Introduction. Reading beyond Redemption:
Historicism, Irony, and the Lessons of Romanticism
THOMAS PFAU
The historian is a prophet facing backwards.-Schlegel
Grounding is philosophizing. Thinking is poetry.
("Ergriinden ist filosofieren. Erdenken ist Dichten.) - Novalis
Among the motifs of cultural criticism one of the most long-established and central is
that of the lie: that culture creates the illusion of a society worthy of man which does not
exist; that it conceals the material conditions upon which all human works rise, and that,
comforting and lulling, it serves to keep alive the bad economic determination of existence.
This is the notion of culture as ideology, which appears at first sight common to both the
bourgeois doctrine of violence and its adversary, both to Nietzsche and Marx. But precisely
this notion, like all expostulation about lies, has a suspicious tendency to become itself ide-
ology .... To identify culture solely with lies is more fateful than ever, now that the former
is really becoming totally absorbed by the latter, and eagerly invites such identification in
order to compromise opposing thought.-T. Adorno, Minima Moralia
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0st intellectuals (particularly those reckless enough to
have ventured into the professional minefield of editing
a collection of highly diverse critical voices) will probably
agree that the subject of Romanticism tends to give rise to complex ques-
tions, even strong convictions, yet offers few conclusive answers_ Mystified
by this state of affairs some seventy years ago, Arthur Lovejoy was already
prepared to abandon all hope for an objective definition of Romanticism.
After sketching out the term's complex genealogy and pathology within
the history of ideas, Lovejoy proposed the remedy of an investigation that
would render "psychologically intelligible how such manifold and discrep-
ant phenomena" as are customarily associated with the Romantic period
"have all come to receive one name." To do so, he suggested, would entail
a patient sifting through the seemingly inexhaustible "verbal confusions"
of the concept of Romanticism and its unlimited capacity to corrupt "the
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