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Hermann Usener

Hermann Usener

German classical philologist
The basics
Quick Facts
Intro German classical philologist
A.K.A. Hermann Karl Usener
Countries German Empire Prussia Duchy of Nassau
Occupations Linguist Writer Classical philologist University teacher Mythographer Religious studies scholar
Gender male
Birth 23 October 1834 (Weilburg)
Death 21 October 1905 (Bonn)
Star sign Scorpio
Education Heidelberg University, University of Göttingen, University of Bonn, Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich
The details
Biography

Hermann Karl Usener (23 October 1834 – 21 October 1905) was a German scholar in the fields of philology and comparative religion.

Life

Hermann Usener was born at Weilburg and educated at its Gymnasium. From 1853 he studied at Heidelberg, Munich, Göttingen and Bonn.

In 1858 he had a teaching position at the Joachimsthalschen Gymnasium in Berlin. He was Professor 1861 to 1863 at the University of Bern, then at the University of Greifswald, before becoming professor at the University of Bonn.

The Bonn School of classical philology was led by Usener with Franz Buecheler.

Influence

Usener was a large-scale thinker who combined scholarly research with theoretical reflection. His research on the ancient world used a comparative method, drawing on a variety of ethnological material for the study of social and religious matters. His theoretical method was phenomenological or hermeneutical, and centered on social psychology and cultural history. He was influential most of all through his work on the formation of religious concepts, which influenced thinkers such as Albrecht Dieterich, Ludwig Radermacher, Aby Warburg, Walter F. Otto, and Ernst Cassirer. In his book on “the names of gods” (Götternamen, 1896), Usener introduced the concept of a momentary god. This phrase entered the English-speaking world, to describe deities who seem to exist only for a specific purpose, time and place.

He also trained an impressive list of students, and belonged himself to a long dynasty of students of Winckelmann.

One such student was Friedrich Nietzsche: after initial support, Usener turned against him as a scholar after reading The Birth of Tragedy. Other students included Hermann Diels, Paul Natorp, Hans Lietzmann, Albrecht Dieterich, Richard Reitzenstein, and Aby Warburg. Ulrich von Wilamowitz-Moellendorff, the leading German classical scholar of the following generation, studied at Bonn 1867-9; but tended to disagree with Usener. Their correspondence has been published.

Works

His works include:

  • Analecta Theophrastea (1858 dissertation at Bonn)
  • Alexandri Aphrodisiensis problematorum lib. III. et IV. (1859)
  • Scholia in Lucani bellum civile (1869)
  • Anecdoton Holderi (1877)
  • Legenden der heiligen Pelagia (1879)
  • De Stephano Alexandrino (1880)
  • Philologie und Geschichtswissenschaft (1882)
  • Jacob Bernays, Gesammelte Abhandlungen (1885) editor
  • Acta S. Marinae et S. Christophori (1886)
  • Epicurea (1887)
  • Altgriechischer Versbau (1887)
  • Das Weihnachtsfest (Religionsgeschichtliche Untersuchungen, part 1) (1889)
  • Christlicher Festbrauch (Religionsgeschichtliche Untersuchungen, part 2) (1889)
  • Die Sintfluthsagen untersucht (1899)
  • Götternamen: Versuch einer Lehre von der Religiösen Begriffsbildung (1896)
  • Dionysius of Halicarnassus edition, begun 1904, with Ludwig Radermacher
  • Vorträge und Aufsätze, 1907.
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References
http://catalogo.bne.es/uhtbin/authoritybrowse.cgi?action=display&authority_id=XX1144191
http://catalogue.bnf.fr/ark:/12148/cb12347547h
http://ccat.sas.upenn.edu/bmcr/1996/96.07.14.html
http://ccat.sas.upenn.edu/bmcr/2000/2000-01-18.html
http://ccat.sas.upenn.edu/bmcr/2004/2004-02-43.html
http://ccat.sas.upenn.edu/rs/rak/publics/new/BAUERAP2.htm
http://data.bnf.fr/ark:/12148/cb12347547h
http://id.loc.gov/authorities/names/n87918221
http://isni.org/isni/0000000121186834
http://members.chello.nl/j.seegers1/e-files/warburg.html
http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/natorp/
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