Hostname: page-component-848d4c4894-xfwgj Total loading time: 0 Render date: 2024-06-14T07:21:23.886Z Has data issue: false hasContentIssue false

Terrible Turks, Bedouin Poets, and Prussian Prophets: The Shifting Place of Islam in Herder's Thought

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  23 October 2020


In an examination of the varied responses to the Muslim Orient by the eighteenth-century German thinker Johann Gottfried von Herder, I try to locate the multiple identities he displayed in his treatment of Turks, the Koran, Arab thought, and the doctrines of Islam. What emerges is a series of different voices, employing different registers of language: a Christian response to Islam as a rival revelation-based monotheism (but, at the same time, a more sympathetic Protestant privileging of “Muhammadanism” as a belief system preferable to “papism”); a poetic register, in which “Muhammadans” move from spiritual ignorance to a status of aesthetic desirability; a philological response to the Muslim Orient, one whose emphasis on the Middle Eastern origins of European literature would assist Herder's project of the reprovincialization of Europe; and a nationalist vocabulary, one that would see the rise of Islam as a model for the emergence of Herder's German nation but that would also, paradoxically, express a Turcophobia that demonizes the Ottomans into the other of civilization.

Cluster on Turkey
Copyright © 2008 by The Modern Language Association of America

Access options

Get access to the full version of this content by using one of the access options below. (Log in options will check for institutional or personal access. Content may require purchase if you do not have access.)


