concrete conceptual or argumentative formulations that allow influence and interpretation to be reconstructed. Nonetheless, this focus reinforces a spatial confinement matched by the preference for complete products of thought, typically published texts. This approach to intellectual history has been extremely fruitful, but it tends to treat its subject as an existential whole, a finished product that allows sources of influence to be traced from histories of development toward that finality. We don’t for a moment suggest this approach is misguided. We endorse and apply this technique, but we also see the potential in less conclusive and more fragmentary sources (such as Ferguson’s lecture notes) to broaden the interpretive possibilities for intellectual historians. This necessarily involves more tentative conclusions, but for us the value of such sources lies in their ability to peer behind the monumental figures of intellectual history, the great minds or influential texts, to engage with the persistent doubts and the frank speculations retailed to other audiences. In Ferguson’s case, to his students.

There is a growing literature focusing on the importance of handwritten notes in the Enlightenment era, alongside the printed text, and on the need to take into account the materiality of different ways of constructing knowledge. Compared to the printed text, the notes reveal other elements of knowledge construction. We don’t mean to say that the notes allow historians to see things better; but to see them otherwise. This is why it is useful to combine the two approaches together. The educational dimension of the notes is another crucial aspect to be stressed, as Craig Smith has masterfully demonstrated. Indeed, his book on Adam Ferguson and the Idea of Civil Society (2019) is a fundamental contribution to this field. We could only use the book marginally because it was published when our article was already written, but we would like to acknowledge our debt to his work and the parallels between our approaches and arguments. Historians of the Scottish Enlightenment have long emphasized the crucial contribution made by Scotland’s universities in providing an institutional framework for the intellectual dynamism of the era, but scholars are yet to fully explore the content of what was taught, how it was taught, and what former students did with the ideas they imbibed. And here we think it is important to emphasize that today as much as in the past, the widest audience that most scholars ever reach is made up of the students they teach. Ferguson was evidently proud of his achievements as a teacher, which we think is at least implied in Henry Raeburn’s portrait of the then retired Professor in the early 1790s (see above). Here Ferguson chose to be painted flanked not only by his various elegantly bound publications, but by two very thick volumes of his manuscript lecture notes on moral philosophy. For us, paying heed to teaching makes empire and colonization (and hence race) unavoidable features of the intellectual history of Enlightenment thought.

A last point should be emphasized. Until recently, historiography has focused almost exclusively on An Essay on the History of Civil Society, which indeed was a crucial contribution, but not the only one Ferguson made. He construed history in different ways and with different tools, including lectures, while addressing diverse audiences. He was more versatile than is often acknowledged. In his long life, Ferguson pursued a varied career as soldier, clergyman, librarian, and professor both of natural philosophy and moral philosophy, also joining clubs and debating societies. We believe it is important to take into account the multiplicity of contexts in which Ferguson participated. This also means that intellectual historians need to articulate how the Scottish, the British, the European, the imperial, and colonial dimensions all nourished Enlightenment debates on humankind and its history. Our own and others work on Ferguson appears to confirm that natural history shifted into raciology in the years between 1780 and 1800. By then, race had become a major concern all over Europe and throughout European empires. Yet Enlightenment thought provided no single solution to the question of race (and there has probably never been agreement on this imaginary, but terribly powerful category). The tension about racial categories that runs through Ferguson’s work can be found in other literati, more or less explicitly. Despite that uncertainty, race emerges in this period within natural histories and taxonomic classification, as much as within philosophical and universal histories of civilization, as an attempt to explain the unequal progress of human societies. These approaches are entwined and should be studied as such. It is within this complex and heterogeneous framework that we suggest the need to re-evaluate key historical actors in Enlightenment thought. Our aim is to show that there is an unresolved tension between universalism and hierarchy in Enlightenment thinking, which continues to spark controversy around the world today.

NPC: In what ways did incorporating natural history imbue a scientific authority to Ferguson’s arguments? Why was Ferguson so reluctant to articulate a theoretical framework without having all the “facts” or empirical data, as he seemed to want to stay within the descriptive and collecting stage? Was he, in essence, waiting for all the data to be gathered before leaping from speculation to empirically supported theory? I am curious in what ways Ferguson’s Christian beliefs were filtered through a natural history lens, for example, the compatibility of a Biblical insistence on monogenesis, and whether this was in part a reaction to  Rousseau’s dismissal of the authority of the biblical account of Man in Discours sur l’origine et les fondements de l’inégalité parmi les hommes (1755).

