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The Topography of ModernityKarl Philipp Moritz and the Space of Autonomy$
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Elliott Schreiber

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780801451782

Published to Cornell Scholarship Online: August 2016

DOI: 10.7591/cornell/9780801451782.001.0001

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Beyond an Aesthetics of Containment

Beyond an Aesthetics of Containment

Trajectories of the Imagination in Moritz and Goethe

(p.36) 2 Beyond an Aesthetics of Containment
The Topography of Modernity

Elliott Schreiber

Cornell University Press

This chapter turns to the space of mythology as construed in Moritz’s Götterlehre oder Mythologische Dichtungen der Alten (Doctrine of the Gods or Mythological Fictions of the Ancients). Here, Moritz develops an aesthetics of containment, albeit one that aims to contain not the transformative instant, but rather the chaotic imagination. It is argued that Moritz’s mythological theory arises out of his intense engagement with Goethe’s work. In particular, it constitutes a profound reflection on Goethe’s turn to an aesthetics grounded in the classical virtue of calm (Ruhe), as embodied in Goethe’s revision of Iphigenie auf Tauris (Iphigenia in Tauris). Moritz’s conception of the self-contained artwork, as articulated in his Versuch einer deutschen Prosodie (Attempt at a German Prosody), underlies this turn to classicism. But if Goethe already expresses skepticism about whether the classical project can be completed, Moritz’s Götterlehre shows why: in the very act of containing itself in classical creations such as Greek mythology, or in neoclassical works such as Iphigenie, the imagination also paradoxically sets itself free. That is to say, in Moritz’s terms, the classical work of art simultaneously comprises a Ruheplatz, a place where the imagination attains containment and rest, and a Spielraum, a space for its boundless play.

Keywords:   Karl Philipp Moritz, Goethe, mythology, space, Götterlehre oder Mythologische Dichtungen der Alten, calm, Iphigenie auf Tauris, self-contained artwork, Versuch einer deutschen Prosodi, classicism

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