G. E. Lessing’s Theoretical Explorations Within the Context of Esthetical and Art Studies-Related Discourse of 18th Century Germany Cover Image

Теоретичні розвідки Г. Е. Лессінга у контексті естетико- мистецтвознавчого дискурсу Німеччини ХVІІІ століття
G. E. Lessing’s Theoretical Explorations Within the Context of Esthetical and Art Studies-Related Discourse of 18th Century Germany

Author(s): Halyna Mylenka
Subject(s): Theatre, Dance, Performing Arts, Aesthetics, 18th Century, Sociology of Art
Published by: Національна академія керівних кадрів культури і мистецтв
Keywords: G. E. Lessing; esthetics; theater; interrelation of philosophy and art; genre-based specifics of art;

Summary/Abstract: The main bulk of studies of G. E. Lessing’s dramaturgical and theoretical legacy is dated to the 1960s–1970s. However, given the present-day social transformations, it seems expedient to analyze his esthetical and art studies related writings in light of the views of previous generations of German philosophers, in particular, A. Schopenhauer, L. Feuchtwanger, E. Cassirer, G. Lukács, and others. Within this context, the system of Lessing’s views at theatrical art presents special interest, because previous researchers concentrated the main attention on the study of his purely dramaturgical works, whereas the enlightener’s findings as regards the stage art have obvious projections in theoretical thought of the 19th and 20th centuries. Lessing’s views were formed in the general stream of the new enlightenment paradigm, which actualizes the need to study his art studies-related legacy in correlation to philosophical and esthetical works of his predecessors and contemporaries. The change of worldviews in the 18th century could not but have bearing upon the cognition of the matters of art, particularly theatrical art. The beginning of Lessing’s theoretical activities falls to the period when esthetics has formed in Germany as a philosophical discipline in its own right. In view of the above, and for the purpose of more thorough cognition of the scholar’s esthetical and art studies-related legacy, cognition of the general panorama of the mid-18th century philosophical and esthetical thought also seems to be productive. The esthetic theory substantiated by the founder of esthetics A. G. Baumgarten has actualized combination of the rational and sensible origins in the art. But it was Lessing who, according to E. Cassirer, had the real influence onto the literature and art and ’who was able to synthesize the thought and action, theory and life, and therefore, completely realize Baumgarten’s requirement regarding vita cognitionis’. That, in particular, ensured his influence over development of theoretical problems of art as a specific field of cognition and gave certain meaning to the main esthetical notions. Relationship between the genius and the rule, difference of spatial and time-based forms of art, specifics of symbols they use, development of the typification, mimesis, catharsis, and other problems became a powerful impetus not only for the artistic practice of the 18th century but also for further theoretical esthetical discoveries. And although it seems that he represents ideological legacy of only the 18th century, it was him who completed esthetical thinking of the era, opening new opportunities of the literature and theatrical art, which gives reasons to regard his esthetical theories as not only a national but European achievement. The author notes the growing interest in the mid-18th century to genre-based specifics of art studied, besides Lessing, by J. G. Sulzer, G. F. Mayer, M. Mendelssohn. Lessing used M. Mendelssohn’s theory concerning mixed feelings when working on the matter of new means of expressiveness in the acting art. In order to understand the scale of Lessing’s theoretical achievements in the field of theory of drama, the article mentions the relevant achievements of his elder contemporaries, H. F. Gellert and J. E. Schlegel, whose thoughts stimulate certain interest from the viewpoint of pre-Lessing theory of drama. The article also describes Lessing’s opposition to the inertia of classicist esthetics. Considering ’inheritance of the entire nature’ the main challenge to art at that time, he creates a new, enlightening format of mimesis and categorically objects to J. C. Gottsched’s rationalistic prejudice. The latter’s orientation exclusively toward esthetics of the French classicism in development of theoretical and practical objectives of theatrical art was constantly criticized by Lessing. It became a manifestation of confrontation between English and French influence that was typical for Germany. As we know, Lessing favored the English vector in development of the national theatrical art, which brings his stance closer to the artistic preferences of J. G. Herder, J. W. von Goethe, and F. Schiller. The article also makes parallels between Lessing’s, Goethe’s, and Schiller’s views at the theater as an institution of imbuing a new moral into human conscience, to which Sulzer has previously pointed his attention as well. Therefore, the task of tracing the interrelation of philosophy and art via generalization of philosophical-esthetical and art studies-related thought of the mid-18th century that was set at the beginning of this work has discovered its productivity. Not accidentally, in the 20th century this area was further developed by G. Santayana and E. Surio, and the attempt to trace Lessing’s theoretical achievements in the analysis of subsequent philosophical studies of Germany which previously have not been employed in the study of the enlightener’s esthetical and art studies-related legacy has allowed for a more thorough determination of his significance for the subsequent development of the theory of art, particularly theatrical art.

  • Issue Year: 2013
  • Issue No: 1
  • Page Range: 117-126
  • Page Count: 10
  • Language: Ukrainian