BB & SS: Some elements of this question have already been addressed in our previous answer: the relationship between natural history and stadial history is both complex and crucial. We’ll just make two observations here, but our answer could be much longer! First, the historiographical revolution during Europe’s Enlightenment is based on providing “evidence,” that is, verification borne out of the critical analysis of sources. This is an aspect of Enlightenment thought that Arnaldo Momigliano emphasized many years ago. The aim of Enlightened historians, certainly those in Scotland such as Adam Ferguson, was to write “scientific” history, which responded (as they saw it) to laws of nature and was based on “facts.” Ferguson participated here in a larger reflection in which the Bible was questioned as a historical document (despite its centrality in Scottish Calvinist society).

On the other hand, however, the defense of biblical monogenism remains crucial, as you rightly point out, but this was not done on the basis of the authority of the sacred text itself, but on scientific reasoning. This was why Ferguson placed such an emphasis in his lectures on seeking to trace on the effects of climate, diet, and terrain on human individuals and their societies. By doing so, Ferguson once again blended diverse sources, combining speculations derived from Montesquieu’s climatic theory, with the archaic Hippocratic-Galenic doctrine of temperament, and very contemporary medical suppositions about the environmental determinants of sensibility. By drawing on and coordinating such sources together Ferguson presented human beings, and human races, as subjects for natural historical inquiry—the model for which was supplied by Buffon. Identifying Buffon’s influence on Ferguson enables us to pay closer attention to the complex relationship between race and history. There is a tendency, thanks to the pernicious influence of the doctrine of scientific racism in the late nineteenth century, to regard race as immutable, as resistant to historical malleability. The relationship between race and history is more complex in the late eighteenth-century context, and especially in Ferguson’s teaching. The complexity emerges when we pay attention to Buffon’s key concept of race as a product of degeneration from an initial prototype. Degeneration and improvement are articulated together in Ferguson’s history of civil society. Understanding their connection means that we need to confront race as a key concept in Ferguson’s history, and in Enlightened historiography more generally.

That Ferguson could engage so closely with natural history might also be seen as a feature of his Presbyterianism. Long before he won fame as a Professor of moral philosophy and exponent of Enlightened history, Ferguson served almost 10 years as a chaplain to one of the most famous Highland regiments raised to keep watch on the rebellious clans. His first publication was a sermon, delivered in Gaelic to the troops, on the need for loyalty to the Hanoverian dynasty and the British state. Right at this early stage in his career, Ferguson saw no inherent conflict between Christian faith and a commitment to history, or more specifically, to the civilization he believed history had unfolded and embodied in the British state.

If there was no inherent tension between history and faith, he did not see one between history and nature either. This is where the figure of Rousseau looms into view. Ferguson’s disagreement with Rousseau, as Iain McDaniel has shown, was drawn out over a number of objections, yet for us the key point of rupture is over the question of a dichotomy between nature and history. Such a separation was affirmed by Rousseau, for whom human sociality is an artefact of the history of society rather than part of the nature of human beings. By contrast, Ferguson followed Buffon and Montesquieu in reaffirming the social dimension of humanity. It was one of Ferguson’s foundational convictions, reiterated again and again in his lectures, that “man” is born into society and is only capable of realizing “his” humanity in networks of social interactions. These relations could be either harmonious or antagonistic (indeed, his thinking mirrored Kant’s formulation of the “unsocial sociability” of humankind), but in both cases affirmed the inherently and inescapably social nature of “man.”  Ferguson followed in Buffon’s footsteps in distinguishing “man” by both physical and moral characteristics, and by a need for society, outside of which “he” would never be able to survive. It was thus useless to multiply conjectures and hypotheses, as Rousseau had done: society was neither artificial nor contractual, but grounded in nature. Human progression did not need any external or accidental circumstances to set it in motion. This is why art is “itself natural to man,” as Ferguson stated at the outset of his An Essay on the History of Civil Society. In so doing, the distinction between nature and artifice, upon which Rousseau had constructed his entire system, was annihilated: civilization did not produce anything which was not already contained in human nature (an aspect on which Silvia is doing some further work now).

