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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

Abstract

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.

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

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