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Environment and History

The Cultural Enframing of Nature: Environmental Histories during the Early German Romantic Period

Joan Steigerwald

Environment and History 6(2000): 451-496

The introduction of histories of nature in the late eighteenth century posed the epistemological problem of how to bring the diversity of empirical laws into theoretical unity. Whilst Goethe and Humboldt argued for the possibility of objective histories of nature through modes of disciplined perception, Schelling emphasised the inevitable subjectivity of such histories and the impossibility of displaying visually or instrumentally the internal processes generating manifest forms. Each of these three figures used different technologies of representation to produce their environmental histories. But all three gave a central role to aesthetic judgment in representing their view of a unified history of nature.


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