Timeline of history in Ferguson’s 1780 article History (2nd edition of Britannica).

NPC: Ferguson’s time as secretary to the ill-fated Carlisle Commission highlights the role of colonial policy and sources in his thinking about the nature of humanity and race. It was striking how Ferguson confirmed that warfare was an index of historical progress. Do you think that Ferguson was justifying colonial violence in the Americas? It is clear that the peoples of America were troubling within Ferguson’s schema, and it required him to question the role of latitude, the temperate zone, and name these peoples as savage. This outlier seems to highlight his unwillingness to question the supremacy of white Europeans. How was Ferguson so certain about delimiting Europeans as superior, yet have such immense uncertainty in classifications of race? Did the debates about colonial spaces and humanity concern Ferguson about the future of the colonies, and (white) mankind?

BB & SS: Ferguson’s attitudes to empire and colonization were troubled and troubling, to say the least. On the one hand, his publications evince a healthy skepticism toward the moral claims made by empires, seeing in them engines of moral corruption, domestic tyranny, and rapacious conquest abroad. There are many passages in his works that might also suggest that he made claims against Britain’s Empire. Yet Ferguson’s career exemplified a consistent, indeed persistent, attachment to the material interests of Britain’s Empire. At least part of the reason for his prevarication, we think, is that Ferguson had a life-long attachment to war, and a deeply sentimental appraisal of the moral character of warriors, ancient and modern. This is a complicated story (on which Bruce has done some work in the past and is doing further research at the moment), but to cut a long story short, Ferguson viewed warfare as an index of civilization arguably more reliable as a guide to historical progress than mores, manners, or systems of government. If, in the course of historical progress, the brutal wars of Europe’s archaic, Homeric past had been civilized by modern laws and “lenitives” (to use Ferguson’s own phrase), warfare had also become less personal, detached from martial virtue. This was the challenge that Ferguson confronted in the “militia debate” of the 1750s and 1760s (about which John Robertson and Richard Sher have written): how to integrate the virtues of the archaic warrior in the context of modern civilized war? It was a challenge that spoke to his own experience as a Scotsman of Highland birth, a Gaelic speaker, who served in a Gaelic-speaking Highland regiment in service to the British imperial state. It was a challenge posed by European colonization in the Americas, and by conflict with First Nations warriors, who, Ferguson reflected repeatedly in his An Essay on the History of Civil Society, represented a model of “savage” martial virtue that “civilized” Europeans had lost. Ferguson did not say too much more than that about European pretensions to any rights of conquest, or about its actual conduct in the Americas or elsewhere, but it would be fair to conclude that he was aware that colonization was as much a moral as a military challenge; one in which the claims of First Nations warriors deserved to be taken seriously.

Against that backdrop, then, his late career sojourn to America with the Carlisle Commission presents another aspect of Ferguson’s thinking on war. Though the Commission deserves to be seen as a failure and a farce, Ferguson’s role in it deserves careful consideration. Whether or not he was an active participant in the Commission’s deliberations, he later explicitly affirmed its members’ decision to threaten a suspension of the laws of war in Britain’s conflict with its former American colonies. As Ferguson saw it, the colonists were “rebels” who had allied themselves with Britain’s archrival, France, and therefore had placed themselves beyond the bounds of the laws of war. Ferguson did not expand on this reasoning in his lectures, but his interpretation of the European tradition of writings on the laws of war since Grotius did make clear that “rebels” had no status among legitimate belligerents at war.  Here again Ferguson took part in a more general debate to be taken into account in Scotland, Europe, and beyond.

Ferguson had more to say about the conduct of the American war for independence much later in his career, but we think it is significant that his American sojourn left an imprint in his lectures in respect to his presentation of race. In this connection we would draw attention to two features of his thinking. First, that his manifest interest in the climatic determinants of race (though he frankly admitted uncertainties on this score) made him amenable to the already centuries-long anxiety that colonization would expose Europeans bred in more temperate climes to degenerating heat, cold, or humidity. Ferguson accepted the legitimacy of this concern, but he used his lectures in particular to emphasize the advantages presumed to accrue to the “European race” from their temperate climate, above all in supposing it bestowed greater ingenuity. It was for this reason that he argued Europeans were able to modify the worst effects of climate and thus to temper the potential for racial degeneration.

