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Book Review: Angus Nicholls and Martin Liebscher (eds) “Thinking the Unconscious: Nineteenth-Century German Thought”. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2010.

Book Review: Angus Nicholls and Martin Liebscher (eds) “Thinking the Unconscious: Nineteenth-Century German Thought”. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2010.

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Published by Yavuz Odabasi
Book Review: Angus Nicholls and Martin Liebscher (eds) “Thinking the Unconscious: Nineteenth-Century German Thought”. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2010.

By Matt ffytche, ‘History of the Human Sciences’, 2011, 24: 133, pp. 133–137.
Book Review: Angus Nicholls and Martin Liebscher (eds) “Thinking the Unconscious: Nineteenth-Century German Thought”. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2010.

By Matt ffytche, ‘History of the Human Sciences’, 2011, 24: 133, pp. 133–137.

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Published by: Yavuz Odabasi on Dec 20, 2013
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History of the Human Sciences
Matt ffytche
University Press, 2010Unconscious: Nineteenth-Century German Thought. Cambridge: Cambridge Book review: Angus Nicholls and Martin Liebscher (eds) Thinking the
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History of the Human Sciences 
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at Jazan University on December 13, 2013hhs.sagepub.comDownloaded from at Jazan University on December 13, 2013hhs.sagepub.comDownloaded from 
Book review
Matt ffytche
University of Essex, UK 
ThinkingtheUnconscious:Nineteenth-CenturyGerman Thought 
. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2010.A study of the emergence of theories of the unconscious in the 19
century necessarilytakes one outside the history of the human sciences. In fact, it takes one all over the place – from Goethean aperc¸us to the methodological technicalities of Gustav Fechner’s psychophysics; from Eduard Hartmann’s notion of the absolute grounds of the universetoSchopenhauer’stheoryofsexuality.Butthoughtheunconsciousastheoreticaltoolanas object of critical enquiry – continues to galvanize debate in literary and cultural studies, philosophy,anthropologyand,ofcourse,psychoanalysis,historiographyoftheunconsciousin the English-speaking world has stalled somewhat since Henri Ellenberger published his
 Discovery of the Unconscious
 in 1970. Readers without German can only guess atargumentsbeingdevelopedonthecontinent,includingsignificantworksbyOdoMarquard (1987 [
Transzendentaler Idealismus, romantische Naturphilosophie, Psychoanalyse
VorFreud:PhilosophiegeschichtlicheVoraussetzungender  Psychoanalyse
]),theseriesofvolumeseditedin2005–6byMichaelB.BuchholzandGu¨n-ter Go¨dde under the title
 Das Unbewusste
, and Elke Vo¨lmicke’s
 Das Unbewusste imdeutschen Idealismus
 (2005), all of which are creating ever better guides to the roots of theidea which Buchholz and Go¨dde term the
 of psychoanalysis.There are a number of reasons for this reluctance besides traditionalAnglo-American suspicion of the word and its potential idealist, irrationalist, or metaphysical connotations. One is the diffuse nature of the notion of the unconsciousin the 19
century. It seems manageable if you begin with Freud or Jung and work  backwards, looking for sources and influences, but if you work in the other direction,aiming to track the development of concepts of the unconscious in the 19
century, youare immediately met with a whole number of different possible meanings of the word,
Corresponding author:
Dr Matt ffytche, Centre for Psychoanalytic Studies, University of Essex, Wivenhoe Park, Colchester, EssexCO4 3SQ, UK.Email: mffytche@essex.ac.uk 
History of the Human Sciences24(3) 133–137
The Author(s) 2011
Reprints and permission:sagepub.co.uk/journalsPermissions.navDOI: 10.1177/0952695111409986hhs.sagepub.com
 at Jazan University on December 13, 2013hhs.sagepub.comDownloaded from 
often unconnected with each other,sometimes confused for each other. Another reason isthe different kinds of terrain the unconscious touches upon – psychology, psychopathol-ogy, philosophy, but also aesthetics, physiology, mesmerism and spiritualism, biology,religion and natural science. Who could have competence in all these kinds of areas – but also, what is it, exactly, that one would be researching in a history of the‘unconscious’? Is it too vague a term to provide the focal point for a history?
Thinking the Unconscious
 – which developed out of a hugely engaging conferencerun by the Institute of Germanic and Romance Studies, University of London, in 2006 – makes a virtue out of the format of a collection of essays, in that it is able to returnto the basics of various local problems, and avoids the temptation to enclose the‘unconscious’ in any too hastily or too strongly asserted narrative about beginnings and end-points. One of the strengths of the conference and the book was that it assembled some of the best available talents, and put their focused work on disparate individualfigures into dialogue with each other: Michael Heidelberger on Gustav Fechner,Matthew Bell on Romantic theorist of nature and the psyche Carl Gustav Carus, Go¨ddeon Freud, Sebastian Gardner on Eduard von Hartmann’s
 Philosophy of the Unconscious
,and Christopher Janaway on Schopenhauer, as well as, from German Studies, PaulBishop, Ru¨diger Go¨rner, Andrew Bowie and Angus Liebscher and Martin Nichollsthemselves. The studies are arranged in chronological order, and the editors have encour-aged cross-connections between articles (Schopenhauer and Schelling are nodally linked to many of the other figures under scrutiny) but there is no overall narrative to beunfolded. In fact, most articles begin by attempting definitions of the unconscious rela-tive to their point of focus – and, of course, often these are often entirely different things.Go¨rner’s essay winds its way through an overview of Romantic concern with the uncon-scious to an episode in Mo¨rike’s depiction of artistic creation in
 Mozart on his Journey to Prague
, in which the problem of the ‘subconscious’ roots of the imagination emerges.Paul Bishop and Angus Nicholls are concerned with the different question of what Freud might have gained from Goethe on the unconscious (Nicholls interestingly explores alsowhat Freud did not take from Goethe but might have done, which is insights into issuesof reflexivity at the level of scientific epistemology), while Janaway’s article is verymuch an account of Schopenhauer’s philosophy. Andrew Bowie, in turn, approachesSchelling not from the point of view of history of philosophy, but in relation to whathe has to offer to contemporary philosophical debate concerning the nature of conscious-ness. Interestingly none of these authors (except for Heidelberger) are historians, the bulk are philosophers or Germanists, hence the concentration on local technical or phi-lological questions – particularly the issue of influence.Bell’s, Heidelberger’s and Gardner’s essays are perhaps the most useful for digestingmaterial that would be harder to find by other means – an epitome of C. G. Carus’s work on the psyche, drawing on his psychological lectures and longer 
 (1846) only a portion of which has been translated; a very detailed analysis of differentiations withinHerbart’s and Fechner’s concepts of a psychical consciousness (with useful contextua-lizations in terms of changing notions of scientific psychology in the mid-century); and a critical re´sume´ of Hartmann’s massive, and academically scorned, philosophy of theunconscious. It is this middle period in the century in Germany which is least known,least understood outside of German language studies, but it contains some intriguing
 History of the Human Sciences 24(3)
 at Jazan University on December 13, 2013hhs.sagepub.comDownloaded from 

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