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  • Print publication year: 2019
  • Online publication date: September 2019

Chapter 3 - German Literature and Religion 1700–1770

Summary

This chapter explores a crucial transition in the understanding of infinity during the eighteenth century. Originally a divine attribute, against which the finite is reduced to insignificance (e.g., in Baroque poetry), the infinite becomes a feature to be embraced within the finite world itself. Together with developments in science and mathematics (e.g., the invention of the calculus at the end of the seventeenth century), other cultural spheres played a crucial role in normalizing the ‘anomaly’ (T. S. Kuhn) of the infinite. Chief among them were ‘physico-theology’ and religiously inflected poetry (especially Heinrich Brockes), which celebrated the divine within the grandest and minutest aspects of creation, and Pietism, which explored feelings of the sublime in nature and the soul (especially Friedrich Klopstock).