B - Humanities

Handbuch der Kulturwissenschaften [Handbook of the Humanities]. Ed. Friedrich Jaeger, Burkhard Liebsch, Jürgen Straub, and Jörn Rüsen. Special ed. 3 vols. Stuttgart; Weimar: Metzler, 2011. xiii, 538, xiv, 694, xiv, 551 p. 25 cm. ISBN 978-3-476-02400-8: EUR 49.95 [11-3]

For a very reasonable price the Metzler publishing house is offering here a reprint of its 2004 three-volume interdisciplinary handbook of the humanities. For libraries that do not own the original edition, this is a worthwhile acquisition. It provides an abundance of information and perspectives, most of which stem from well-known specialists. The three volumes cover “foundations and key concepts,” “paradigms and disciplines,” and “themes and trends.”

One criticism by an earlier reviewer is still valid: regrettably, there are no indexes of any kind, so that one must guess where—in which volume or article—additional topics related to a specific theme or concept might be found. For this reason the work may not be suitable for beginning university students, especially those who are used to jumping quickly from link to link on the web in search of information. The fairly extensive bibliographies accompanying the articles offer a gateway into the material, but because they were not updated, they reflect the status of research from about ten years ago, which is unfortunate in light of the enormous advances made in humanities research in the most varied disciplines during recent years.

Thus a mixed impression of the work is unavoidable, but it should not obscure the fact that there are many interesting and valuable articles in the three volumes. [tk/nb]

Kultur und Kulturwissenschaft: eine Einführung [Culture and the Humanities: An Introduction]. Klaus P. Hansen. 4th, completely revised ed. Tübingen: Francke, 2011. 304 p. ill. 19 cm. (UTB, 1846: Kulturwissenschaft). ISBN 978-3-7720- 8414-0 (Francke). ISBN 978-3-8252-3549-9 (UTB): EUR 18.90 [12-2]

For this 4th edition of his work—a not un-noteworthy achievement itself for an academic monograph—the author has substantially revamped the contents because of his stated re-thinking of the meaning of collectives. With reference to the concept of culture, Hansen treats Herder, Levi-Strauss, Rousseau, Marx, and others essayistically rather than text-analytically. An index remains an unfulfilled desideratum. A stated goal of the work, to “convert” the reader to the humanities, will have to await its reception in the classroom, for which it offers much content for reflection. [tk/rlk].

Kulturwissenschaften der Moderne [The Humanities in the Modern Period]. Ed. Peter Nischke. Frankfurt am Main: Lang. ill. 22 cm. [12-1]

Vol. 1. Das 18. Jahrhundert [The 18th Century] 2010. 228 p. ISBN 978-3- 631-58644-0: EUR 39.80
Vol. 2. Das 19. Jahrhundert [The 19th Century]. 2011. 270 p. ISBN 978-3- 631-58645-7: EUR 39.80

This the second volume of a projected three-volme work (the first volume covered the 18th century). Produced from a lecture series at the Universität Vechta (Niedersachsen), it provides a continuation for the 19th century and is focused heavily on the social science/political arena. The contents span the topics of the dynamic of sentiment vs. reason in religion with reference to Fichte, Jacobi, Hegel and others; the meaning of education in the 19th century; and the concept of “citizenry” in de Tocqueville, social sciences, and politics. The volume is rounded out by an examination of some “classics” of sociology in the writings of Comte, Marx, Spencer, Weber, and others. [tk/rlk]

Lexikon der Geisteswissenschaften: Sachbegriffe – Disziplinen – Personen [Encyclopedia of the Humanities: Concepts, Disciplines, Persons]. Ed. Helmut Reinalter and Peter J. Brenner. Wien [et al.]: Böhlau, 2011. xxiv, 1409 p. 25 cm. ISBN 978-3-205-78540-8: EUR 149 [12-2]

Covering the gamut of the humanities, this volume enables the reader to view individual disciplines within the context of the whole. As indicated by the work’s subtitle, the articles are organized into three main categories: Concepts, Disciplines, and Persons.

The editor’s selection of what he deemed the most important concepts, from "Analytik/ Erklärung" [Analysis/Explanation] to “Zensur” [Censorship], are laid out in 870 pages. Each article provides a detailed discussion, more so than in most such works, and also includes a bibliography and “see” references to relevant articles elsewhere in the volume.

The goal of the work is “not only to introduce the reader to the foundations and individual disciplines of the humanities, and to explain the structural changes they have undergone,” but also—in view of the chronic need for financing—”to demonstrate their relevance for all of scholarship and for society.” To this end, highly qualified scholars in their fields provide nuanced descriptions of individual disciplines.

It can be difficult to decide whom to cover in the “Persons” section of any such work. Some certainly worthy of mention, such as Umberto Eco, Judith Butler, and Mikhail Bakhtin, are not included here. In general, however, one has to acknowledge that the selection of personages covered makes sense. More than 200 pages deal with personalities from A (e.g., Adorno) to W (e.g., Heinrich Wölfflin). The information and bibliographies are not always complete; for example, it is difficult to understand why an extremely detailed listing of all the places where René Wellek held a visiting professorship is included, but his definitive multi-volume History of Modern Criticism is not mentioned at all.

This work could be of particular use for graduate students who wish to gain a perspective over the various humanities disciplines beyond their own fields. It might also be of interest for feuilleton journalists, as an aid to describing the current state of the humanities and their accomplishments and persuading a broader public of the significance of their approach to explaining reality. [tk/nb]

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Last update: November 2013 [RT]
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