The Uses of Curiosity in Early Modern France and Germany
Why did people argue about curiosity in France, Germany, and elsewhere in Europe between the sixteenth and the eighteenth centuries, so much more than today? Why was curiosity a fashionable topic in early modern conduct manuals, university dissertations, scientific treatises, sermons, newspapers, novellas, plays, operas, ballets, poems, from Corneille to Diderot, from Johann Valentin Andreae to Gottlieb Spizel? Universities, churches, and other institutions invoked curiosity in order to regulate knowledge or behavior, to establish who should try to know or do what, and under what circumstances. As well as investigating a crucial episode in the history of knowledge, this study makes a distinctive contribution to historiographical debates about the nature of "concepts." Curiosity was constantly reshaped by the uses of it. And yet, strangely, however much people contested what curiosity was, they often agreed that what they were disagreeing about was one and the same thing.
- Electronic book text | 499 pages
- 01 Dec 2004
- Oxford University Press
- Oxford, United Kingdom
"Kenny's work...is the best study of the meanings and uses of the term and the variety of ways by which is was understood and deployed in sixteenth- and seventeenth-century Europe across a much broader range and variety of sources than any of his predecessors. His methods, as well as his conclusions, should have a substantial influence on current ideas of how the intellectual history of medieval and early modern Europe might better be done."--Renaissance Quarterly"Neil Kenny delivers a volume as remarkable as it is hard to characterize effectively.... The book constitutes an important contribution to discussions on the intellectual culture of early modern Protestantism and the growing literature on collecting and museums. It is informative in questions of sociology of knowledge. Specialists in either French or German sources will find the comparative perspective particularly helpful. Finally, the study is exemplary in its treatment of utterances of early modern speakers and writers. Kenny provides apt evidence for the commonplace that every example in early modern Europe is a special case; the interpretative strength of the book lies in his willingness to embrace rather than suppress this chaos."--German Studies Review"[An] erudite, sophisticated work.... Kenny ranges impressively over theological, philosophical, literary, and historical issues; his discussions are dense and offer numerous rich insights."--Choice