While these arguments can hardly be described as novel, we think their significance lies in their connection to a second aspect of Ferguson’s thought after he returned from America: his interest in the historic role of colonization. He was, of course, later to write on this in his celebrated History of the Progress and Termination of the Roman Republic (1783). In his lectures, however, he elevated the ability of humans to form “settlements,” and to colonize new terrains, as an integral feature in the natural history of humanity—an exemplification of the progress humans were fitted by nature to make in taming nature, securing themselves, and extending their conquests. This is why we see Ferguson’s lectures on moral philosophy as such an important source of insight into his thinking at a time of considerable conceptual change in Scottish thought generally. It was here, in his lectures, that Ferguson taught cohorts of students to approach the great moral questions of their times, about war, colonization, and the fate of empire, through dual lenses of both history and natural history. By drawing them together and presenting them to his students, Ferguson sought nothing less than to illuminate the capabilities as well as the limitations of the races of “man.” 


Nuala P. Caomhánach is a doctoral student in the Department of History at New York University and evolutionary biologist at the American Museum of Natural History. Her research focuses on the concept, meaning, and construction of biological Time and Space across three bodies of scientific knowledge—Ecological, Malagasy, and Phylogenetic—as applied to conservation ideology and policy from the late nineteenth century to present day. In short, her dissertation aims to understand how Madagascar became the botanical museum to save all of nature (and thus, humankind).

Featured Image: Portrait of Adam Ferguson (1723–1816) by Henry Raeburn, c. 1790. Courtesy of the University of Edinburgh.

Categories
Broadly Speaking: A Companion Interview

Alisa Zhulina on Early Modern Theater and Sovereignty

Alisa Zhulina is Assistant Professor of Theatre Studies in the Department of Drama at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts, and affiliated faculty member in the Department of Russian and Slavic Studies. Follow her work on Twitter @AlisaZhulina. For the April 2021 issue of the Journal of the History of Ideas (82.2), Zhulina wrote an essay on the relationship between early modern theater and sovereignty, “The Tyrant and the Martyr: Recent Research on Sovereignty and Theater.”

A playwright and theater director, Zhulina also recently collaborated with Floor Five Theatre Company to produce Algorithm, an audio drama podcast. Listen to Algorithm on Spotify, and on all major streaming platforms.

Contributing editor Cynthia Houng interviewed Zhulina about the relationship between theater and sovereignty in the early modern period, as well as in our own time. Zhulina also discusses the making of Algorithm, her current book project, Theater and Capital, and how theater can serve both as an agent of critique and change in contemporary society.


Cynthia Houng: Your Tisch School of the Arts faculty biography describes you as an “artist-scholar.” How do you think about these different facets of your practice? Does your scholarly work inform or influence your creative work, or vice versa?

Alisa Zhulina: My scholarly research and creative work have always influenced one another, although it is difficult for me to pinpoint exactly how the cross-pollination happens. Ultimately, I think that the labels we tend to put on different kinds of writing (“fiction,” “criticism”) are quite artificial. The writing of a play might require archival research and scholarship often relies on the author’s creative imagination. I’ve been fortunate to grow up as part of a generation of theater and performance studies scholars who are also committed to artistic practice, be it playwrighting, directing, design, dramaturgy, or curation. At Tisch, most of my colleagues do both—scholarship and creative work. And we encourage our students to draw connections between their theater studies courses and studio classes.   

poster for alisa zhulina's algorith

CH: Let’s talk about your play, Algorithm. How did this piece come about? Why did you decide to structure it as an audio play?

AZ: I wrote Algorithm in a writers’ lab during my time as a playwright-in-residence at Exquisite Corpse Company (ECC) in the summer of 2016. It was an intense time leading up to the 2016 presidential election, with lots of discussion about political polls, hacking, and Russian bots. I kept thinking about the ways that algorithms shape our world. I wasn’t necessarily interested in the precise technology of AI, although in the later development stages, I consulted Gretchen Krueger, who is a policy manager at OpenAI and whose invaluable advice helped make the play better. In discussions about AI, the focus tends to be on technology—if it will become smarter than humans, if it will ever become sentient, whether it’s “good” or “bad.” But, as a playwright, I’m more interested in the way that we internalize algorithmic logic and treat the world and people around us in formulaic terms. One of the ideas that inspired Algorithm comes from the British philosopher John Lucas, who believed that if AI passes the Turing test, it will happen “not because machines are so intelligent, but because humans, many of them at least, are so wooden.”

