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Practices of friendship and therapeutic writing in the German civic enlightenment

Andreas Rydberg

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Rydberg, A. (2021) AMITY: The Journal of Friendship Studies (2021) 7:1, 23-48. doi: 10.5518/AMITY/35

Practices of friendship and therapeutic writing in the German civic enlightenment

ABSTRACT:         The eighteenth century has long been acknowledged as the century of friendship. More recently, scholars have drawn attention to the emergence of a civic ideal of authentic, intimate and sensible friendship in the mid-eighteenth century. In this article I further explore this context by focusing on two key actors: the theologian Samuel Gotthold Lange and the philosopher Georg Friedrich Meier.

While earlier studies have primarily analyzed the civic ideal of friendship as a broad cultural and literary phenomenon, in this paper I approach it in terms of practices of friendship and therapeutic writing. More specifically, I analyze the ways in which Lange and Meier presented and taught ways of practicing and maintaining friendship through correspondence and other forms of writing. In doing this they used their own friendship and correspondence as an example—in a way that soon made their own relation indistinguishable from the ideal—communicated and spread in published collections of letters, moral weeklies and biographical writings. As such, their undertaking reflected the emerging public sphere and the German civic Enlightenment at large. Overall, the article contributes to the history of friendship, to the historical analysis of philosophical, scientific and social practices, and to media and material history.