Works Cited

Emil, Adler. “Johann Gottfried Herder und das Judentum.” Mueller-Vollmer 382401.Google Scholar
Ernst, Behler. “The Theory of Art Is Its Own History: Herder and the Schlegel Brothers.” Mueller-Vollmer 246–67.Google Scholar
Beiser, Frederick Carl. Enlightenment, Revolution, and Romanticism: The Genesis of Modern Political Thought, 1790–1800. Cambridge: Harvard UP, 1992.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Isaiah, Berlin. Vico and Herder. London: Hogarth, 1976.Google Scholar
Byron, George Gordon. Letter to Drury. 3 May 1810. Selected Letters and Journals. Ed. Leslie A. Marchand. Picador, 1982.Google Scholar
Gordon, Craig. “Herder: The Legacy.” Mueller-Vollmer 1730.Google Scholar
Diez, Diez Heinrich Friedrich. Denkwürdigkeiten von Asien. Vol. 2. Berlin, 1815.Google Scholar
Fox, Russell Arben. “J. G. Herder on Language and the Metaphysics of National Community.” Review of Politics 65 (2003): 237–62.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Wolfgang, Gesemann. “Herder's Russia.” Journal of the History of Ideas 26 (1965): 424–34.Google Scholar
Goethe, Goethe Johann Wolfgang. Goethes Werke: Herausgegeben im Auftrage der Groβherzogin Sophie von Sachsen. Sec. 1, vol. 29. Weimar, 1891. 143 vols. 18871919.Google Scholar
Goethe, Goethe Johann Wolfgang. West-östlicher Divan: Studienausgabe. Ed. Knapp, Michael. Stuttgart: Reclam, 1999.Google Scholar
Grimm, Jacob, and Grimm, Wilhelm. Deutsches Wörterbuch. Vol. 22. Munich: DTV, 1984.Google Scholar
Hamann, Johann Georg. Sämtliche Werke. Ed. Nadler, Josef. Vol. 2. Vienna: Morus, 1950.Google Scholar
Soengeng, Hardiyanto. Zwischen Phantasie und Wirklichkeit: Der Islam im Spiegel des deutschen Denkens im 19. Jahrhundert. Frankfurt am Main: Lang, 1992.Google Scholar
Herder, Herder Johann Gottfried. Abhandlung über den Ursprung der Sprache. Ed. Irmscher, Hans Dietrich. Stuttgart: Reclam, 2001.Google Scholar
Herder, Herder Johann Gottfried. Auch eine Philosophie der Geschichte zur Bildung der Menscheit. Stuttgart: Reclam, 2003.Google Scholar
Herder, Herder Johann Gottfried. Briefe. Ed. Dobbek, Wilhelm and Arnold, Günter. 10 vols. Weimar: Böhlaus Nachfolger, 1979.Google Scholar
Herder, Herder Johann Gottfried. Briefe zu Beförderung der Humanität. Ed. Irmscher, Hans Dietrich. Frankfurt am Main: Deutsche Klassiker, 1991.Google Scholar
Herder, Herder Johann Gottfried. Ideen zur Philosophie der Geschichte der Menschheit. 2 vols. Berlin: Aufbau, 1965.Google Scholar
Herder, Herder Johann Gottfried. Philosophical Writings. Ed. Forster, Michael N. London: Cambridge UP, 2002.Google Scholar
Herder, Herder Johann Gottfried. Sämtliche Werke. Ed. Suphan, Bernhard. 33 vols. Berlin: Weidmann, 1881–1913.Google Scholar
Andreas, Herz. Dunkler Spiegel - helles Dasein: Natur, Geschichte, Kunst im Werk Johann Gottfried Herders. Heidelberg: Winter, 1996.Google Scholar
William, Jones. “On the Arabs.” The Works of Sir William Jones. Ed. Richardson, Robert D. Jr. Vol. 2. New York: Garland, 1984. 4870.Google Scholar
Christa, Kamenetsky. “The German Folklore Revival in the Eighteenth Century: Herder's Theory of Naturpoesie.” Journal of Popular Culture 6 (1973): 836–48.Google Scholar
Knoll, Samson B. “Europe in the History of Humanity: Herder, Kurt Breysig, and the Discourse on Eurocentrism in the Study of World History.” Herder Jahrbuch / Herder Yearbook 1998. Ed. Adler, Hans, Koepk, Wulf, and Knoll, . Stuttgart: Metzler, 1998. 123–42.Google Scholar
Robert, Leventhal. “The Critique of the Concept: Lessing, Herder, and the Semiology of Historical Semantics.” Herder Jahrbuch / Herder Yearbook 1996. Ed. Malsch, Wilfried, Adler, Hans, and Koepke, Wulf. Stuttgart: Metzler, 1996. 93110.Google Scholar
Damon, Linker. “The Reluctant Pluralism of J. G. Herder.” Review of Politics 62 (2000): 267–93.Google Scholar
Jan, Loop. “Kontroverse Bemühungen um den Orient: Johann Jacob Reiske und die deutsche Orientalistik seiner Zeit.” Johann Jacob Reiske: Persönlichkeit und Wirkung. Ed. Ebert, Hans-Georg and Hanstein, Thoralf. Leipzig: Evangelische, 2005. 4586.Google Scholar
Martin, Luther. Luther's Works. Ed. Pelikan, Jaroslav. Vol. 8. Philadelphia: Fortress, 1967.Google Scholar
Menze, Ernest A.Religion as the ‘Yardstick of Reason’ and the ‘Primary Disposition of Humankind’ in Herder's Ideen.Vom Selbstdenken: Aufklärung und Aufklärungskritik in Herders Ideen zur Philosophie der Geschichte der Menschheit. Ed. Regine Otto and John H. Zammito. Heidelberg: Synchron, 2001. 3548.Google Scholar
Michael, Morton. “Critical Realism and the ‘Critique of the Concept.‘Herder Jahrbuch / Herder Yearbook 1998. Ed. Adler, Hans, Koepke, Wulf, and Knoll, Samson B. Stuttgart: Metzler, 1998. 117–90.Google Scholar
Mueller-Vollmer, Kurt, ed. Herder Today: Contributions from the International Herder Conference, Nov. 5–6, 1987, Stanford, California. Berlin: de Gruyter, 1990.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Amy, Newman. “The Death of Judaism in German Protestant Thought from Luther to Hegel.” Journal of the American Academy of Religion 61 (1993): 455–84.Google Scholar
Carsten, Niebuhr. Beschreibung von Arabien: Aus eigenen Beobachtungen und im Lande selbst gesammleten Nachrichten. 1772. Frankfurt am Main: Institut für Geschichte der Arabisch-Islamischen Wissenschaften, 1995.Google Scholar
Friedrich, Nietzsche. Werke: Kritische Gesamtausgabe. Div. 6, vol. 3. Ed. Giorgio Colli and Mazzino Montinari. Berlin: de Gruyter, 1969.Google Scholar
Friedrich, Schlegel. Kritische Friedrich Schlegel-Ausgabe. Ed. Behler, Ernst, Anstett, Jean-Jacques, and Eichner, Hans. Vol. 14. Zurich: Thomas, 1960.Google Scholar
Thomas, Shaw. Travels or Observations Relating to Several Parts of Barbary and the Levant. 1738. Westmead, Eng.: Gregg Intl., 1972.Google ScholarPubMed
Josef, Simon. “Herder and the Problematization of Metaphysics.” Mueller-Vollmer 108–25.Google Scholar
Arno, Sonderegger. Jenseits der rassistischen Grenze: Die Wahrnehmung Afrikas bei Johann Gottfried Herder im Spiegel seiner Philosophie der Geschichte (und der Geschichten anderer Philosophen. Frankfurt: Lang, 2002.Google Scholar
Zammito, John H. Kant, Herder, and the Birth of Anthropology. Chicago: U of Chicago P, 2002.Google Scholar