At the same time, I was frustrated by the way that we refer to the “free market” as a self-explanatory, indisputable, yet also almost mystical entity. “The market” will take care of this, “the market” will take care of that, as though it were some invisible agent or internalized source of authority. Somewhere along the way, these two ideas—algorithms and authority—got meshed in my brain, and I thought: what if there was this world, sometime in the future, where characters refer to a source of authority called the Algorithm, an authority that knows your DNA, your browsing history, and tries to predict your actions based on your prior behavior? I’ve always been fascinated by human-made systems of sovereignty—the monarchy, the Oracle in Greek tragedy, God, the free market, etc.—and by people brave enough to defy those structures of oppression. I’m also now realizing that as I was writing Algorithm, I was researching the transformation of the invisible hand of Providence into the invisible hand of the market in Henrik Ibsen’s drama, so there’s something of that in this play too. Originally, Floor Five Theater Company had planned to do an in-person production of Algorithm in April of 2020, but that got postponed indefinitely because of Covid-19. In the early fall, the producers got in touch with me and asked if I would be interested in reworking it as an audio drama podcast. I loved this idea because the plot of Algorithm, which (without giving away too much) hinges on the relationship between mind and body, lends itself well to the medium of the radio play. Moreover, it was exciting to have Algorithm become available in this format to more listeners.

CH: Your essay in the new JHI is about the relationship of theater, or theatrical performance, to early modern sovereignty. I want to start a little bit backwards, from the perspective of our contemporary moment, and ask you to comment on the relationship between theater and sovereignty in our current moment. At the end of your essay, you argue that after the nineteenth century, “instead of the absolute monarch, the performing arts would now have to appease and contend with a new ruler—capital.” I’d like to ask you to comment, first as a theorist, and second as a practitioner, how you would articulate this relationship, between theater and capital, today? 

AZ: The book I’m currently finishing—Theater of Capital: Money and Modern Drama—takes on this very question. I argue that since the birth of modern drama in the late nineteenth century, theater has been invested in dramatizing the social implications of the relentless accumulation of capital and the internal contradictions of capitalism. In the second half of the nineteenth century, there were three important historical transitions under way: neoclassical economics was emerging as a separate social science committed to abstract thinking; speculation and investment were becoming legitimate economic activities distinct from gambling; and theater was trying to gain ground as a reputable artistic institution. It was a turbulent time. On the one hand, the fin-de-siècle was a time of mass action in the name of socialism and anarchism, labor strikes, and unionism. On the other hand, the late nineteenth century was also witness to the marginal revolution, which was a reaction both to the classical political economy of the previous century and to the burgeoning socialism of its time.

cover of marx's das kapital

The marginal revolution marked the beginning of the field known today as neoclassical economics. In fact, this was also when the notoriously difficult-to-define term “capital” animated public discussion and when the word “capitalism” entered the European lexicon, acquired its contemporary meaning, and became a topic of debate in the wake of the publication of the first volume of Marx’s Capital. Thus, many of the socioeconomic issues that the playwrights of the fin-de-siècle (such as Ibsen, Chekhov, Strindberg, Hauptmann, Benedictsson, Shaw, and others) were diagnosing are still with us today. Many of our economic problems, such as unbridled financialization and the insular world of business ethics, are toxic inheritances from the nineteenth century. 

Put simply, theater today is part of the capitalist system. Yet many theater scholars and practitioners (myself included) would argue that it is precisely theater’s entrenchment in the culture of capitalism that makes it politically valuable. Some of the most important scholars working in this intersection of theater and economic thought include Tracy C. Davis, Michael McKinnie, and Nicholas Ridout. In short, theater can display the internal contradictions of capitalism in a powerful way that is difficult for audiences to ignore. What I call “theater of capital” performs the work of the immanent critique of political economy by revealing to its audience that the market economy is a social construct (just like theater), exposing the rhetorical strategies of economics, laying bare the process of its own apparatus, and exploring the dynamic relationship between capitalism and critique. 

