Shadow Hunting. Aby Warburg reads Thomas Carlyle

“The Bedlam of Creation”, illustration depicting Diogenes Teufelsdrökh in Monmouth Street
by Edmund Joseph Sullivan – illustrated edition of Sartor Resartus by Thomas Carlyle (1833-34)

Dr Hans Christian Hönes

(Leo Baeck Institute, London)

Friday, 25 January 2019, 5:30 pm

Warburg Institute
Woburn Square
London WC1H 0AB

Admission free; please register for this event through the Events section of the School of Advanced Study (SAS).

 

One of Aby Warburg’s favourite books throughout his life was Thomas Carlyle’s “Sartor Resartus”. Warburg clearly identified heavily with the novel’s protagonist, Professor Diogenes Teufelsdröckh. This might be surprising, given the fact that Carlyle’s book is a satire of German academia, with the main character (whose name translates literally as “devil’s dung”) an erratic and haphazard individual, lost in metaphysical vapours and unable to commit any coherent thoughts to paper.

However, this brief characterisation might already suggest some affinities between Warburg’s and Teufelsdröckh’s academic and biographical struggles. This paper explores how “Sartor Resartus” became a projection space for Aby Warburg, that allowed and forced him to reflect on his own career, academic output, and the legacy he might leave behind.

 


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