Coffee with Johann Gottfried Herder

Would we drink coffee with Johann Gottfried Herder?

Kristy: Well… I spent the morning reading about him for the umpteenth time and historiography really isn’t my thing, so off hand I kind of want to say no. But on the other hand, my academic discipline owes him a huge debt, which means that I owe him a huge debt. Many of his assumptions about the Volk were hugely problematic, but you have to recognize what a huge deal it was at that time for someone to actually see value in their artistic expressions. And I’m particularly interested and impressed by some of his ideas about vernacular languages. Also, it’s hard not to be amused by a guy who was so entranced by reading Ossian that he didn’t notice when the ship he was on nearly sank. (I realize this story is likely apocryphal, rest assured I will ask about it.) So yes, I will share a cup of coffee with the man. I’d be interested to hear how he feels about the present state of ethnology and folklore. I’d like to know how he feels about his legacy–his ideas have led to great things and horrific things. Was it all worth it?

Cammy: Dude, he’s absorbed in all things German which means I would definitely love a chance to pick his brain. It seems like he was trying to boost German self esteem even before they had their current national self esteem problem brought on by the Holocaust. Rather ironic given that his original attempts to bolster some pride in the German language, history and culture was later perverted to justify and support the shit Germany pulled in WWII. Like Kristy, I’d like to have him talk about that one. And, he had a hand in influencing Goethe, which means I owe him coffee since Goethe is to German literature as Shakespeare is to English literature. As far as discussion of Volk, I’m pretty sure I’ll leave that anthropological-folklore-historiography-other-big-academic-words lifting top Kristy, but even then I’m sure I can take something away from listening in.