The Dialogues of the Dead of the Early German Enlightenment


For the first time, this book reconstructs the fascinating story of a series of anonymous "dialogues of the dead" published in Germany in the early eighteenth century. The texts stage fictional debates between some of the most famous thinkers of the seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries, such as Descartes, Leibniz, Thomasius and Bekker. The dialogues were originally published as cheap prints and very few copies now survive; until today the links between these texts and the very existence of this textual corpus have remained unknown. Starting from the little reliable information available, Riccarda Suitner conducts an exciting investigation of the authors, production, illustrations, circulation and plagiarism of these texts in the intellectual world of the early eighteenth century, proposing a new image of the German Enlightenment. The German edition of this book was awarded the prestigious Geisteswissenschaften international prize.

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Riccarda Suitner, Ph.D. (2014), currently researches and teaches at the German Historical Institute in Rome and at the Ludwig-Maximilians-University in Munich. Her publications focus on intellectual and religious history between the sixteenth and early eighteenth centuries.
Reviews of the German edition:

"[A] fascinating study (...). Quite apart from the mass of interesting information she provides, Riccarda Suitner can be credited with having salvaged a genre, not only neglected but on the verge of complete disappearance."- Alastair Hamilton, The Warburg Institute, in: Church History and Religious Culture, Volume 97 (2017).

"The dialogues studied in her book shed new light on the early German Enlightenment (…). Suitner’s book tells a lot about how things really went." - Andreas Blank, Alpen‐Adria‐Universität Klagenfurt, in: Renaissance Quarterly Volume 71 (2018).
List of Illustrations

 1 Cheap Prints, Dialogues of the Dead, Pamphlets: The Anonymous World of the Early 18th-Century German Book Trade
 2 The Dialogues of the Dead of the Early German Enlightenment (1729–1734): An Unknown Corpus of Sources

1 From Antiquity to the Enlightenment
 1 Lucian of Samosata (c. 120–180/192 CE): The Νεκρικοί διάλογοι
 2 Fontenelle: The Nouveaux dialogues des morts (1683)
 3 David Fassmann: The Gespräche im Reich der Toten (1718–1739)

2 The Examen Rigorosum
 1 The Judgment of Apollo
 2 The Business of “Pirated Editions”
 3 Student Rivalries

3 The War of the Biographers
 1 The Pietist Front: Christian Gerber and the Historia derer Wiedergebohrnen in Sachsen
 2 The First Literary Depictions of the Lives of Christian Thomasius and August Hermann Francke
 3 The World of the Copper Engravers
 4 The Harsh Laws of Competition
 5 Eulogies, Dialogues of the Dead, (Auto)Biographies: The “Instability” of Literary Genres

4 The Wolffian Leibniz
 1 S. W.
 2 The Argument with Johann Franz Budde
 3 Eclecticism, the Mathematical Method, Atheism
 4 How Many Authors?

5 The Two Faces of Leibniz
 1 1745: Leibniz Becomes the Protagonist of a Dialogue of the Dead Once Again
 2 The Conversation with Ludwig Philipp Thümmig
 3 Gottsched, Mylius, Hagedorn, the “Swiss” Poets: The Disputes of the 1740s

6 The Argument between Descartes and Rüdiger
 1 Arriving among the Stars
 2 Descartes as a Wolffian Philosopher
 3 Pietism and Materialism
 4 The Background of the Dialogue
 5 Role Play

7 The Restoration of All Things
 1 Prefaces to Dialogues of the Dead: The Dialogue between Mayer and Petersen
 2 Ἀποκατάστασις πάντων: Origen, Leibniz, and Petersen

8 Balthasar Bekker’s Remorse
 1 The Exorcism on Peter Otte
 2 Cartesianism and Demonology in 18th-Century Germany
 3 The Pact with the Devil
 4 More on the Engravers: The Identity of “M. B.”
 5 Some Deliberations on the Origin, Authorship, and Dissemination of the Dialogue
 6 Necromancy and Conversations in the Realm of Spirits

 1 The “Underworlds” of the Dialogues of the Dead: Which Level of Clandestineness?
 2 Four Reasons for Anonymity
 3 “Material” Evidence and Intellectual History
 4 The Question of Authorship
Anyone interested in early modern philosophical and theological debates and in the early modern book market.
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