Initially in college and then throughout my career, the writings of the German philosopher and historian Hans Blumenberg (1920 – 1996) have been my secret talisman, warding off the tedium of routine academic labor by conjuring, with poetry and precision, higher powers of thought. I read him first for his fabulous, inimitable German style, which blurs the boundaries between historical survey, philosophical meditation, and creative fiction. Then I found how consistently useful his writings could be for taking a new viewpoint on one's own work, whatever one might be working on. The phrase work on itself figures in the title Arbeit am Mythos, one of Blumenberg's many enormous and forbidding tomes. Jewish on his mother's side, he spent the war in forced labor, then in hiding, and he so resented the time lost for work that he slept only six nights a week and lived and taught reclusively, refusing...
History, Metaphors, Fables: A Hans Blumenberg Reader
Joseph Leo Koerner, a recipient of the Mellon Foundation Distinguished Achievement Award and a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the American Philosophical Society, is the Victor S. Thomas Professor of the History of Art and Architecture at Harvard University. His books include Caspar David Friedrich and the Subject of Landscape, which received the Mitchell Prize for art history; The Moment of Self-Portraiture in German Renaissance Art; The Reformation of the Image; and Bosch and Bruegel: From Enemy Painting to Everyday Life. He has written and presented arts documentaries for BBC television; and he wrote, directed, and produced the feature film The Burning Child.
Joseph Leo Koerner; History, Metaphors, Fables: A Hans Blumenberg Reader. Common Knowledge 1 January 2022; 28 (1): 143–144. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/0961754X-9713605
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