La Ilustración en Alemania. Gotthold Ephraim Lessing (1729-1781)

Ritchie Robertson (dir.)<br /> Lessing and the German Enlightenment

Voltaire Foundation (Coll. SVEC), Oxford , 2013, 332 pp.

ISBN : 9780729410775.

Primarily celebrated for his dramatic works Minna von Barnhelm, Emilia Galotti and Nathan der Weise, Gotthold Ephraim Lessing’s diverse pursuits extended far beyond the stage. From incisive journalism to innovative reflections on poetry, aesthetics and theology, his wide-ranging intellectual interests place him firmly alongside contemporary polymaths such as Diderot. In this extensive study an international team of experts explores Lessing’s contribution to both the German and broader European Enlightenments to reveal:

• the energy and acuity of his critical writing, which made him an exemplar for subsequent German authors;

• the originality and lasting significance of Laocoon, his groundbreaking treatise on aesthetics, which distinguished the domains of poetry and the visual arts, and is still a major point of reference;

• how his reflections on theology and the Bible helped shape a view of Christianity as a historical phenomenon without absolute truth;

• how his Enlightenment curiosity and open-mindedness were nourished by an interest in natural science, particularly astronomy;

• how activities such as his adaptation of English domestic tragedy and his translations of Diderot’s theatrical writings placed him at the heart of the pan- European Enlightenment.


Ritchie Robertson, Preface

Note on references

H. B. Nisbet, Lessing’s achievement

Romira Worvill, Lessing and the French Enlightenment

Alexander Košenina and Ritchie Robertson, Lessing as journalist and controversialist

Richard E. Schade, Lessing’s poetry

John T. Hamilton, Reception, gratitude and obligation: Lessing and the classical tradition

Jason Gaiger, The contemporaneity of Lessing’s aesthetics

Thomas Martinec, Lessing’s dramatic theory

Francis Lamport, ‘Solcher Väter giebt es keinen mehr’: paternal authority in Lessing’s tragedies

K. F. Hilliard, Lessing’s comedies

Jonathan M. Hess, Lessing and German–Jewish culture: a reappraisal

Adam Sutcliffe, Lessing and toleration

David Hill, Enlightenment as a historical process: Ernst und Falk and Die Erziehung des Menschengeschlechts

Christoph Bultmann, Lessing and the Bible

Karl S. Guthke, Lessing and science

A chronology of the life and major works of Gotthold Ephraim Lessing


List of contributors



Ritchie Robertson is Taylor Professor of German at the University of Oxford, and a Fellow of the British Academy. A specialist on German literature from 1750 onwards, his research also encompasses the Enlightenment as an international movement. He is currently working on a study of Machiavelli’s reception in Germany from the eighteenth century to the early twentieth century.


Gotthold Ephraim Lessing (1729-1781)

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