CH: In your JHI essay, you discuss the relationship between royal patronage and the development of early modern theater. Who are the patrons in contemporary theater? What is the role of patronage now? Has the pandemic year reshaped this relationship at all?

AZ: It depends on where theater is made. Historically, European theater has benefited from state subsidies, while American theater has relied more on production companies, theater ownership groups, and private donors and foundations (the 1935-1939 Federal Theatre Project is a notable exception). A combination of public and private funding is also possible, as in the case of New York’s cultural center The Shed: both the city and Bloomberg Philanthropies financed the project. Since the fall of the Berlin Wall, however, we have seen neoliberal policies destroy the heritage of state-subsidized theater in many European countries. Brandon Woolf has an excellent new book coming out this June about this development in Germany—Institutional Theatrics: Performing Arts Policy in Post-Wall Berlin. Here, in the United States, the pandemic has exposed the abuses and nefarious activities of many producers (and I don’t just mean the recent event of Scott Rudin stepping back from Broadway). Fueled by the George Floyd protests, there has been a real reckoning (at least on the level of discussion) of power structures, especially that of white supremacy that underpins so many American theaters. In early June 2020, the “We See You White American Theater” collective published a twenty-nine-page document calling for a complete restructuring of American theater, a dismantling of the white supremacy of the stage, and the inclusion and leadership of Black, Indigenous, and/or People of Color. Many of their demands explicitly involve economic questions, namely new ways of organizing the various institutions of theater. Thus, their demands include but are not limited to making sure that BIPOC constitute “the majority of writers, directors, and designers onstage for the foreseeable future,” ending security contracts with police departments, limiting the salary of top paid staff members to no more than ten times the salary of the lowest paid workers, and providing on-site counseling for everyone working on productions that deal with “racialized experiences, and most especially racialized trauma.” In August of 2020, Chelsea Whitaker published an important article proposing a path toward an “anti-policing theater,” reminding us that the Nederlander Organization, which regularly donates to political leaders who uphold white supremacy and which owns 20 percent of Broadway venues, can “police what BIPOC narratives get produced.” Similarly, Soraya Nadia McDonald has called for more diverse staffing and leadership (among many other crucial ideas) in her brilliant piece “How to Get More Black on Broadway.” It remains to be seen whether American producers will meet these demands (some of the recent announcements about what is coming back to Broadway have been disappointing in this regard). Still, I believe we’re at a pivotal moment in American theater history, as there is a passionate collective desire and call for change.

CH: In your article for Performance Research, “Performing Philanthropy from Andrew Carnegie to Bill Gates,” you argue that for the ultrarich, like Andrew Carnegie, the performance of being a philanthropist is both a tool (“a cultural weapon in promoting the values of unbridled capitalism”) and a mask. Plays, like George Bernard Shaw’s Major Barbara, both dramatized and critiqued these performances. Did theater serve a similar role of critique and resistance in the early modern period? 

AZ: One of the central points of my essay in the JHI is that immanent critique is intrinsic to the capitalist process. This premise can often lead thinkers to mistrust critique, branding it as thoroughly bourgeois. For example, in my discussion of Reinhart Koselleck’s Critique and Crisis, I show how Koselleck locates the emergence of critique in the political crisis of the Enlightenment. According to Koselleck, the Enlightenment failed because it gave into a Utopian aspiration instead of solving concrete political problems. By contrast, in the Communist Manifesto, Engels and Marx call the bourgeoisie revolutionary because the very same critical frame of mind that encouraged the bourgeois to topple feudalism could now attack bourgeois values, including private property. For Engels and Marx, immanent critique is thus a necessary but insufficient (on its own) step in the revolutionary transformation of society. Given that the early modern period saw the transition from mercantilism to capitalism, it is not surprising that critique and resistance characterize its theater as well, particularly the cat-and-mouse games that its dramatists play with the sovereign. Are they praising or critiquing the monarch? This is the question that one is left with in that extraordinary scene in Molière’s Tartuffe, when the unseen King makes his will known through the mouth of the Officer. On the one hand, the King wields total power. On the other hand, he does so through the authority of the police and by way of the deus ex machina, or as Walter Benjamin calls it, “the banal equipment of the theater.” Molière thus unveils “the scaffolding of sovereignty,” to borrow Zvi Ben-Dor Benite, Stefanos Geroulanos, and Nicole Jerr’s productive term.

