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Classical and Christian Ideas of World Harmony

Classical and Christian Ideas of World Harmony

Prolegomena to an Interpretation of the Word Stimmung

By Leo Spitzer

252 pp

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About the Book

Renowned philologist Leo Spitzer’s multitudinous contributions to the fields of etymology and stylistics in many of the Romantic languages are widely acknowledged and highly valued. Less well known, but equally engaging, is his extensive work in what he referred to as “historical semantics”—a study exemplified in his treatise, Classical and Christian Ideas of World Harmony. Key to this study is Spitzer’s use of the term Geist, which he prefers over more mundane descriptors such as “intellectual history” or “history of ideas.” For Spitzer, Geist represents the “unity of feeling and thought,” “atmosphere,” or “climate of opinion” after which he is searching. The present work represents, however, more than a chance example of Spitzer’s method, for its very topic—Stimmung or “world harmony”—is perfectly emblematic of Spitzer’s understanding of Geist; that is, his conception of the unity of the European spirit, the old world’s feeling for an ordered, even musically ordered, universe. This uniquely fascinating volume is not merely a learned treatise in historical semantics; it is itself a stupendous display of world harmony as a creed—a vivid demonstration that “all is all,” that everything is related to everything: the planets and the lute, the colors heard and sounds seen, rhyme and nature, the echo and the birds’ song.

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