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Lessing is moreing

I want to know more about Lessing. Not Doris, but Gotthold Ephraim, the 'central author of the German Enlightenment' and the subject of a lengthy biography piece by Ritchie Robertson in this week's TLS. Entitled 'Fighter on all fronts' it also reviews Hugh Barr Nisbet's new biography of Lessing, with much head scratching as to why it was published in German from the MS and not in English, and then ends with the adamant statement that it would benefit all non-German reading eighteenth-century scholars! I would buy it if it were and I'm not even an eighteenth century scholar! Lessing's 'prodigious range of work', it is claimed, was the main strategy for attempting to keep at bay both the boredom and depression 'that constantly threatened him'. The very titles of Lessing's works seem far ahead of his time. We are told that he attacks misogyny in 'The Misogynist' and in The Freethinker (1749) he is at pains to demonstrate that freethinkers can also be virtuous. Strange that freethinkers can be held to be void of virtue, yet it was a common assumption of the times. Robertson's piece highlights Lessing's 'conflict-ridden revolt against authority' which made him a 'torch-bearer of the Enlightenment'. I seem to be drawn to German men of letters! Unable to sleep last night I lay reading the OUP's German Philosophers' series - a collection of four works on Kant, Hegel, Schopenhauer and Nietzsche. I re-read the latter. It is still amazing how misunderstood Nietzsche can still be, intent as he was to channel the pain to work, how determined he was to convey how morals are not truths or absolutes or even a priori, to employ a Kantian coinage, but simply man-made. Writing on Nietzsche would require greater thought and more time. This entire blog is littered with the intentions of covering much more and in greater detail - but rarely seem to materialise. Perhaps that is the nature of blogging! Nietzsche was your archetypal outsider, beloved of clever yet misunderstood and idealistic adolescents everywhere. Yet he still has much to say in our times - even if only the outsider status of this withdrawn man is used as a contrast to the widespread need, 'these days', to never be alone. Here's an essay by William Deresiewicz on 'The End of Solitude', referring to our constant connectivity. He says that this need to be constantly connected:

is the quality that validates us, this is how we become real to ourselves — by being seen by others. The great contemporary terror is anonymity. If Lionel Trilling was right, if the property that grounded the self, in Romanticism, was sincerity, and in modernism it was authenticity, then in postmodernism it is visibility.

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-Dedicated with love and respect to Dr Bruce Lloyd-


And in memory of my parents:
Thomas Valentine and Joan Theresa
Good people who taught me so much more than they realised

***


The biggest thank-you is due to Norma Clarke, Professor of English Literature and Creative Writing at Kingston University, who supervised this PhD. I never had cause to doubt my initial instincts as Norma proved to be the best mentor I could ever have wished for.

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