The Poetics of Historical Perspectivism

Breitinger's Critische Dichtkunst and the Neoclassic Tradition

By Jill Anne Kowalik

The Poetics of Historical Perspectivism

168 pp., 6 x 9, 6 figs, notes, bibl., index

  • Paperback ISBN: 978-1-4696-5662-5
    Published: May 2020

University of North Carolina Studies in Germanic Languages and Literature

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Jill Kowalik reevaluates J. J. Breitinger's Critische Dichtkunst (1740) with regard to a heretofore neglected aspect of aesthetics in the early eighteenth century, namely how poesis and historiography could increasingly come to resemble each other in their assumptions, purposes, and methods of representation. The central argument states that historians of this period began to utilize the concept of historical perspectivism only after its development as an interpretive tool by the aesthetic thinkers of the early Enlightenment.

The Critische Dichtkunst is examined in terms of three disparate traditions: the modern reception of Aristotle's Poetics, Horace's Ars poetica, and the Quarrel between the Ancients and the Moderns; the model of consciousness proposed by Leibniz that describes the mind as a ceaseless process of historical intellective integration; and the German reception of French neoclassical authors, especially Dubos, whose notion of historical probability was radicalized by Breitinger and later appropriated by poets and historians alike.


"Jill Kowalik has offered an extremely valuable historical corrective, showing that if we are interested in looking at the long-term trajectory of historical perspectivism from Leibniz into the eighteenth century as a precondition of modern historical consciousness, we need to examine Breitinger's contribution once again."--South Atlantic Review