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Rethinking Lessing's Laocoon – Antiquity, Enlightenment, and the 'Limits' of Painting and Poetry - Oxford Scholarship Online
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Rethinking Lessing's Laocoon: Antiquity, Enlightenment, and the 'Limits' of Painting and Poetry

Avi Lifschitz and Michael Squire


Ever since its publication in 1766, Gotthold Ephraim Lessing’s treatise Laocoon, or On the Limits of Painting and Poetry has shaped debates about aesthetic experience and the medial distinctions between words and images. Rethinking Lessing’s Laocoon provides a reassessment of this seminal work on its 250th anniversary, examining Lessing’s interpretation of ancient art and poetry, the Enlightenment contexts of the treatise, and its subsequent legacy in the fields of aesthetic, semiotics, and philosophy. Lessing’s essay is focused on an ancient statue and its interpretation, revisiting Greek and ... More

Keywords: Lessing (Gotthold Ephraim), Laocoon, theories of art, aesthetics, semiotics/signs, Enlightenment, eighteenth-century intellectual history, classical reception, word and image studies, visual/verbal relations, narratology, visual culture, painting/poetry

Bibliographic Information

Print publication date: 2017 Print ISBN-13: 9780198802228
Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: October 2017 DOI:10.1093/oso/9780198802228.001.0001


Affiliations are at time of print publication.

Avi Lifschitz, editor
Senior Lecturer in European Intellectual History, University College London

Michael Squire, editor
Reader in Classical Art, King's College London

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1 Introduction

Avi Lifschitz and Michael Squire

2 Laocoon Today

David E. Wellbery

3 Laocoon among the Gods,

Michael Squire

4 Lessing’s Laocoon as Analytical Instrument

Luca Giuliani, translated from the German by Joe O’Donnell

8 Temporalization?

Daniel Fulda, translated from the German by Steven Tester

9 Criticism as Poetry?

Élisabeth Décultot, translated from the German by Steven Tester

10 Suffering in Art

Ritchie Robertson

13 Art and Necessity

Paul A. Kottman

15 Envoi

Hans Ulrich Gumbrecht

End Matter