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Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Translating observation into narration: The "sentimental" anthropology of Georg Forster (1754-1794)
by Karyekar, Madhuvanti, Ph.D., Indiana University, 2014, 243; 3621890
Abstract (Summary)

This dissertation explores the nature of the anthropological writings of Georg Forster (1754-94), the German world-traveler (who accompanied Captain Cook on his second voyage in the South-Seas 1772-75), cultural-historian and translator in the late eighteenth century, showing how his anthropology proposes an "ironic" or "sentimental" (in the Schillerian sense) mode of narration. Although many others at the time were exploring what it is to be human, my dissertation argues that Forster's anthropology concerned itself primarily with what it means to write about humanity when one supplements the empirical-rational method of observation with an emphasis on "self-reflexive" and "ironic" (à la Hayden White) modes of writing anthropology, or the story of humanity. This study therefore focuses on those writings gathered around three salient concepts in his anthropological understanding, to which he returns frequently: observation, narration, and translation, presented in three chapters. The thesis not only undertakes close readings of Forster's texts centering on observation, narration, and translation but, crucially, places them within the historical context of late eighteenth century aesthetic and anthropological discourses in Germany. This study ultimately underscores the manner in which Forster's concepts of "sentimental" – i.e. self-reflexive, ironic, and striving towards the goal of perfectibility – observation and narration allow him to accept the fragmentary, exploratory, and temporary nature of knowledge about humanity. At the same time, his "aesthetic" – sentient and open to testing – translation allows him to engage and educate his readers' tolerance towards a provisional, composite and temporal truth in anthropology. In highlighting the self-reflexive as well as an open-to-testing attitude of Forster's anthropology, this dissertation underscores the mutual interaction between eighteenth century aesthetic and anthropological modes of thought.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Rasch, William
Commitee: Breithaupt, Fritz, Chaouli, Michel, Turk, Johannes
School: Indiana University
Department: Germanic Studies
School Location: United States -- Indiana
Source: DAI-A 75/09(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Comparative literature, German literature, Cultural anthropology
Keywords: 18th century germany, Forster, georg, German aesthetics, German anthropology, German idealism, Germany, Translation
Publication Number: 3621890
ISBN: 978-1-303-93362-2
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