This article examines Leibniz’s correspondence of the 1660s and 1670s, focusing on the reception of antiquity. The selected letters discuss contemporary natural philosophy. The article argues that Leibniz does not simply refer affirmatively to the ancient philosophers he values (especially Plato, Aristotle, and Democritus), but positions them in the erudite communication of correspondence. In this way, the correspondence projects a synchronicity of ancient and modern natural philosophy, and even depicts a transhistorical res publica lit[t]eraria, in which Aristotle and Democritus are well present.
Sophie von La Roche wrote multiple private and fictional letters. She participated in J. G. Jacobi’s Iris in writing some Freundschaftliche Frauenzimmer⸗Briefe which were that popular that she continued them as a book series. While doing so, she asked her network including Goethe, Wieland and the Jacobis for advice and marketing. In her practice you can see the blurred lines between familiar and public writing in transmitting style and topics accompanied by her advisors. In her own journal Pomona she became an advisory letter writer herself and used the methods of marketing she was told in letters before. In her case supposed private writing leads to more visibility in public.
Since the middle of the 18th century, the epistolary form was increasingly used as a means of apologetics. Thereby, theologians reacted to the combination of fiction and philosophy, which gave unexpected success to religious criticism from Britain and France – especially to Voltaire. However, the alliance of apologetics and fine literature had limited viability and only lasted for about a generation. These circumstances will be demonstrated by analyzing Johann H. C. Zahn’s Letters to the Freethinkers (1764–1767) in their wider historical context.
This introductory article examines early modern letter-writing in its ambiguous state between private and public communication by providing a few historical and systematic perspectives. From a historical point of view, it can be shown how several humanists tried to outline some characteristics of the public letter with regard to the traditional distinction between public speech and private conversation. The new opportunities marked by the printing press also raised new potentials for writing and publishing letters in terms of a libertas epistolaris. From a systematic point of view, public letter-writing relates to other genres, media and practices. This article therefore aims to distinguish several categories, i. e. rhetoricity and literariness, authenticity and fictionality, exclusiveness and popularity, materiality and mediality. Lastly, the special focus on the public dimensions of letter-writing might help to reconsider general assumptions about its subjectivity and spontaneity since the middle of the eighteenth century.
The topic of this contribution is the relationship between letter and disputation in Early Modern times. The main part of the text is about letter-writing theory as it was presented in textbook-like manner in Early Modern dissertations, especially regarding the influence of the art of writing as Christian Weise taught it. Another emphasis lies in the theory of how to compose letters of recommendation. Another part of the essay lists areas in which research would be desired. Firstly, the interpretation of letters, which were included as paratexts of dissertations and could be used as proof of performance. Secondly, disputation and dissertation as topics in Early Modern correspondences. The latter are an important source for disputation and erudition history.
Johann Gottfried Herder’s Briefe zu Beförderung der Humanität are probably the clearest articulation of the utopian intention inherent in his philosophy of history. As a result of the changes in utopian thinking with the beginning of the Enlightenment, this intention aims at humane principles of behavior and life practices instead of an ideal state. At the same time, it urges historical efficacy under the condition of an increasingly skeptical naturalized anthropology. The utopian conditions intended by Herder are therefore no longer presentable in the textual pattern of literary utopia handed down from Thomas More. This possibility, however, is offered by a common convention of philosophical epistolary sequences: the staging of a fictional correspondence allows Herder to present a humane discursive practice that exemplifies the utopian conditions themselves.
Philipp Jakob Spener was one of the most important Lutheran theologians in the last third of the 17th century. For Spener, the letter is a means of information and communication. Spener’s letters contain multiple news items about people, events and new literary publications. He himself published his responsa using excerpts and complete letters for it. Private letters can hardly be found in the printed Responsa collections. However, some of these have been preserved as originals or as copies. The variety of topics is remarkable. Using preserved manuscripts, a historical-critical edition of Spener’s letters is currently being made.
Tracing the history of ‘natural’ style from late 17th century letter writing manuals to Gellert’s reform, this article shows how the ideal of ‘naturalness’ is being derived from the topos of letters as conversations among absentees (sermo absentis ad absentem). The article argues that semantic shifts within the concept of ‘naturalness’ go along with changes in the relationship between letters and publicity. Unlike gallant letters, Gellert’s letters generate their quality of ‘naturalness’ by emphasizing that they were allegedly not intended for an outside audience.
Sophie von La Roche’s ‘Letters on Mannheim’ (1791) are examined in the context of their origin as well as in the wide and complex field of epistolary forms, purposes and themes. The study analyses La Roche’s autobiographical, journalistic and cultural-pedagogical claim in these letters as well as its hybrid character as a work of literature, which oscillates between fictionality and factuality. Even though this document of the late Enlightenment deals with important personalities, landmarks and institutions of Mannheim (such as the theatre), everyday questions of behavioural culture and intellectual orientation are repeatedly addressed. Thus, the multipurpose nature of public letter writing in late eighteenth century will be demonstrated with a characteristic example.
Johann Jakob Bodmer (1698–1783) belongs to the central figures of the European Enlightenment. Not only with his literary theoretical and aesthetic writings, but especially through his widely ramified network of letters, he played a decisive role in the formation of the literary field of the 18th century. However, so far only a small portion of his Nachlass is accessible in scientific editions. Using selected examples from the correspondence (in part unpublished) between Samuel Gotthold Lange, Johann Georg Sulzer, Martin Künzli and others, this article shows how Bodmer transferred critical discussions and debates conducted in his private correspondence into the public space, contributing to the establishment of the published letter as a genre of criticism in the Enlightenment.