CH: Why did royal courts tolerate—and even encourage—the performance of works that presented ambivalent—and even openly critical—attitudes towards the reigning sovereign and his/her court? For example, you note that the poet Aleksandr Sumarokov presented, at the court of the Empress Elizabeth, plays that dramatized Elizabeth’s seizure and consolidation of Russian sovereignty in her hands. In these plays, under the guise of dramatizing political trials, “defiant subjects” questioned the legitimacy of Elizabeth’s succession to power. In the English context, marginal spaces like the “liberties of Early Modern London”—provided sites where Londoners could question and critique the prevailing powers. What role do these performances play in the construction of early modern sovereignty? 

empress elizabeth of russia
Vigilius Eriksen, Empress Elizabeth of Russia, 1757

AZ: At the court of the Empress Elizabeth, the tragedies of Aleksandr Sumarokov served as a kind of pressure valve for all the unresolved tensions between the empress and her courtiers. In Terror and Pity: Aleksandr Sumarokov and the Theater of Power in Elizabethan Russia, Kirill Ospovat shows how performances at the court broached questions about succession and explored anxieties about royal favor and terror under the watchful eye of the sovereign.

In this way, theater at the court co-opted the rebellious energy of the subjects and redirected it from action into art. The case of the liberties of early modern London is different. Here we encounter a truly liminal space, as Steven Mullaney argues in The Place of the Stage: License, Play, and Power in Renaissance England. The liberties belonged to the city of London, but were outside its control and jurisdiction, generating a unique set of historical conditions that placed the Renaissance stage at a critical distance from the sovereign.  

CH: Towards the end of your essay, you ask, “What notion does theater on the cusp of the rise of the bourgeoisie promote?” With this question, you take us through a thumbnail history of the fall of Absolutism and the death of early modern theater. Here, I’d like to turn our attention to the future. For some time now, observers have been predicting—with a twinge of melodrama—the end of bourgeois theater, and the rise of new forms of performance and new concepts of perfomativity. The year 2020, with all of its attendant ruptures and upheavals, appears to have quickened desires for deep and profound social and structural change here in the United States, and perhaps in other places as well. In what ways do you see theater and performance changing to meet the needs, and the challenges, of this moment?

AZ: I’ve already touched upon the ways that BIPOC artists and critics have called upon theaters to dismantle white supremacy undergirding their structures and policies and introduce concrete measures regarding inclusion, diversity, equity, and accessibility. Similarly, audiences are putting pressure on theater institutions to deliver this change. When it was announced in late March that a stage adaption of Game of Thrones is in the works with an eye on Broadway, social media erupted with discontent (no offense to the fans of Game of Thrones). There is a pervasive desire that when in-person theater returns it should be more inclusive and more daring, namely not just stage adaptations of commercially successful films. Incidentally, I’ve been using Broadway in most of my examples not because I think it represents all American theater but because it is its most commercial version and so it puts the relationship between theater and capital in stark relief. Smaller theaters too have had to grapple with the ruptures and upheavals of 2020, as the recent labor and racial reckoning at the Flea Theater demonstrates. Another important way that the pandemic has reshaped theater is by making it available on more digital platforms. Making theater and performance digitally accessible to audiences around the world has been a trend that dates to before the pandemic, but the closure of theater venues due to Covid-19 has accelerated the process. (That said, we should be careful not to immediately associate online theater with accessibility.) This past year, I was able to watch shows from London, Berlin, Moscow. We have now experienced first-hand that theater need not be a luxury available only to those who live in certain cities and who can afford the expensive tickets. There is no going back. 


Cynthia Houng is a writer and scholar living in New York. She is a contributing editor to the JHI Blog and a founding editor of Ars Longa, an independent journal focused on Early Modern art history and visual culture. Learn more about her research and creative projects. Find her on Instagram @cynthiahoung.

Featured Image: Vigilius Eriksen, Portrait of Empress Elizabeth, 1757.

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Broadly Speaking: A Companion Interview

Patrick Anthony on Paleontology and German Romanticism

Patrick Anthony is a historian of science and the environment and received his PhD from Vanderbilt University in 2021. He recently spoke with Max Norman about his article “Making Historicity: Paleontology and the Proximity of the Past in Germany, 1775-1825,” which has appeared in the most recent issue of the Journal of the History of Ideas (April, 82.2).


