This paper poses the question of the compatibility between Enlightenment and the concept of an autonomous work of art that underlies notions of aesthetic education. The analysis focuses on Johann Adam Bergk's Die Kunst, Bücher zu lesen (1799). Bergk's work is a self-help book, for what will come to be called the 'Bildungsbu ̈rgertum', that attempts to integrate insights from the critics of rationalism into the Enlightenment project. Bergk embraces the rationalism of the Enlightenment in the limits placed upon it by Kant, yet he supplements it with a recognition of the value of genius and imagination that was so important to the Sturm und Drang. To this he adds an aesthetic understanding of a closed work of art that reminds one more of the classical aesthetics of Moritz, Schiller and Goethe. My analysis shows that in order to engage in the search for Enlightenment through an aesthetic education, Bergk assumes a position that leaves us with an inadequate explanation of the transformative potential of literature, but that allows us to see a unique attempt to synthesise ideas from the Enlightenment and Romanticism.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Cultural Studies
- Sociology and Political Science
- Literature and Literary Theory