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Scientia Poetica

Jahrbuch für Geschichte der Literatur und Wissenschaften / Yearbook for the History of Literature, Humanities and Sciences

Ed. by Albrecht, Andrea / Danneberg, Lutz / Regn, Gerhard / Schmidt-Biggemann, Wilhelm / Vollhardt, Friedrich

Editorial Board: Mahlmann, Barbara / Epple, Moritz / Fick, Monika / Grafton, Anthony / Jaumann, Herbert / Klippel, Diethelm / Kühlmann, Wilhelm / Müller, Jan-Dirk / Nisbet, Hugh Barr / Proß, Wolfgang / Schönert, Jörg / Strohschneider, Peter

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Goethe, Humboldt und die »Hydra der Empirie«

Uwe Hentschel
Published Online: 2013-12-18 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/scipo.2013.17.1.27


In the age of enlightenment, travelling was thought to result in an expansion of the horizons of one’s knowledge and experience. Aside from ethnologists, who gathered statistical data, and authors, who undertook travel to convey their experiences in effective literary ways, there was also a small group of intellectuals who endeavored to make sense of the regions that they travelled to or through by delving into the particularities characteristic of these areas. However, in their desire to penetrate to the essence of things, these intellectuals found themselves confronted by the necessity of mastering the »hydra of empirical reality« (Goethe). Goethe and Wilhelm von Humboldt both made the attempt to surmount this obstacle, at times in close contact with each other, during the journeys they made around the turn of the century. But both came to recognize, in equal measure, that the genre of travel literature did not suit their purposes of conveying the results of their experiences and impressions.

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Published Online: 2013-12-18

Published in Print: 2013-12-01

Citation Information: Scientia Poetica, Volume 17, Issue 1, Pages 27–49, ISSN (Online) 1868-9418, ISSN (Print) 1431-5041, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/scipo.2013.17.1.27.

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