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Otto Jahn

Jahn’s philological development was no less a hybrid of Sprach- and Sachphilologie. Like Nietzsche, Jahn was a Pforta alumnus, studied and became friends with the venerable Romantic August Koberstein, and was held in special regard for his dual expertise in philology and music.[1] After Pforta, Jahn was given a diverse schooling in both reigning trends of philology: under G. W. Nitzsch at Kiel, Hermann in Leipzig, and Lachmann in Berlin. He was also student of Boeckh at Berlin, and was considered alongside his friend Theodor Mommsen, whom Jahn also taught while both were at Kiel, as the heir to Boeckh’s demand for methodological rigor combined with historical spirit.[2] Having written his dissertation on the tragic saga of Palamedes in 1836, he was appointed to the department of archeology at Leipzig in 1847, where Gottfried Hermann still taught. There he developed a friendship with Hermann and his son-in-law Moritz Haupt, one that blossomed in larger part because of their shared political than philological views. Jahn compiled an eloquent biography of Hermann[3] and joined with Haupt and Mommsen in the 1848-1849 revolutions for the imperial constitution - alongside one of the losing factions of the bUrgerliche Liberale. Prosecuted for high-treason thereafter, Jahn escaped a more serious punishment by permanently surrendering his position at Leipzig in 1850.

During his hiatus from the academy, Jahn indulged his passion for music, art, and literature.[4] Jahn undertook a critical analysis of Goethe’s Iphigenia auf Tauris[5] and wrote a long-standard biography of Mozart in 1859,[6] wherein he pioneered the application of the methodological principles of philology to the production of critical editions of musical arrangements. Invited to catalog the vase collection of King Ludwig I, his meticulous systematization of ancient iconography restored what had been scattered and speculative guesses at the meanings of images to factual descriptions of their observable features into categorized groupings.71 For years his system of classification served as a kind of formal introduction to Greek Vasenkunde.72 Jahn made major philological headway in epigraphy, numismatics, cultural and religious history, and in the study of the ancient novel. Perhaps his most influential endeavor, however, was his use of rigorous philological technique in the area of archeology. Before him, there was no “critically arranged framework for archeological materials.”73 Myths and oral-tradition fables were hardly justifiable evidence upon which to build, for example, a critical interpretation ofthe figures found in reliefportraits or of the possible religious significance of a particular artifact discovered in the vicinity of an ancient temple. A firm scientific footing was needed for the codification of archeological interpretation. Jahn accomplished this in large part through his hawkish concentration upon the individual observable characteristics that made up an artifact: the particular poses of individual athletes in relief, the expression of a particular god’s face carved upon a mask, the length and heft of a blacksmith’s tools. He thereby opened new vistas of insight into the tendencies of artisans and into how these tendencies shifted in correlation with the development in their respective cultures over both time and location. Just as critical philology uncovered the authentic text buried under layers of editorial interpolation and millennia of redactions, Jahn’s critical archeology brushed speculation and generalization off long misunderstood cultural artifacts.

Jahn’s stance on music was consistent with his general worldveiw. “He was an outspoken ‘Aujklarer,’ lover of and fighter for reason and truth. He was well aware that the future of mankind depends on the willingness to reform itself continuously, to improve perpetually its way of thinking and its way of living.”74 This liberalism inculcated a respect for what was traditionally overlooked in culture. Where history - including Nietzsche’s own - had long been dominated by accounts of the ruling elite and philology concerned with the very few educated male citizens capable of authorship, archeological evidence would offer a glimpse into an ancient world unfiltered by the traditional boundaries of established social order and rank. Such a presentation of a temperate democratic Alexandrian culture was calculated to counterpoint the mystical Old Aristocracy. Like Winckelmann before him and both Mommsen and Wilamowitz after him, Jahn’s optimism aimed at presenting the continuity between antiquity and Germany precisely in its enlightened sensitivity to liberal aims. Whatever

  • 71 Jahn(i854).
  • 72 C.W.Muller(i99i), 26.
  • 73 Cited in Hausman (1991), 5.
  • 74 Bazant (1991), 11.

failures of the German character persisted in the present could be ameliorated through a wider dissemination of education, liberty, and tolerance - and this project could in part be carried out through a greater understanding of humankind’s common inheritance from antiquity.

Given this entire constellation, we see that both Ritschl and Jahn occupied politically hazardous positions in the field.[7] Jahn, the once- assumed heir to Boeckh, became politically linked to the Hermannians while retaining his anti-Hermannian philological stance on the equal worth of the non-linguistic artifacts of antiquity. Ritschl, prize student of Hermann, was increasingly drawn to Boeckh’s hermeneutical project and demands for pedagogical holism. The pair was effectually united in their aim of reconciling the division of their field through a wider application of the critical methodology: Ritschl by linking philology to an idealized vision of pedagogy and Jahn through applying philology to the breadth of ancient cultural artifacts. It is in fact fair to say that Ritschl and Jahn were not so much divided on methodological issues or by their conception of the purpose of philology as they were on the proper objects of study. For Ritschl and the Sprachphilologen, antiquity could only be understood properly through a complete apprehension of its ideas - and these were only able to be communicated by means of recorded speech: the rest was speculation. For Jahn and the Sachphilologen, the word represented an absolutely integral part of the culture of antiquity, but only a part. The entirety of ancient culture could only be discovered through careful analysis of the entire range of ancient artifacts. But for both Ritschl and Jahn, historiography could do more than merely ‘get straight’ the facts of the past. By both its rigor and its attention to noble exemplars, history was an essential tool in the cultivation of youth.

  • [1] Calder iii (1991), 195. 2 See, for example, Mommsen (1912), 14.
  • [2] 67 Jahn (1866b), 89—132. It was first presented to the University of Leipzig as a Gedachtnisrede in1849.
  • [3] His theoretical works on music are collected in Jahn (1866a). On the quality of Jahn’s own musical
  • [4] compositions, see Draheim (1991), 169—188.
  • [5] See Jahn (1843); Jahn (1844), 367—371. See also Jakel (1991), 133—143.
  • [6] Otto Jahn (1856—1859). See also Gruber (1991), 144—150.
  • [7] Contrary to Emden, I do not see much evidence to suggest that the ‘political’ rift between them isreducible to the opposition between Ritschl’s conservatism andJahn’s liberalism. See Emden (2008),27—35. Much more do I think the matter revolved around a combination of petty ‘political’ academicin-fighting and deep disagreements about the proper aims and scope of their field. Ritschl himselfinvited Jahn after the latter’s well-known banishment for political activism. It is unlikely that Ritschlwould only figure out Jahn’s outspoken political position a decade later. During that time, theyworked together in relative peace without either man substantially changing his political views.
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