Max Norman: Who was Johann Christian Rosenmüller, and why did you choose to use his investigation of a “cave bear” to explore the relationship between paleontology and German Romanticism?

Patrick Anthony: Rosenmüller (1771-1820) was a surgeon and speleologist of middle-class origins, and he is one of the most fascinating Romantic figures I’ve encountered. This is because he worked between human and terrestrial interiority—bodies and caves, Menschen- and Erdkörper (literally, ‘earth body’). I believe the Romantic era generally saw a spatialization of time. Especially significant in German-speaking Europe was the new earth science of “geognosy,” which classified rocks according to the age of their formation, correlating depth and time. Rosenmüller belonged to a generation of naturalists and poets who shared the geognists’ historicism and saw mountains in particular as repositories of the past, which one might enter and investigate. When he inspected the fossil-rich caverns of Franconia in the 1790s, Rosenmüller became especially interested in the bones of an extinct animal that others had called a whale, unicorn, or perhaps a polar bear. Rosenmüller re-imagined these curious fossils as a “cave bear” indigenous to German lands, whose extinction was not caused by great primordial floods but by the more recent arrival of human beings. By re-interpreting the bear as such and spinning a great saga of human events around it, Rosenmüller responded to a longing for natural monuments and mythologies, which was palpable in the Romantic art of his time.

MN: How did Rosenmüller explain the presence of the bear in Germany? In what ways was his account inflected by politics?

PA: Naturalists before and after Rosenmüller used catastrophic events to explain the bear’s disappearance from German lands. Some believed the Deluge had swept the bear from its arctic home into Germany, while others thought the bear had dwelt in German caverns before being extinguished by the Flood. But both explanations implied a clear distinction between former and present worlds, relegating the bear to prehistory. By contrast, Rosenmüller used the early evolutionary thinking, especially Johann Friedrich Blumenbach’s concept of Bildungstrieb (‘formative drive’), to establish a continuity that brought the primordial nearer the present. By viewing the bear not as a fixed natural kind but a species subject to environmental modifications, Rosenmüller was able to theorize its development as a product of “our German forests” and even speculate about its “degeneration” after being driven into new climes by the advance of humans. It was not new evidence that made this explanation possible. What changed was the political milieu in which Rosenmüller theorized as a cultural nationalism took root in Germany on both a local and national level. A native of Franconia, Rosenmüller presented “our cave bear” as a link between present-day Germany and a heroic past that pitted humans against beasts. Like Fingal’s Cave in Scotland, similarly imbued with Highland mythology, the caves of Franconia now stored narrative of national heritage.

MN: You draw on Foucault’s concept of historicity to explain what German paleontologists were seeking in their work. What does historicity mean, and why is it useful for you methodologically?

PA: Rosenmüller’s study of fossils reflected a dizzying array of scholarly traditions and social aspirations, from anatomy and archaeology to “primitivist” poetry and revolutionary politics. This article’s source base has a corresponding breadth, ranging from Rosenmüller’s own illustrations of skulls and caverns to the practices of stone- and stalagmite-inscription by which contemporaries literally wrote themselves into natural history. But there was a common way of thinking underlay all this activity: a sense of historical continuity, which Rosenmüller inscribed—literally and figuratively—into the mountains. In The Order of Things, Foucault described analogous process by which “moderns” inscribed the continuity of time into the cognitive depths of Man between ca. 1775 and 1825. He called this “historicity.” I think Foucault is a great source of inspiration for anyone interested in charting pervasive and sometimes ineffable patterns of thought through various disciplines, media, and forms of knowledge, as was my aim in this article. And so I have made use of a Foucauldian lexicon here to articulate Rosenmüller’s efforts to recover from the depths of the earth a historicity into which he inscribed his own being. For the cave-goers, paleontologists, and “primitivist” poets of his time, underground travel allowed one to perform historicity—to move between natural and human history, or to collapse them altogether.


Max Norman studied comparative literature and classics in America and England, and now writes often on art and literature for magazines in both countries.

Featured Image: Drawing from Johann Christian Rosenmüller, Beiträge zur Geschichte und nähern Kenntniss fossiler Knochen, 1795. Scan courtesy of Göttinger Digitalisierungszentrum.