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Shakespeare’s Hermeneutic Legacy: Herder on Modern Drama and the Challenge of Cultural Prejudice


It is a common assumption that modern hermeneutics develops as a part of romantic philosophy and its reaction to the ahistorical thinking of the Enlightenment. In this view, hermeneutics grows out of an internal, philosophical agenda, rather than in interaction with actual, historical works of art and literature. In this essay, Gjesdal takes issue with this assumption. She suggests that hermeneutics, as a modern, philosophical discipline, is solidly planted in the Enlightenment tradition in eighteenth-century German philosophy, in particular, its debate about the aesthetic challenges of Shakespearean drama. The essay supports this argument by reference to Johann Gottfried Herder’s 1773 essay “Shakespear (sic).”

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