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Bommel, Bas van

Classical Humanism and the Challenge of Modernity

Debates on Classical Education in 19th-century Germany

Series:Philologus. Supplemente / Philologus. Supplementary Volumes 1

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    Publication Date:
    March 2015
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    Aims and Scope

    In scholarship, classical (Renaissance) humanism is usually strictly distinguished from 'neo-humanism', which, especially in Germany, flourished at the beginning of the 19th century. While most classical humanists focused on the practical imitation of Latin stylistic models, 'neohumanism' is commonly believed to have been mainly inspired by typically modern values, such as authenticity and historicity.
    Bas van Bommel shows that whereas 'neohumanism' was mainly adhered to at the German universities, at the Gymnasien a much more traditional educational ideal prevailed, which is best described as 'classical humanism.' This ideal involved the prioritisation of the Romans above the Greeks, as well as the belief that imitation of Roman and Greek models brings about man's aesthetic and moral elevation.
    Van Bommel makes clear that 19th century classical humanism dynamically related to modern society. On the one hand, classical humanists explained the value of classical education in typically modern terms. On the other hand, competitors of the classical Gymnasium laid claim to values that were ultimately derived from classical humanism. 19th century classical humanism should therefore not be seen as a dried-out remnant of a dying past, but as the continuation of a living tradition.

    Supplementary Information


    xiii, 234 pages
    Type of Publication:
    Classical humanism; German Gymnasium; history of education
    All those interested in the (modern) history of classical humanism and the German Gymnasium.

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    B. van Bommel, University of Utrecht


    "This study obviously is interesting for those with a theoretical interest in the history of education: it adds a valuable facet to the prior corpus of scholarly work, which had mostly focused on academia and neglected the situation in schools. Yet it also gives Classics teachers fascinating insights into where what they are doing is coming from, why it is the way it is, and in what ways they might adapt their pedagogical approaches if they want to."
    Antonia Ruppel in: BMCR 2015.11.19

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