One of the most independent thinkers in German intellectual
history, the Enlightenment author Gotthold Ephraim Lessing
(1729-1781) contributed in decisive and lasting fashion to
literature, philosophy, theology, criticism, and drama theory.
Lessing invented the burgerliches Trauerspiel (bourgeois tragedy)
and wrote one of the first successful German tragedies as well as
one of the finest German comedies. In his final dramatic
masterpiece, Nathan der Weise, he writes of Christianity, Judaism,
and Islam, of religious tolerance and intolerance and the clash of
civilizations. Lessing's dramas are the oldest German theater
pieces still regularly performed (both in Germany and
internationally), and both his plays and his drama theory have
influenced such writers as Goethe, Schiller, Hebbel, Hauptmann,
Ibsen, Strindberg, Schnitzler, and Brecht. Addressing an audience
ranging from graduate students to seasoned scholars, this volume
introduces Lessing's life and times and places him within the
broader context of the European Enlightenment. It discusses his
pathbreaking dramas, his equally revolutionary theoretical,
critical, and aesthetic writings, his original fables, his
innovative work in philosophy and theology, and his significant
contributions to Jewish emancipation. The volume concludes by
examining 20th-century reception of Lessing and his oeuvre.
Contributors: Barbara Fischer, Thomas C. Fox, Steven D. Martinson,
Klaus L. Berghahn, John Pizer, Beate Allert, H. B. Nisbet, Arno
Schilson, Willi Goetschel, Peter Hoeyng, Karin A. Wurst, Ann
Schmiesing, Reinhart Meyer, Hans-Joachim Kertscher, Hinrich C.
Seeba, Dieter Fratzke, Helmut Berthold, Herbert Rowland. Barbara
Fischer is Associate Professor of German and Thomas C. Fox is
Professor of German, both at the University of Alabama.
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