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Romanticism and the Re-Invention of Modern Religion
The Reconciliation of German Idealism and Platonic Realism


  • Date Published: January 2019
  • availability: In stock
  • format: Hardback
  • isbn: 9781108429443

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About the Authors
  • Early German Romanticism sought to respond to a comprehensive sense of spiritual crisis that characterised the late eighteenth century. The study demonstrates how the Romantics sought to bring together the new post-Kantian idealist philosophy with the inheritance of the realist Platonic-Christian tradition. With idealism they continued to champion the individual, while from Platonism they took the notion that all reality, including the self, participated in absolute being. This insight was expressed, not in the language of theology or philosophy, but through aesthetics, which recognised the potentiality of all creation, including artistic creation, to disclose the divine. In explicating the religious vision of Romanticism, this study offers a new historical appreciation of the movement, and furthermore demonstrates its importance for our understanding of religion today.

    • Details the constructive aims of Romanticism to develop an aesthetic language for religion
    • Key philosophical terms are introduced and explained
    • Provides a detailed consideration of the philosophical and religious debates in Germany leading up to the start of Romanticism
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    Reviews & endorsements

    'Hampton's book is very bold but very needed. It is an attempt at a comprehensive interpretation of early German romanticism, one that strives to recreate its central concerns and ideals and to do justice to them. Hampton's interpretation is a timely attempt to find the via media between the one-sided idealist and realist, transcendent and secular, interpretations of early romanticism. It is one of the strengths of his interpretation that it puts Platonism in the very heart of Early German Romanticism, which is exactly where it belongs. This is a very valuable contribution to the growing literature on the subject, one that avoids and corrects the trendy reductivist interpretations current today.' Frederick Beiser, University of Syracuse

    'Deftly argued and wide-ranging, Hampton's new book is a breakthrough in our understanding of what may well have been the most exciting fifteen years in German literary and intellectual history. The compelling readings of Herder, Moritz, Jacobi, Fichte, Schiller, Novalis, Schlegel, and Hölderlin, offered here are further enriched by the author's impressive grasp of Romanticism's philosophical and theological backstory. Hampton makes a compelling case for a Romantic dialectic circumscribed less by Spinoza and Fichte than by the participatory ontology of a Christian realism whose deep Platonic roots have long been under-appreciated. In tracing early Romanticism's development of 'a new language of transcendence in an age that had come to think in terms of immanence', Hampton has given us a startlingly original appraisal of a period when questions of transcendence were shaping, perhaps for the last time in European thought, the project of cultural and social self-understanding.' Thomas Pfau, Duke University, North Carolina

    'In this superb study, Alexander J. B. Hampton develops much further the radically new scholarly understanding of German Romanticism as a critically realist qualification of idealist concerns. He shows that it was nothing less than a novel, aesthetic and anti-totalising recovery of the Platonic Christian tradition. He has hereby transcended both post-Kantian and postmodern readings of this remarkable body of thought, whose relevance for today cannot be exaggerated.' Catherine Pickstock, University of Cambridge

    'Proceeding from the provocative claim that early German Romanticism was impelled by a 'need to create a new language for religion', Hampton's new study offers an original, erudite, and closely argued alternative to the established (and opposed) accounts of the movement in terms of Fichtean subjectivism or Spinozist monism. In Hampton's interpretation, Romanticism sought neither to secularise religion in an immanent form nor to reassert old theological orthodoxies but rather to reconceive transcendence in the language of aesthetics and with the assistance of concepts from the Christian Platonist tradition. Not the least of the book's virtues is its placement of Jacobi, Herder, and Karl Philipp Moritz - who, like the Romantics Friedrich Schlegel, Hölderlin, and Novalis, resist easy classification as philosophical or literary figures - firmly in the genealogy of early German Romanticism.' Nicholas Halmi, University of Oxford, author of The Genealogy of the Romantic Symbol

    'This is an impressive achievement, which anchors its claims in a wealth of resources from and about early German Romanticism. Hampton's re-evaluation of the significance of the Romantic movement goes beyond the conflicting ideas of it as either a form of Fichtean idealism or of Spinozist pantheism. Instead, the movement is seen as engaged in a re-articulation of metaphysical and religious concerns through a synthesis of post-Kantian idealism and Platonic realism that gives a decisive role to art. The book offers a persuasively unorthodox presentation of one of the most remarkable moments of modern philosophical history, linking it to new ways of understanding religion in contemporary thought.' Andrew Bowie, Professor Emeritus of Philosophy and German, Royal Holloway, University of London, author of Aesthetics and Subjectivity: From Kant to Nietzsche, Introduction to German Philosophy: From Kant to Habermas

    'The persisting power and relevance of the Romantic vision in contemporary thought and culture should not be ignored. In this remarkable book, Hampton is able to draw upon some of the lesser known figures of German Romanticism to great effect. Adroit and accomplished, it is a far sighted and discerning work.' Douglas Hedley, University of Cambridge

    'This splendid book brings together what belongs together. The early Romantic tradition cannot be understood without its Platonic roots. Hampton's study takes up what German-language scholarship on the tradition has tended to neglect. The result is a book that is an eye-opening achievement which will become an essential resource for the study of religion and modernity.' Jörg Lauster, Chair of Dogmatics, Philosophy of Religion, and Ecumenism, Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München, Germany

    'The main thesis of Hampton's book is compelling … Hampton does a great service to the history of this period by explaining exactly how disputes over Spinoza and Fichte indelibly shaped a new generation of philosophers, artists, and poets in their mission to rearticulate the terms of a viable modern religiosity.' Evan Kuehn, Reading Religion

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    Product details

    • Date Published: January 2019
    • format: Hardback
    • isbn: 9781108429443
    • length: 264 pages
    • dimensions: 235 x 159 x 18 mm
    • weight: 0.52kg
    • availability: In stock
  • Table of Contents

    Part I. Romantic Religion: Transcendence for an Age of Immanence:
    1. The romantic vocation
    2. Realism, idealism and the transcendentals
    3. Re-contextualising romanticism: the problem of subjectivity
    4. Re-contextualising romanticism: the question of Religion
    Part II. Give Me a Place to Stand: The Absolute at the Turn of the Nineteenth Century:
    5. The immanent absolute: Spinoza and Fichte
    6. Jacobi and the transcendence of the absolute
    7. Herder and the immanent presence of the transcendent absolute
    8. Moritz and the aesthetics of the absolute
    Part III. Romantic Religion: The Transcendent Absolute:
    9. Platonism and the transcendent absolute
    10. Schlegel: the poetic search for an unknown God
    11. Holderlin: becoming and dissolution in the absolute
    12. Novalis: the desire to be at home in the world
    Part IV. Our Romantic Future.

  • Author

    Alexander J. B. Hampton, University of Toronto
    Alexander J. B. Hampton is Assistant Professor in Christianity at the University of Toronto. He specialises in the philosophy of religion and religious aesthetics, with his research considering the role of poetics and Platonism in the shaping of the Christian tradition.

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