Semester of Graduation

Spring 2021


Master of Arts (MA)



Document Type



The theologian Adolf von Harnack (1851-1930) and the philologist Werner Jaeger (1888-1961) bear witness to the rich, boundary-defying diversity of academic––and popular––culture during the Weimar Republic. Separated in age by nearly half a century but united by a common interest in the curriculum of the Gymnasium, a concern for pressing theological problems, and professional ties to the University of Berlin, Harnack and Jaeger both acted as representatives of classical studies (Altertumswissenschaften) who sought to reassert the singularly educational and broader societal relevance of their disciplines. The spiritual and intellectual crisis occasioned by World War I led many young Germans, some of them returning from the front and embarking on a search for deeper meaning amid the chaos of defeat, to question the existential relevance of the traditional philological exercise of textual criticism (Textkritik) as well as the spiritual viability of liberal theology, or Kulturprotestantismus. In response to these challenges, Harnack and Jaeger combined the techniques of positivistic nineteenth-century historicist scholarship with the inward-looking spiritual awareness of early twentieth-century neoromanticism. By examining their public and scholarly activity, this thesis intends to provide a more nuanced, holistic look at intellectual life in the Weimar Republic and to contextualize the work of two of its most prominent scholars. The debates that emerged from the interwar “crisis of the humanities” in Germany, though determined to some extent by their temporal boundedness, reflect pivotal issues that lie at the heart of industrial and technological modernity and that continue to influence contemporary clashes concerning secondary and higher education.

Committee Chair

Marchand, Suzanne L.



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