Problematising German Philhellenism in the Twentieth Century and Beyond: Some informal reflections

Presented at the Classical Reception Discussion Group Colloquium on German Philhellenism, University of Cambridge, 15 December 2012.

This paper sets out to examine some of the ways in which scholars and educators under National Socialism attempted to construct a model of philhellenism for the ‘Thousand Year Reich’ which explicitly defined itself as descended from, yet opposed to, earlier manifestations of this phenomenon, especially as personified by Enlightenment figures such as Winckelmann and Goethe.

Nazified authors tended to see the ‘great’ eighteenth-century philhellenists as providing an important legacy on which the National Socialist Weltanschauung could draw, yet, at the same time, they vociferously decried their intellectualisation of philhellenism, and their ‘blindness’ in terms of racial theory.

An article based on this talk, entitled ‘”Anti-Enlightenment”: National Socialist educators’ troubled relationship with humanism and the philhellenist tradition’ has now been published in Publications of the English Goethe Society 82(3), 2013, pp. 193-207.